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Summer Exploration Grant Provides Perspective

Three Undergraduate Studies students were able to investigate majors and expand their perspectives with assistance from the Summer Exploration Grant. Although the recipients used the grant money for different experiences, they came to similarly enlightening conclusions about how to spend the rest of their time at The University of Texas and what their lives might look like after graduation.

Shadowing Doctors in Portugal

Lauren Haley

Lauren Haley always wanted to be a doctor but without hands-on experience, how could she be sure the profession would be a good fit? Although she’d already been volunteering at Dell Medical Children’s Hospital, she wanted to shadow doctors in Lisbon, Portugal for something more in-depth. Lauren used the Summer Exploration Grant to participate in The Atlantis Project in Lisbon Portugal. She spent 20 hours per week for four weeks shadowing doctors in various medical fields. After seeing her first surgery, Lauren was convinced that neurosurgery was what she wanted to do.

“Seeing a brain tumor removed was probably the highlight of the whole experience,” Lauren said. “Neurosurgery is something I’d considered, but actually seeing that surgery and getting to spend so much time observing doctors confirmed that surgery is the path I want to take.”

Lauren said she also learned a great deal from the other students in the program, most of whom were older and more knowledgeable. The experience working with doctors and her fellow students confirmed Lauren’s suspicions about her career and left her feeling confident that she was taking the right path.

Conservation in South Africa

Lauren Kelliher

Lauren Kelliher combined her life-long interest in animals and a possible major in mathematics into a unique experience in South Africa this past summer. Lauren spent two weeks working as a research assistant with a great white shark conservation group through GoEco, an ecotourism group in Gansbaai, South Africa. One of Lauren’s main concerns about persuing mathematics as a major was the potential for job opportunities.

“I was eager to see just how numbers can be applied beyond a problem from a textbook,” Lauren said. “I want to use numbers to quantify issues and create awareness about subjects I am passionate about.”

Even though she didn’t see a single great white shark during her time in Gansbaai, Lauren was undaunted. She collected data on atmospheric and water conditions and shifted her focus to other local marine wildlife populations like penguins and whales. After her experiences this summer, she’s now interested in pursuing more research at UT and wants to continue working in conservation.

Practicing Spanish in Spain

Andrea gandaria

Andrea Gandaria moved from Mexico to Texas five years ago to finish high school and looked to a study abroad program in Spain to reconnect with her native language. A sophomore interested in a major in advertising and a minor in Spanish, Andrea sees the benefits of bilingualism in an industry a global industry like advertising. She also wanted to get some world travel experience while in college. While Andrea was apprehensive about a trip so far from home, the real barrier to entry was financial. With that concern alleviated through the Summer Exploration Grant, she was able to focus on her studies and embrace the experience.

“For me, traveling to such far places was never an option. It seemed to take a huge risk and an impossible amount of planning to make it happen,” Andrea said. “The thing I treasure most from this trip is knowing that I can travel alone—knowing that if I face a problem, I can find the solution.”

Andrea spent six weeks in and around Santander, Spain studying Spanish with professors from both The University of Texas and the University of Cantabria. She stayed with a local host who helped her become immersed in the Spanish culture and studied with a diverse group of UT students from different backgrounds.

About the Summer Exploration Grant

The School of Undergraduate Studies offers competitive grants to students seeking funds for academic and career exploration. Grants can be in any amount up to $2,000, provided the students carefully communicate their academic or career plans will benefit.

Past Summer Exploration Grant winners have used their grant money to teach English to elementary students in Peru, provide medical and dental services in Honduras, work with doctors in Tanzania, work with a microfinance organization in Bangladesh, and study abroad in China.

Grant applicants must be enrolled in the School of Undergraduate Studies and must apply with a current resumé, a personal statement describing goals for their summer experience, a current transcript, a proposed budget not to exceed $2,000, and a letter of recommendation from a professor or TA. Applications for the 2018 Summer Exploration Grant will be accepted until March 2, 2018. Learn more about the grant and application process.