CyFair student to study in China
As recipient of a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, Martha Ocampo is one step closer to becoming a human rights lawyer as she goes to China this summer through Lone Star College-CyFair's Study Abroad Program.
"More than anything, this scholarship was an answered prayer for me," said Ocampo, who is studying international relations with plans to enter the University of Texas-Austin's dual master's program in global policy and law.
"I have always wanted to participate in a study abroad program, but financially it was not something that was feasible for my family."
The scholarship program offers grants to study abroad to students with limited financial resources. The intent is to better prepare students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world.
During the spring application cycle, the Gilman Scholarship Program received more than 2,600 applications for more than 500 awards.
Ocampo said applying was a team effort, and she is thankful to "her team," which included professors Robert O'Brien and Carolyn Ho, and scholarship adviser Lina Quintero, who was enlisted to help obtain necessary documentation.
Receiving the Gilman scholarship was both humbling and a relief, as Ocampo said she felt a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.
"We believe Martha is the first Lone Star College System student to ever receive this honor in the 10-year history of the Gilman," said O'Brien. "Martha, who is also getting one of the LSCS Study Abroad scholarships, is a very driven student and is deserving of both the college and Gilman scholarships.
"It's also quite an honor for LSC-CyFair as most of the recipients are from four-year universities," O'Brien said.
Financial need is only one of the challenges that Ocampo has faced.
She originally moved from Miami in 2007 to attend the Art Institute of Houston. Shortly thereafter, she became ill with ulcerative colitis.
"Little did I know then, but I was about to embark on an arduous two-year journey of agonizing surgeries and even more agonizing recoveries," she said.
"During those two years I did a lot of 'soul searching' and realized that I wanted to become a lawyer. I promised myself that if I was able to regain my health, I would return to school and do my best to reach my full academic potential."
After her last surgery in late 2009, she said she registered for spring classes at LSC-CyFair because it was close to home and because it was economically viable.
"I have always wanted to learn to speak Mandarin and I could not pass up the opportunity of learning it in China, where I will have constant interaction with the language.
"Potential employers like to see that you are not afraid to step out of your comfort zone, and programs, like study abroad, help to reinforce that message."