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Freeman Grant Provides Gateway to Asia

At a reception on November 29, 4 Berea students presented exhibitions on their respective internship and study-abroad experiences funded by Freeman Grants from the Institute of International Education.

Rebecca and friends at the Festival of Lanterns

After refreshments, the assembly at The Woods-Penniman Commons participated in an interactive session designed to highlight eligibility, application, and the practical use of the Freeman Grants. Grant purposes vary, but in general, these scholarships come primarily in two forms: Freeman Asia and Freeman Assist. The first among these, awarded to Berea senior Rebecca Trembula last year, provides funding for US citizens to study abroad in East and South East Asia.

All of the students have to meet the selective Freeman Grant criteria which encompass academics and financial need as well as produce a proposal outlining their internship plans. Competing against an increasingly strong applicant pool, each recipient had to submit an exceptionally strong proposal. Fortunately for the students however, Berea's strong track record helps improve their opportunities. Although the grant has only been available since 2000, 28 Berea students have already received more than $140,000. Thanks in large part to International Center director Suzi Kifer, the Freeman scholarship identified Berea College students as particularly strong applicants at its very outset.

Like many past Berea students, Trembula's experience encompassed a full academic year of studying language and culture in Japan. Enrolled at the Nagasaki College of Foreign Languages, Trembula studied Japanese and Spanish conversation and composition, while living with host families and participating in a range of extracurricular activities. As a Spanish Education major, Trembula considers Japanese a hobby that she wants to later integrate into her life as a foreign language instructor. Already fluent in Spanish, Trembula initially found it a great tool to connect with her fellow Japanese students. "I loved my first Spanish class because it was the only time I could carry on fluent conversations with my Japanese friends. In the second semester my Japanese ability caught up and we could use Japanese or Spanish."

As her language ability improved, Tremubla grew closer to her host family, classmates, and fellow churchgoers. "I felt like a member of the community. It was wonderful. I passed the same people everyday going to school. Some of the people I danced with were my neighbors. I had my church family, my square dance family [and] my group of really close friends".

The second scholarship, the Freeman Assist, is awarded to International students from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to help meet otherwise burdensome financial needs for community-based, non-profit, educational internships. The scholarships mission leaves room for interpretation, and as a result, internships vary widely. Nazar Rusli, a native of Indonesia received a Freeman Assist grant to work at the Boys and Girls club located here in Berea. Meanwhile, Chinese International Student, Ji Ni worked at a research lab in Lexington, Kentucky. Jolene Wee, a Malaysian International Student traveled to Baltimore to work on housing rights issues with the non-profit group "Civil Justice".

Across the country the Freeman scholarship has already awarded over 7000 grants. Here at Berea it will undoubtedly continue to be an option for Asian or Asia-bound students looking for not just financial assistance, but challenges and adventures as well.

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