Two students riding camels on sandy dunes at sunset
Heavener student Rahul Kheraj, right, exploring Morocco by camel during his study abroad experience.

How studying abroad expanded this Heavener student’s network and knowledge

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Last December, Heavener students Rahul Kheraj and Allie Carrasquilla were awarded the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a grant program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to the United States’ national security and economic prosperity. Upon returning from their respective trips to Spain and France, Kheraj and Carrasquilla reflected on how they grew from their experiences. Read what Kheraj had to say below, then check out Carrasquilla’s reflection

Rahul Kheraj stands in the street on his first day in Madrid, Spain

Rahul Kheraj on his first day in Madrid.

By Rahul Kheraj, BSBA ’20

My study abroad semester in Spain was one of the most insightful and motivating experiences in my life. Looking back, I can’t help but cherish every small detail of my semester from the people I met to the grocery stores. I lived in a 12-bedroom flat, which allowed me to meet students from so many different places including France, Portugal, Malaysia, the UK, Switzerland and more. It honestly felt like living in a dorm with various different types of students, and fortunately, we all became really close. It was unexpectedly the best thing that happened to me during my semester. I found family from around the world in one huge apartment.

The Gilman Scholarship allowed me to pay for my rent in Madrid in the city-center which allowed me to experience Madrid directly. In addition, the scholarship allowed me to travel to many places around Spain and Europe with no financial restrictions and experience a glimpse of the diversity Europe has to offer. One of the most memorable moments of my trip was attending the Gilman Scholarship Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. I had the opportunity to network with 30 other Gilman scholars, attend workshops, and learn more about how to continue my international experiences post-graduation, such as different opportunities in the foreign services department and the private sector as well.

Seven students do the Gator Chomp

Kheraj, center, taught his flatmates the Gator Chomp with the help of some UF alumni that came to visit him in Madrid.

My classes and host university allowed me to feel connected with the local student life. Although my classes were in English, I took classes such as contemporary history of Spain to broaden my knowledge of Spain and its culture. The local students who took English classes were trying to study abroad or had studied abroad somewhere, and they wanted to keep improving their language skills. The students motivated me to continue learning Spanish even after studying abroad.

Reflecting on the whole semester, I improved my adaptability, communication, language and networking skills. Although my semester is over, I know it is just the beginning to many lifelong friendships and the spark of my career. I want to use my experiences to engage in international commerce and encourage global connectedness at UF.