Dream to Reality

Landscape of Florence, Italy, taken from the Piazzale Michelangelo steps

I always knew I wanted to study abroad since hearing it was an option at universities. When I started at San Diego State University (SDSU) as a transfer student in the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), not only did I want to study abroad, but it was a requirement for my graduation. As a Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences major, there was an amazing opportunity to study abroad for a whole semester in Glasgow, Scotland. I applied, got extremely excited, prepared for the experience… and was rejected.

I started to freak out, thinking that was my only opportunity to study abroad and complete my graduation requirement. Luckily, I live with two roommates who are a part of CHHS, and they told me about the Global Seminar Connecting Art and Anatomy in Italy for the summer of 2022. At first, I was hesitant. Why would I go abroad for a program that doesn’t have anything to do with my major? Nevertheless, I decided to just go for it and apply because, as a transfer student, I didn’t have much time to think of other options as graduation was nearing.

After a few weeks, I received the email that I was accepted into the program – I get to spend my summer in Italy! However, even with this deep desire to go, I didn’t have the financial means to because this was a summer program, and there was little to no financial aid available. I knew that if I wanted to experience something like this, I would have to find the money on my own.

After a couple of days of talking to my parents and trying to figure out a way, I stumbled upon an email about the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. I clicked on their website and saw that I had the opportunity to have my entire trip covered! As intimidating as the application process and how competitive this program was, it honestly helped me prepare for graduate school applications. I, very impatiently, sat through two whole months of waiting until I received a reply from them.

During those two months, I started worrying that I wouldn’t receive the scholarship and would have to drop out of this program. Once I received their email, I immediately clicked the link and hoped for the best. I instantly felt relieved and called my parents to tell them the good news – I had been awarded a scholarship that covered my entire trip! This scholarship gave me the opportunity to experience something that other students don’t have to think twice about. With the experience and opportunity this scholarship gave me, I wanted to let others know about this amazing program and give them a chance to live out their dream of studying abroad. 

Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

Once I was in Italy, I immediately felt consumed by their culture. From their amazing food – pizzas, pasta, gelato, and so much more – to their beautiful art, everything felt out of this world. This specific Global Seminar, Connecting Art and Anatomy in Italy with Dr. Kevin Petti, focused on how medicine and art intertwined during the Renaissance and investigated how and why anatomical parts were discovered in the earliest hospitals. This trip truly gave me a new perspective and appreciation of both art and medicine, and I was able to connect it to my field of speech pathology when we visited some of the first hospitals that were built.

I realized there were so many students on this trip from different majors and even different colleges within SDSU. There was a student in the journalism major and even one in accounting. This really showed me that studying abroad doesn’t necessarily have to involve your field of study. The main point of it is to expose you to different cultures and help you become more culturally aware. Not only was my time abroad one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but I also met so many amazing people through it. I made new friends and connections with professors, one of which offered to write me a letter of recommendation for graduate school. 

Dr. Kevin Petti talking to our class in the Anatomy Theater at the University of Bologna (one of the first universities in the Western world)
Me taking advantage of the bus rides between cities so that I can take on another day filled with activities

While the trip lasted only two weeks, there were still a handful of good and bad times. On the bad end of the scale, the summer of 2022 had the most intense heat wave I’ve ever experienced. Imagine walking up hundreds of stairs in over 100-degree weather. Many people suffered from heat exhaustion and had to sit out from activities because it was so hot.

But honestly, none of that outweighed the good parts, which was everything we did and experienced on that trip. I ate some of the best food in the world, talked to people from all different walks of life, and saw the most beautiful architecture. None of that would have happened if it weren’t for the Gilman Scholarship.

I want every person who feels like they can’t apply for a study abroad program and reads this article to know it is possible. Your dreams of studying abroad can become a reality if you find the right resources to help you.

My friends and I in Venice, Italy

About the Author

Yarden Gandelman is a senior at SDSU majoring in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. She is from Agoura Hills, California, and loves to read, go to the beach, and spend quality time with her family and friends. Yarden plans to graduate in May 2023 and will continue her education in graduate school to become a speech-language pathologist.

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