by Catherine Schuknecht
International Institute, February 4, 2014 — UCLA International Institute alumnus Josue Lopez Calderon (International Development Studies, 2010) has been named a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program Alumni Ambassador for 2014. A recipient of the U.S. Department of State award in 2010, Calderon used his scholarship to study abroad in Thailand. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the State Department sponsors the program, which is administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE).
The Gilman International Scholarship Program offers competitive grants that enable students to participate in study abroad programs and internships worldwide. The grants are open to undergraduate students who are both U.S. citizens and are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding.
Established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, the Congressionally funded program aims to create opportunities for students who would otherwise be unable to study abroad. Moreover, it encourages students to attend learning programs in non-traditional countries outside of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
When he first learned about the program, notes Calderon, he had never heard about either the Gilman or Fulbright scholarships and had no idea what the State Department or the IIE did. As a first-generation college graduate and a child of immigrant parents, Calderon has always felt a sense of gratitude and responsibility to serve his country.
His recent selection as a Gilman Alumni Ambassador will allow him to further pursue his passion for service by spreading the word about the program and the tremendous impact that study abroad can have on students’ futures.
“I aspire to continue opening doors for the next generation,” affirms Calderon. The Gilman Alumni Ambassador encourages students to pursue many opportunities, such as studying abroad, that they might not find comfortable. “It is those experiences,” he insists, “that allow us to grow.”
At 26, Calderon already has a fair share of impressive achievements. A member of The National Press Club, he is currently New Business Development Specialist at the Recreation Association of the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Previously, he served in the Presidential Personnel Office at the White House and the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board at the Treasury Department.
Studying the world, and studying abroad, opens doors
Calderon credits his achievements to the interdisciplinary education he received through the International Development Studies (IDS) major, together with his experience studying abroad. “IDS trained me to be a true Renaissance man,” he says. "Not only was I required to master a secondary language, but I was also challenged to focus on the political and economic development of two regions, the Western Hemisphere and Southeast Asia.
"This requirement opened the door for me to study abroad in Thailand as a Gilman scholar," he continued, "which ultimately gave me the opportunity to engage across cultural and sectoral boundaries. As a result, this exchange not only helped me gain a cultural, political and economic holistic perspective of the world, but it also allowed me to share my Mexican-American upbringing with many friends who had never met someone of Hispanic descent."
His conclusion: study abroad is “essential in order to stand out and compete for a job in today’s global economy because it shows potential employers that you can adapt to a new environment, be resourceful and work with people from different cultures.”
Calderon feels fortunate not only because of his achievements, but also because of the adversity and failure he has faced in life. “I cherished those emotional dips as opportunities to improve,” he explains. Here, he cited UCLA's legendary Coach John Wooden: “Things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”
Accordingly, Calderon urges students not to hesitate to apply for international fellowships and scholarships, including the Gilman Scholarship. As he likes to remind students, “Opportunities are not given, they are seized.”
In March of this year, Calderon will travel to UCLA to give presentations on the Gilman Scholarship Program to interested students. The program is currently accepting applications for summer and fall 2014; the application deadline is March 4, 2014.
Students who wish to learn more about the prestigious study abroad opportunity should visit its website and check out its Facebook page and Twitter feed (@GilmanProgram) for up-to-date information. Calderon also invites prospective applicants to contact him with questions via Twitter @therealjosue.
As Calderon embarks on his career as a Gilman Alumni Ambassador, there is little doubt that he will encourage and inspire the next generation of UCLA Gilman Scholars.
For more information on the International Institute interdepartmental programs, including International Development Studies, click here. Make sure to visit the UCLA International Institute Alumni Directory to get a sense of the achievements of our alumni!