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Scholarship will pay for study abroad programs

RAJA THIRU/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Jon Gandomi spent a year in Kazakhstan without paying for it. Gandomi received funding for the trip through the National Security Education Program.
By Victor Garcia
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Jon Gandomi got to spend a year abroad without paying a cent.

Gandomi, who studied in Kazakhstan last year, received funding for his experience from the National Security Education Program.

The NSEP was created by the federal government's National Security Education Act of 1991, to provide resources for scholarships, fellowships and grants. The scholarships are known as the David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarships after the congressman who established this act.

Thanks to the NSEP scholarship, Gandomi, an international studies major, spent last year learning the Russian language, politics, social infrastructures and transitional economics while staying with a host family in Almati, Kazakhstan.

"It's an area of the world that a lot of people wouldn't think of traveling," he said. "It was a very interesting experience."

Gandomi said the fact that there was only one other American in his program forced him to be more dependent on Kazakhstan and its language.

The small classes at the university Gandomi studied at enabled him to enjoy an intimate setting and a focused approach to his studies on the local economy and politics.

But it wasn't all work and no play for Gandomi, who took time to explore the local nightlife and even participate in collegiate sports.

Gandomi played for the university basketball team in Kazakhstan, something he said he wouldn't have had an opportunity to do at the UA.

"Playing basketball for a university is something I would never be able to do here (at the UA)," he said. "How can you forget something like that?"

About 175 NSEP scholarships are awarded every year across the nation. Seven were awarded to UA students for the 2003 - 2004 academic year.

All students were given up to $10,000 per semester to attend a university in another country and study the local culture for their benefit and to improve national security.

"The point is to build a positive American presence in a non-western country," said Karna Walter, a local NSEP representative and assistant director of international scholarships and fellowships for the Honors College.

According to Walter, a student can choose to apply for an NSEP scholarship for a summer, a semester or a full academic year. Students can choose from any non-western country, such as China, Russia or Japan.

For more info:
  • What: Informa-tion session for people interested in the applying for the NSEP or studying abroad in a non-western country.
  • When: 4 p.m. today
  • Where: Slonaker House.
  • Who: Sponsored by the Honors College.
  • Like Gandomi, other students said the program was helpful in encouraging their interest in other countries.

    "The program led me to stay longer and encouraged me to go and push out of Western Europe," said Mark Melamed, an international studies senior who studied in Krakow, Poland, with the NSEP. "Everybody was great and I learned a lot about politics."

    Gandomi is now helping Walter promote the program.

    "With this program there are a lot more resources at your disposal," he said. "It's a way to get your foot in the door."

    Whether studying in another language, drinking tea with his host family, or interacting with interesting people from a country many people might not have heard of, Gandomi credits the NSEP as a way to help broaden a student's education.

    "If people consider studying abroad, they should consider an untraditional language," he said. "You can use this as a starting point for a career in the federal government or an international (organization)."

    In recent years, Congress has debated whether to continue funding for the program, due to safety concerns for students abroad.

    However, funding for the program has held strong, and the program continues to build.

    The Honors College will host an information session today for those interested in applying for the NSEP or studying abroad in a non-western country. It will take place at 4 p.m. at the Slonaker House.

    Applications for the NSEP are due in January.

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