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Students who won Gilman Scholarships reflect on experience abroad

| By Nick Alexopulos
Gilman Scholarship Winners

Loyola University Maryland students Flora Zambakari, ’14, and Kevin Molyneux, ’14, studied abroad during the spring 2013 semester after they each won a prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship that covered $3,000 of their expenses. This summer both students have had an opportunity to reflect on their experience overseas.


Zambakari, from Pheonix, Ariz., spent the semester in Copenhagen, Denmark, with other students from U.S. colleges and universities at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. The accounting major and information systems minor was drawn to Denmark out of pure curiosity; she grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but had never visited Europe.

“It was an opportunity to explore an area I know nothing about,” said Zambakari. “It ended up being the best time of my life. You learn so much when you’re outside of your comfort zone.”

She also had the opportunity to travel to Germany, Belgium, Italy, and the Czech Republic. What resonated most were her visits to large companies located in western Denmark, including Grundfos, a manufacturer of large-scale water pumps. Grundfos pumps are installed in various locations in Africa, giving communities in resource-limited areas access to clean water.

Zambakari says the experience has inspired her to pursue a career with an organization or company committed to helping others around the world.


Molyneux, from Philadelphia, Pa., is an interdisciplinary chemistry and biology major who spent the spring semester in Rome, Italy. He chose Loyola because so many students study abroad, and he’s been planning a stint in Rome since the first time he set foot on campus.

“My mother’s side of the family is from Italy, but I’ve never been there and I’ve always wanted to experience true Italian culture,” Molyneux said.

Though his excursions to Capri, Tuscany, Bay of Naples, Pompeii, and Venice immersed him in Italian culture, his most memorable – and unexpected – experience was the election of Pope Francis. It was raining, St. Peter’s Square was packed, Molyneux had just gotten out of class, but he couldn’t ignore the potential for white smoke.

“I thought to myself, ‘If the Pope gets picked tonight and I don’t go, I’m going to regret it forever,’” said Molyneux.

He took the 10-minute walk from his class to the Vatican. White smoke happened, and Molyneux stood with Catholics from all over the world when Pope Francis made his first public appearance.

Back stateside, Molyneux is interning at the National Institutes of Health this summer, assisting in research into the genetics of ADHD. He’s considering another internship at NIH after he graduates next year, and the next big step is medical school.

About the Gilman Scholarship

The Gilman Scholarship eases the financial burden for exceptional U.S. undergraduate students who embark on an academic or internship abroad. More than 2,300 scholarships of up to $5,000 were awarded this year through the program, which is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute of International Education through its office in Houston, Texas.

More information on international programs for Loyola students is available at loyola.edu/internationalprograms.

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