When Eptisam Ahmed received a call from the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) on February 28, she thought they just wanted additional information regarding a contest she had recently entered.
CIEE is the country’s largest nonprofit study abroad and intercultural exchange organization. To her surprise, the representative was calling to congratulate her for winning $5,000 in the Best Summer Ever sweepstakes, a scholarship that will be applied to her study abroad trip to London.
“I was like no way! Out of all these people that entered, me?” Ahmed said. “All I did was enter my email and phone number, I can’t believe I won. It’s amazing.”
Originally from Yemen, Ahmed is a first year student and president of the Durham Tech International Club. She will leave the U.S. on May 21 to attend the CIEE Institute for eight weeks with more than 40 other students from around the country. She chose London after hearing rave reviews from other travelers and her desire to experience its diversity.
“Since I can remember, I’ve wanted to explore and see other places than my own culture. I have lived in the U.S. for seven years and I’m ready to meet other people,” Ahmed said. “I hope to get a more open mind. I want to know about daily life in London and why people travel there. Everyone has told me how wonderful it is and I want to see why.”
In addition to winning the sweepstakes, Ahmed worked alongside Heidi White, director of international student services and study abroad at Durham Tech, to apply to two more scholarships. White helped Ahmed through the entire study abroad process.
“Heidi helped me with everything, I want to say a big thank you to her,” Ahmed said. “She helped me prioritize my budget, get organized, and provided feedback on my essays.”
In March, Ahmed was notified that she also won the CIEE Gilman Go Global Grant for $2,500, which will be applied to airfare and program fees.
“I was originally only planning on going for four weeks, which costs about $4,000,” Ahmed said. “But when I was awarded the second scholarship, CIEE said why don’t you extend your trip to eight weeks? And I said, OK!”
In April, Ahmed was notified that she had also won the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for $3,000 – bringing her total to $10,500 in scholarships.
“I could not believe it – I was so excited for her,” White said. “I have known Eptisam since she started at Durham Tech. She is always positive and full of ideas, which inspire other students. She also is very hard working, conscientious, fun to be around and is the first to volunteer to help with any project.”
Ahmed is enrolled in two classes at the CIEE Institute, the History of British Theatre and Comparative Health Care Systems. She will be earning transfer credit for her studies in London at Durham Tech.
“The Gilman Scholarship requires students to do a service project about their experience,” Ahmed said. “So I’m going to probably film my experience over there so I can motivate other students to study abroad.”
The Durham Tech Center for the Global Learner offers group and individual study abroad opportunities. Students can work with White to identify a program that best fits their needs and get assistance finding funding resources for the program.
“I have seen first-hand how international travel or study abroad transforms lives,” White said. “Students come back from the experiences with new ideas and new perspectives both on the cultures they visited and on their own culture. Students also experience a lot of personal growth from the challenges and personal reflection time from international travel.”
Upon returning to the U.S. on July 17, Ahmed will continue her educational career in the Durham Tech University Transfer program in hopes of attending the University of North Carolina in 2018. She wants to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science and then a graduate degree at the UNC School of Dentistry.
Durham Tech students who are interested in a group or individual international opportunity are welcome to make an appointment with Heidi White at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-536-7200 x4052 for more information.