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Grace discusses being first-gen and studying abroad with Carpe Mundi

GRACE HOWARD Portland State University, Political Science Class of 2023 Grace Howard is a Renaissance Scholar who currently attends Portland State University. In 2020, she had the opportunity to study abroad in India through Carpe Mundi. Carpe Mundi is a non-profit organization that provides low-income, first-generation Portland college students with a year-long mentorship and scholarship program that includes an experiential education study abroad program.

A few weeks ago, Grace spoke with Rachel Anderholder (executive director of Carpe Mundi) about her experiences studying abroad and as a first-generation student. What led you to study abroad in India?

Before Carpe Mundi, I already had a travel bug just from going on various family vacations. I didn’t ever think that I could afford to study abroad, because I’m a low-income student. I was introduced to Carpe Mundi by a College Possible coach. I was originally supposed to go to South America, but India was my second choice. Looking back, I’m super glad that I went to India. I learned so many things, and absolutely had the most amazing, crazy, incredible experience. What made you decide to study abroad with Carpe Mundi?

I touched on the financial part of it, but Carpe Mundi prepares students to study abroad. It’s not just a scholarship program, it’s really an integrative educational program. They really make sure that you feel confident going into the trip, which was super helpful for a lot of people who aren’t necessarily very familiar with travel. Carpe Mundi is not set in a traditional college setting, like we have been most of our childhood. Being in a cohort made it feel a lot more tangible, and a lot safer too. How did studying abroad impact your studies at PSU?

Oh my goodness. I feel like every class I take, I can connect what I learned to my experience studying abroad. And honestly, I don’t think that’s exclusive to a political science major or someone that’s interested in international studies. With that being said, as someone that’s into international relations and politics, going to India showed me a lot about politics and how culture affects politics in other places outside of the US, which I hadn’t experienced before. I also had super impactful conversations with people in India about politics that has definitely skewed me towards the more international side of politics.

How do you think being a first generation student has affected your college experience – both at PSU and while you studied abroad?

I definitely feel that being a first generation student made the entire process of college (applying and taking entrance exams) so much more confusing because I couldn’t look to my parental figure. I had to basically learn how the whole system worked. No one that I knew had ever been to college, so they couldn’t teach me. In terms of how it affected my study abroad experience, I think that more specifically, I hadn’t really known anyone who studied abroad. I didn’t know what it looked like, even in a more traditional sense. The more immersive programs (like Carpe Mundi), I didn’t even know how that looked. Being a first generation student just left a huge question mark over everything. That’s definitely where Carpe Mundi jumped in to help me. What has been the most impactful experience during your time in college?

It was definitely my study abroad experience in India, that’s a no-brainer. Being, for a lack of a better word, abducted out of my regular college life and placed somewhere where I’m so unfamiliar allowed me to develop a deeper sense of self, and also figure out what is important to me. I built tangible skills as well, such as conflict resolution, team building, and also understanding a different culture that I didn’t grow up in. What does it mean to you to have been chosen as a Renaissance Scholar?

It gives me the security that I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay for my education, and how I’m going to fund my professional goals and dreams.

What does it mean to you to have participated in the Carpe Mundi program?

I’m so lucky, and not in the traditional sense, but lucky in seeing that other people can view my potential and give me an opportunity to grow, and give me the resources to actualize my dreams. What advice would you give to a future first-generation college student about making the most out of their college experience?

You’re never going to regret doing something, you’re always going to regret not doing something. Sign up for the club, apply for the scholarships, apply to study abroad. Do the most that you can because you’re really not going to regret it at all. If you are interested in Carpe Mundi, you can visit their website to learn more.


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