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Spanish major awarded Gilman scholarship to study in Costa Rica

May 21, 2014

The prestigious Gilman Scholarship that junior Serra Berry just received will help finance her studies at Latin University in Costa Rica this summer while immersing the Spanish major in a language and culture she hopes to someday teach. 

Berry, who is in McDaniel’s first class of Global Scholars, will take four courses during the 12-week study-abroad program while fulfilling Gilman-required volunteer and service projects. She’ll volunteer as a teacher’s aide in a Costa Rican elementary or middle school and conduct a service project she designed, working with school-age children at her mother’s learning center, Berry Patch Early Learning Center in Hampstead, Md. 

“I’ll be Skyping with my school-age children at the center and sending back menus, lessons, anything that will help them learn about Costa Rica and its culture,” she says, explaining that she works at Berry Patch year-round while pursuing McDaniel’s five-year B.A./M.S. in Education program and Carroll Community College’s A.A. in Early Childhood Education. “Then, in the fall, I’ll give a presentation to the school-age kids and their parents about Costa Rica, my trip and the importance of going abroad.”

If Berry’s pursuits sound wildly ambitious, consider that she has excelled in the process – achieving a GPA just a hair under 3.9 and is on track to finish her B.A. and move into master’s classes after only three years. She doesn’t intend to ever stop learning.

“I love learning and plan to go to school forever, someday getting a doctorate and TESOL certificate,” she says. “That’s why I want to be a teacher – to help kids not only learn but inspire them to love to learn.”

Berry is expecting that the cultural immersion will move her Spanish communications skills miles ahead. 

“Latin University is international, with students from around the world,” she says. “It will give me a global, connected experience which is so important for teaching. You get a different understanding if you can speak to someone in another culture in another language – it’s cultural competence.”

McDaniel’s master’s education program in foreign languages now results in certification from of pre-K through 12th grade. The state of Maryland recently decided to begin teaching foreign languages in elementary school – a move that has Berry cheering.

“That is the perfect time to teach them about culture and global understanding,” she says. “I love elementary school kids – and that’s where I want to teach.”

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to give students “the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, languages and economies – making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.”