Thanks to some encouragement from their professors and funding assistance from the Academic Enrichment Fund, University of the Ozarks students Catalina Chen and Gerardo Navarrete are headed to a three-week summer study program at one of the world's elite universities.
Chen, a senior English and international business major from Costa Rica, and Navarrete, a senior economics and political science major from El Salvador, will study at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) this summer. Established in 1895, LSE is considered one of the foremost social science universities in the world, with an acclaimed reputation for academic excellence.
University of the Ozarks students Catalina Chen and Gerardo Navarrete will spend three weeks this summer studying abroad at the renowned London School of Economics and Political Science.
"I’ve known about the London School of Economics since I was in junior high in El Salvador," said Navarrete. "Being an economics and political science major, I can’t think of a better place to learn and grow. It’s definitely a dream come true for me."
Both Chen and Navarrete will live on the LSE campus and each take an intensive course during the first summer session, which runs from July 7-25. Chen’s course is International Political Economy and Navarrete will take Development Economics. Each class is comprised of three hours of lectures each day, followed by two hours of seminars.
"They are very compact, intense classes, which I’m very much looking forward to," said Chen. "This will allow us to really get into the subject matter in an in-depth and comprehensive manner."
Chen, whose parents are Chinese, speaks fluent English, Spanish and Chinese. She hopes to one day use her business education and trilingual skills in the international business sector.
"I’ve never been to Europe, so I’m looking at this as a great way to learn about the European economy and to get a different perspective," said Chen. "I’ve studied in Central America and in the United States, so this will definitely help to help round out my education and to get a different view of the world economies."
Chen is also excited about the diversity of the student body at LSE. According to the institution’s website, approximately 6,000 students from more than 100 countries and every continent attended summer school at LSE last year.
"To be able to meet students from literally all over the world will be incredible," Chen said. "The whole experience will add so much to my cultural awareness of the world."
Navarrete said it was difficult trying to pick just one of the more than 70 summer courses offered by the university.
"I was like a kind in a candy store looking at the list of classes," he said. "There were so many great courses to choose from."
Both Chen and Navarrete said the summer study abroad trip would not have been possible for them had it not been for the Academic Enrichment Fund, which was established by Ozarks to offer competitive grants to students in support of their research or creative projects, professional preparation through internships, and study abroad.
"I realize how unique and special this opportunity is," said Navarrete. "My professors really encouraged me to pursue my dream of studying abroad in London. These types of opportunities can truly be life-changing and I want to make the absolute most of it."
A life-long goal for Navarrete is to help improve the economy in his home country of El Salvador, something that has led to him learning as much as he can about world economics.
"The way you can truly help and uplift a country is to improve its economic foundation," he said. "I want to do whatever I can do to help the country and people that I love, so that’s why an opportunity like this to learn at a great institution is so important to me. I want to apply the theories and best practices that I’m learning in the textbooks and classes back in my country to make a difference. I can’t think of a better purpose for my life than that."