Two Virginia Tech students are currently studying abroad after receiving $1,000 ACC International Academic Collaborative (ACC/IAC) Scholarships to help underwrite expenses.

Gary Riggins of Troutdale, Va. is a sophomore majoring in civil engineering in the College of Engineering and French in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Through an International Student Exchange Program exchange, he is now attending classes at INSA-Lyon, an engineering-only school in France.

“France represents the peak of railway technology,” said Riggins, and he is excited about pursuing his interest in transportation there. He also views living and attending school abroad as an opportunity to jump ahead in his French language skills at an earlier stage of his education.

Riggins notes striking differences between the American and French educational systems that translate into a highly challenging and diverse workload, but says he is enjoying the experience of living and learning in a different culture. He is enjoying the “international flavor,” and recently had the chance to share a piece of American culture by preparing, with help from his French roommate, a Thanksgiving meal for people from many different countries.

David Grant of Burke, Va., is a junior majoring in political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human science and student in the University Honors program. Following a summer living in Amman, Jordan, where he began learning Arabic through a State Department Critical Language Scholarship, Grant is in Egypt studying Arabic and history at the American University of Cairo. He also interns at the Arab West Report, a group he says is dedicated to increasing East-West understanding.

The choice to engage the interesting issues of the Middle East on site has been a very good one for him. Although living in Egypt has spotlighted his need to develop greater assertiveness and language proficiency, Grant says “the people are so welcoming it makes life a joy.” The experience has also left him with “a sincere desire not to perpetuate the same kinds of stereotypes and generally shallow thinking that often pass…for real knowledge about the region.” He plans to return for a research trip through Israel and Palestine next summer.

The study abroad scholarship program is one of several ACC/IAC academic initiatives funded by a portion of the revenue from the ACC football championship. They include:

  • A biennial conference (initiated at Virginia Tech, 2005);
  • The honoring of outstanding international programs, faculty, and students;
  • An ACC/IAC website linking international gateways at ACC member institutions;
  • Collaborating on existing education abroad opportunities and introducing new ACC multi-institutional initiatives;
  • Encouraging faculty collaboration through annual summer overseas missions, and
  • Initiating research to assess the effectiveness of international education programs.

Virginia Tech students are invited to apply for two $1,000, fall 2008 scholarships by completing an application form, a one-page essay, a one-page letter of reference from a Virginia Tech faculty member, and complete transcripts (official or unofficial) by March 30, 2008.

Students can access the application form online or at the Education Abroad office in the International Affairs Building, 526 Prices Fork Road, at the corner of Toms Creek Road.

For more information, contact Susan Felker at (540) 231-7188.

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