Ten URI undergraduates selected for 2024 Gilman Scholarships to travel abroad

Since program’s inception, more than 100 URI students have been named recipients

KINGSTON, R.I. – June 11, 2024 – Ten undergraduate students at the University of Rhode Island have been selected to receive the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Gilman Scholarship program enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, providing them with skills critical to national security and economic prosperity. Since the program’s inception in 2001, more than 41,000 Gilman Scholars have studied or interned in more than 160 countries around the globe.

URI’s 2024 Gilman recipients include Dakota Watjen, Joceline Rodrigues, Joshua Amo, Sara Hamada Mohamed, Jeremy Herrera Santos, Alexander Tsang, Fin Maloney, Amadou Kaba, and Patricia China. They join more than 100 URI students who have earned the scholarship since the program began.

Joceline Rodrigues, a senior majoring in biology and sociology on a pre-medical track, traveled this spring to India, South Africa and Argentina as part of an international honors program in health and community. In each country, Rodrigues, who was born in Cape Verde, stayed with local families and was able to immerse herself in the culture, she said. The program also enabled her to visit clinics, hospitals, and non-profit organizations and see how they impact public health.

“This experience has made me realize that I would love to continue my travels and also pursue an MD or a master’s degree in public or global health,” said Rodrigues, who lives in Norwich, Connecticut. “I have realized that I have a passion as well for natural medicine and this experience has influenced me to attempt to conduct research abroad and also explore more opportunities to increase my knowledge of the world.”

Sara Hamada Mohamed

Sara Hamada Mohamed, a double major in biomedical engineering and Spanish, and member of URI’s five-year International Engineering Program (IEP), spent the spring semester in Santander, Spain. She studied electrical engineering at the Universidad de Cantabria and is now interning at Antenna System Solutions, also in Santander. 

She was one of just 50 of 1,700 students chosen for the program’s new STEM Supplemental Award, allowing her to conduct STEM-related research. A first-generation student and Arab American, Hamada Mohamed said the Gilman Scholarship has been transformative.

Joshua Amo

“It’s given me a lot of hands-on experience and I’ve been able to immerse myself in the Spanish culture, improve my language skills and explore the beautiful landscapes and historic sites,” said Hamada Mohamed, who lives in Swampscott, Massachusetts. “The Gilman award has been a game-changer and a huge help, allowing me to gain international experience, improve my professional skills and broaden my perspective.” She graduates from URI in August.

This past spring, Joshua Amo, a rising senior in supply chain management from Warwick, was able to enjoy an “enriching journey” through Madrid and London as part of the Council of International Education Exchange Open Block Campus program. “I spent 12 weeks delving into the heart of Madrid’s bustling streets and six weeks discovering the historical charm of London. I embraced the diverse educational experiences each city had to offer,” said Amo, who also visited such countries as Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Portugal.

“The Gilman Scholarship proved the key that unlocked the door to my global exploration,” he said. “This invaluable opportunity not only enriched my academic pursuits but also broadened my worldview.”

Dakota Watjen

Dakota Watjen, of East Providence, who is majoring in supply chain management and German as part of the International Business Program, will spend the 2024-25 academic year in Hamburg, Germany. Watjen, who will graduate in spring 2026, will attend the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in the fall and will work an internship during the spring semester.

While he’s in Germany, Watjen plans to travel as much as possible to experience different places and cultures throughout Europe, along with connecting with friends that he met while living in URI’s IEP House.

“I applied for the Gilman Scholarship because I am truly passionate about learning another language, experiencing and understanding different cultures, and building connections between people and cultures,” he said. “At URI, I’ve already tried to do those things, including serving as a German language tutor and planning events to host our German counterparts from partner universities. The Gilman award enables me to live out my dream of traveling and discovering other lands and cultures. Without it, I am not sure I would have had this opportunity.”

Jeremy Herrera Santos

Next January, Jeremy Herrera Santos will head to Costa Rica to take part in a study abroad program in Monteverde during J-term. Herrera Santos, a Providence native, is majoring in industrial and systems engineering and Spanish as part of the IEP. “I hope to learn as much as I can about sustainable development and the balance between the environment, economy, and society, which Costa Rica has been able to perfect,” he said.

Herrera Santos said he applied for the Gilman because his goals align with the program’s mission. “My study abroad will help me in my career and I will implement what I learn in the U.S.,” he said. “Additionally, I’ll be a representative of the new generation in the U.S. As the son of two Guatemalan immigrants, I’ll be able to represent both my cultures and be able to learn Costa Rican values.”

Patricia China

Patricia China, of Johnston, a double major in international studies and Spanish, is headed to Granada, Spain, for the 2024-25 academic year as part of Academic Programs International’s Spanish Language and Cultures for Advanced Speakers. China, who graduates next spring, plans to immerse herself in her host country while studying politics and language at the Universidad de Granada. Her goal is to equip herself with the skills needed for a career in international affairs.

“Language is crucial everywhere one goes, which is why I am passionate about it,” said China, who was also selected for the 2024 Beatrice S. Demers Foreign Language Fellows program by the Rhode Island Foundation. “The Gilman award is a significant step towards my dream of working in international diplomacy. It not only supports my academic goals but also aligns with my aspiration to build bridges across cultures through language.”

URI students interested in education abroad should contact the Office of International Education to explore their options. Students interested in applying for the Gilman and other nationally competitive scholarships should contact Kathleen Maher, director of the Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities. For more information on Gilman Scholarships, go to the program’s webpage.