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Mercy Student Reflects on Study Abroad Program in South Africa Through Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship

Students studying abroad in South Africa

A Mercy College student is featured in a new digital campaign about a unique study abroad opportunity for students attending Minority Serving Institutions like Mercy. Darielis Cruz — a junior majoring in finance through the School of Business Honors Program — studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, last summer as one of 10 students from across the country who won a place in the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship. Cruz reflects on her experiences in a video that aims to encourage students at Mercy and other Minority Serving Institutions to apply to this year’s fellowship program in London.

Only weeks after Cruz returned from a semester studying abroad in South Korea, she left on this all-expenses-paid trip to South Africa. “South Africans are so ready to speak about politics, their roots, their history,” she recounts. “I became more worldly and more in tune with myself when I was there, and I got this sudden urge to know more about my roots. I developed my voice. I’ve always had a voice, but I’d wait for other people to speak. While I was in Korea, I found my voice again. And in South Africa, I decided it was time to do something with that voice.”

Students at party while studying abroad in South Africa

The Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship was created to honor its namesake — the renowned African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer and international statesman. Sponsored jointly by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) and the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, it aims to highlight and develop the characteristics that today’s young leaders need most: a keen intellect, strong work ethic and a global perspective. The fellowship also aims to break down barriers of cost, curriculum and culture to make study abroad programs more accessible to students who are traditionally underrepresented. In order to do so, the fellowship covers 100 percent of each recipient’s program fees and travel costs for the intensive four-week, three-credit summer study abroad program. Ten fellows are chosen annually based on a combination of financial need, academic achievement and nominations from senior leadership at their colleges or universities.

Group of students outside in South Africa

“Many Mercy students are isolated in their own communities,” says Dr. Sheila Gersh, director of Mercy’s Center for Global Engagement. “Studying abroad opens up the world to them and offers truly life-changing experiences, both as they grow personally and as they prepare to begin their careers. Darielis is one of the lucky ones who has had not one but two opportunities to study abroad while at Mercy.”  

Gersh reminds Mercy students that the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship is one of many opportunities to study abroad. Through the Center for Global Engagement, students can study in 27 different locations around the world, including Austria, South Korea, Japan and Australia. There are also shorter-term study abroad programs in the summer and winter sessions. While abroad, students take approved classes and earn credits that apply toward their degree programs at Mercy.

View of Cape Town South Africa at night

Interested students can learn more about the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship on CIEE’s website. The application deadline is February 14. This year, CIEE offers an additional bonus: any qualified student who applies but does not win a place in the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship will receive a $1,500 grant toward select CIEE programs in summer 2019.

View of Cape Town South Africa during the day