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Scholarship Helps UC Merced Senior Expand Her Worldview

June 2, 2014

Patricia Leslie is the first in her family to attend college. And the UC Merced senior is making the most of it, both on campus and beyond.

Leslie is studying abroad in Córdoba, a small city located in the Andalusian region of southern Spain. The experience has helped her not only with her language skills, but has given her a shot of confidence that she says will carry over into her own life back in the United States.

Choosing which city to call home for three months came relatively easy for the psychology major.

“I was intrigued by the Roman, Africa and Arabic influences. It’s a small city but there’s an amazing richness to it,” Leslie said. “Also given that the city has a historic reputation regarding incredible advances in intellectual wealth, I knew it was the place for me.”

Leslie, who’s minoring in Spanish, was given this priceless opportunity thanks to the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, for which she was chosen from a pool of national applicants. It’s something she doesn’t take lightly.

“I don’t think that I would have had the opportunity to travel and study abroad if it wasn’t for the scholarship,” she said. “As a first-generation student, it’s an incredible feeling to be able to travel and share my experience with my family members who’ve never had the opportunity to travel.”

Leslie says her Spanish — something she gets to practice every day with her host family — has improved over the past couple of months. Additionally, Europe’s slower pace has made a big impression on her.

“I’ve had the chance to slow down and really become present with myself and environment,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed the light morning conversations with my host family over coffee and toast. I’ve been able to take mid-afternoon strolls down cobble stone streets, discover literary pieces, and enjoy the various forms of music and art entwined with the essence of genuine exchanges of ideas, laughter, kisses, among newfound friends.”

The experience has no doubt expanded her view of the world. Studying abroad is also increasingly more important in a global economy. Having grown up in nearby Atwater, choosing Córdoba as her first experience abroad was a no-brainer.

“I felt that in some ways it mirrored my own life,” Leslie said. “I’m from a small city, but despite what many naysayers believe, I think that great things and great people with real desire and potential are from Merced County. I’m a testament of that.”