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Q&A With Merci Best '17 - STEM Students Can Study Abroad!

  • Merci Best
    Merci Best  Merci studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa in 2016.  Photo courtesy Merci Best
  • Merci Best
    Merci Best  Merci Best sharing a moment of sheer joy in South Africa.  Photo courtesy Merci Best
  • Merci Best
    Merci Best  Best explores South Africa during her study abroad trip last summer.  Photo courtesy Merci Best
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What year and major are you?

I am a senior, Class of 2017 Neuroscience major and Community studies minor.

Why did you study abroad? Did you come to W&M knowing you would or was it something or someone here that inspired you?

My mom studied abroad during her undergraduate career. I knew that it was something that I wanted to do, but I did not think it was feasible as a STEM major with a strong interest in research. It was not until I had lunch with my friend Alpha Mansaray (Class of 2016) that I learned about the WM Summer Study Abroad Programs and learned that study abroad as a STEM major was not only feasible but also affordable with help from the Reves Center Global Education Office and outside scholarships.

Where and when did you study abroad?

I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa during the W&M 2016 Summer Study Abroad Trip.

What made you select the program you did?

There were several reasons: (1) I took Professor Glenn’s (faculty member who led the trip) Modern Dance I course and wanted to brush up on my modern dance technique, (2) I wanted to learn more about the history of South Africa, post-Apartheid from a South African professor, (3) I wanted to go to a non-traditional country, (4) I was most excited about the opportunity to explore my Community studies minor abroad and work with students from a local township in the role of a tutor. I also had two unfulfilled goals: (1) to spread my business STEAMtrix, LLC (a STEM education program that incorporates the arts for underrepresented minorities in STEM fields) and (2) to learn Afrikaans.

Did you apply for any scholarships or aid?

I applied and received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship from the U.S. government along with the Global Opportunity Scholarship from the William & Mary Global Education Office.

What do you think are the factors/concerns that may keep students from pursuing study abroad?

Lack of knowledge about the opportunities that exist to study abroad and fund the experience.

Do you have any ideas that you think would make it more attractive or easier?

Students need to hear from other students with whom they identify, whether on the basis of race, gender or economic class, that study abroad can be for all students regardless of perceived barriers that lead to the disparities in who traditionally studies abroad and who does not.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I am extremely thankful for the funding that helped make my study abroad a reality and I am excited for any opportunities that I can get to pay it forward and help others in their process.