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Scholarships enable five students to study in Spain this summer

Financial assistance is available to make a life-changing study abroad experience affordable and meaningful

Friday Jun 02, 2017

Rachel Calderone thought that spending the summer abroad was an expensive, out-of-reach pipe dream. The 21-year-old Indiana University Northwest senior from Dyer never imagined she’d be able to spend one day in Spain, let alone eight weeks.

Kitzel Padilla, 20, of Lake Station, ignored the initial emails inviting her to explore a study abroad opportunity in Bilbao, Spain. As did three other IU Northwest students who left for Bilbao in May.

Bethany Casella, 20, a Spanish major from Valparaiso; Amandeep Kaur, 20, a pre-med biology major from Crown Point; and Gabriela Jaimes, 22, a pre-med student from Cedar Lake are all spending either three- or five-week sessions living with local families and immersing themselves in Spanish language and culture this summer.

Eva Mendieta, chair of the Department of Modern Languages, said that most often, students pass up the opportunity to study abroad or dismiss it because they assume it’s not affordable.

“Most students don’t realize how committed the university is to helping students achieve their goal of studying abroad, an experience so valuable that many colleges now require it,” Mendieta said. “There are many scholarships available to students to defray the cost, not only from IU but from many outside organizations. I hope that the success this group of students has had with securing external grants will encourage other students to apply.”

A compassionate community

Thanks to generous IU Northwest donors, all five students received scholarships to use toward studying abroad. IU Bloomington then matched the amounts the donors contributed.

Chancellor William and Pamela Lowe created one of the scholarships, because they feel that expanding one’s worldview is an integral part of higher education.

Another donor, Pam Yttri, is an alumna of IU Bloomington, but provided scholarship funds because she is a native of the region. “Students here have family and financial responsibilities and still see education as a priority,” she said. “Travel is my passion and I view that as part of my lifelong education. I want to share that passion.”

In Calderone’s case, she wanted to extend her stay in Spain. She applied for a competitive scholarship offered by the Rotary Club of Schererville and became the sole recipient of $7,000, which enables her to stay for both sessions, for a total of eight weeks.

The Rotary Club’s interview was rigorous, Calderone said, requiring her to discuss her views on international issues, and upon her return, she will need to give a presentation about her time abroad.

Don Quixote Spanish restaurant from Valparaiso gave Casella $2,200 to put towards the trip, which covered nearly half of the total cost.

Mendieta advised that students who might be considering the trip to Bilbao next summer should begin exploring scholarship opportunities a year in advance. Some scholarships have a December application deadline.

Benefits beyond language

Mendieta says there is another misconception that often prevents students from studying abroad. In the case of the Bilbao program, even though is it an immersion into Spanish language, it is definitely not just for Spanish majors and minors. In some cases, students will take their very first course of Spanish while on the trip, with no prior background in the language.

Students eyeing medical school, for instance, like Kaur and Jaimes, will have opportunities to shadow medical professionals in Spain.

“Studying abroad is an experience like no other that you can receive while in college,” Mendieta said. “These students will return home with a greater understanding of the world’s people, cultures and values. Sometimes, stepping away from the structures we are immersed in is the best way to acknowledge and understand them. These discoveries equip students to think more critically and examine issues from a broader perspective.”

IU Northwest students can choose from more than 300 overseas study programs in more than 50 countries and nearly 20 languages, including English. To learn more, visit

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