UWA student Madelyn Brasher (far right) was one of several students from the University who went to Ireland this past November as part of a study abroad trip. The group are pictured at Fairy Bridges and Wishing Chair, Bundoran. (submitted photo)

Story: Lisa Sollie

When Dr. Mark Davis took the helm of International Programs at the University of West Alabama in 2014, he wanted to bring the world to UWA and offer the world to the students.

According to Davis, before the pandemic halted international travel there were more students at UWA planning to study abroad than ever before, but it’s been a struggle to rebuild the robust program. That’s why he is excited about UWA’s new Global Scholars Community Scholarship, an exclusive program designed to elevate students’ academic experience and shape a more interconnected future. These new scholarship opportunities are aimed at incoming high school seniors and for current UWA freshmen. To be considered for this prestigious scholarship, applications must be submitted by April 15, 2024.

High school seniors interested in studying overseas are invited to apply for the scholarship, which includes two round-trip international airline tickets to university partner schools throughout the world, up to $6,000, and prepares students for international exchanges with partner universities through campus-based programming and faculty-led study-abroad opportunities. According to Davis, UWA currently has more than 25 partners throughout the world.

UWA freshmen can also apply for the Global Scholars Community Scholarship program to help ensure participation in enriching programs that contribute to academic and professional development and includes up to $3,000 for travel to UWA partner study abroad locations.

Davis insists recruiting international students to UWA is not a problem. “The struggle,” he said, “is getting students to understand or embrace that study abroad opens the door to collaborate, exchange ideas and connect them with other global scholars fostering academic rigor, healthy competition and cultivate a global mindset before they even set foot on our campus.”

Two UWA students, senior Carlyn Rawls and sophomore Madelyn Brasher, know firsthand how life changing studying abroad can be. Rawls, who spent a year in France, not only had the opportunity to visit some of the most popular cities in Europe, but she met people from all over the world and learned about new cultures and worldviews.

Brasher was part of small group of students who went to Ireland in the fall of 2023, a study abroad trip that she says made her life richer and more fulfilled.

“Exploring the world outside of Alabama gave me a new perspective on life that I would have never imagined otherwise,” said Brasher. “While this trip emphasized academics, I got to try amazing food, visit surreal geographical areas and engage in unique conversations, and that has made me more well-rounded.”

“Studying abroad,” added Rawls, is a once in a lifetime opportunity everyone should do if they have the opportunity.”

UWA student Carlyn Rawls, from Millbrook, Alabama poses in front of the Pyramide du Louvre in Paris while studying abroad at the IGR-IAE Rennes Graduate School of Management, part of University of Rennes 1, a historic institution in the western French region of Brittany. (submitted photo)

Growing up in Southern California, Davis had access to meet people from all over the world, but acknowledges that is not the norm for most areas of the rural south. As dean of international programs for UWA, he wants to expand well beyond the physical borders of the university and help students realize studying abroad isn’t really so far away.

“Through the Global Scholars Community Scholarship, I want to place students in UWA’s partner universities around the world, which include partners in western Europe, Japan, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, China and Vietnam to name a few,” he noted, “but I can also assist with faculty-led study abroad programs as well.”

For more information on UWA’s new Global Scholars Community Scholarship and an application, contact Dr. Mark Davis at mdavis@uwa.edu.