Rising Senior Honored as Gilman Scholarship Recipient

Abdul-Aziz Muhammad, a rising senior computer engineering major from Houston, was recently named a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship, which serves as an opportunity for undergraduate students to intern and/or study abroad around the globe. Students applying for this scholarship must receive credit for their internship, and also receive a Federal Pell Grant.

Muhammad first learned about this opportunity after his brother told him that PVAMU offered scholarships for students to study abroad. He sought out the university’s study abroad office and met with Director of Study Abroad Lisa Fields, who helped him review the numerous study abroad programs that the university offers, as well as financial assistance options. Since many study abroad programs can end up being quite costly for students, Fields encouraged Muhammad to apply for the Gilman Scholarship. He had actually applied and been awarded the internship a year ago but was unable to use the funds because the deadline to pay for the program had already passed.

“I was extremely elated when I found out I’d been awarded the scholarship,” Muhammad said. “At that point, I knew that my dream of interning abroad was going to come into fruition and I couldn’t control my excitement at all. To have won a second time really made me feel so blessed.”

Muhammad spent eight weeks studying and interning in Chile, which was one of four international options for his major, along with Spain, England and South Korea.

“I initially wanted to choose Chile because I have a friend who lives there. She told me how beautiful her country is and about the wonderful places to visit there,” he said. “Additionally, since I am completing a Spanish minor at PVAMU, Chile was the best option for me. Many people say that if you can understand Chilean Spanish, then you will be able to understand Spanish from any country. I really want to improve my Spanish speaking skills, so I decided to take on that challenge and go to Chile.”

During his internship, Muhammad worked at the Institute of Data Science at Universidad del Desarrollo in Santiago.

“With the data from Telefónica, I helped locate different cell antennas in various hospitals and clinics throughout the city of Santiago using a software called QGIS. From Chile’s 2012 census, I was able to build a  database of the different types of families throughout Chile. After creating this database, I had to organize each household under their specific city, region, zone, and county using Jupyter Notebook.” he said.

Muhammad also noted that Chilean culture is very different from American culture, and he wishes to learn more of how Chileans operate in professional and home settings. He has never taken public transportation in his life and enjoyed that aspect of gaining more independence. He lived with a family, which gave him a chance to learn more about traditional Chilean dishes, words, and the Cueca, a traditional Chilean dance.

Through the university’s study abroad initiative, he was accepted to International Studies Abroad’s program, Muhammad was there a with a group of 17 students, with whom he partnered in tours around the city of Santiago. He also traveled to the cities of Valparaíso, Concón and Viña del Mar to see historic sights.

“My experiences abroad have helped me improve my interpersonal skills and professionalism. I was able to see the cultural differences between the United States and Chile and understand how each one contributes to their respective societies and to each other,” said Muhammad.   “This was possible because I was able to fully immerse myself in the culture and language. Therefore, I no longer recognize myself as just a citizen of the United States but also as a citizen of the globe.”

The Gilman Scholarship Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is an undergraduate program for U.S. citizens of limited financial means to enable them to study abroad, thereby internationalizing their outlook and better preparing them to thrive in the global economy.

By Emilia Benton