When Isabella De Souza was attending schools in Framingham and Milford, Massachusetts, one of her favorite places to visit was the nurse’s office.
“I loved going to the nurse at school, talking to her and seeing how she took care of people,” De Souza says. “I loved going to the doctor. It was nice to have somebody look over you, see if you’re healthy, and help you both physically and mentally.”
She also loved studying languages. She already speaks English and Portuguese fluently; her parents emigrated from Brazil. And because De Souza grew up in towns where a lot of her friends spoke Spanish at home, she studied Spanish all through middle and high school.
Now she is a student in the Solomont School of Nursing – and the winner of a U.S. Department of State Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for language study abroad. She hopes to become fully fluent in Spanish, especially medical terms.
“I always liked being able to help people. I’ll help in any way that I can, whether that’s helping translate something or cure their sore throat,” De Souza says. “It’s awkward when you go to the doctor and they don’t understand you. My parents would have that experience, and I’d have to translate for them. I want my patients to feel more comfortable with me.”
It’s the second scholarship De Souza has obtained that will pay for study abroad. She was also granted an Immersive Scholarship by the university. The $4,000 scholarships can be used for research with faculty, a supervised community experience, or overseas study.
De Souza had originally applied to study Spanish for health care professionals in Costa Rica or Spain the summer after her first year at UML. But due to the levels of COVID-19 in both countries, language classes were going to start online and excursions were prohibited. She decided to postpone her travel plans and work instead – so that she can do even more study abroad programs in the future.
“I want to experience a culture to the max,” she says.
She plans to apply for the Honors College study abroad program in Cuba over winter break and use her Gilman Scholarship to study in Costa Rica, Argentina or Spain during summer 2022. Over the course of her college career, she plans to study Spanish for health care workers at least once and take as many Spanish classes on campus as she can.
“I want to go to different countries to learn different dialects,” she says. “There are so many people from Ecuador, Mexico and other countries in Latin America who come here for a better life, and if they get sick and go to the hospital, I want them to have the same trust and bond with their physician as any other patient.”
De Souza says the Honors College has been a good fit for her. She enjoys the seminar-style classes, and college faculty also introduced her to the Gilman Scholars program. Meantime, the River Hawk Scholars Academy, a university program that supports first-generation college students, helped her with the ups and downs of starting college remotely during a pandemic.
When she can live and study on campus during the fall of her sophomore year, she plans to dive more deeply into some of the student organizations she checked out as a first-year student: Advocates of Health Equity for Minorities, the Spanish Club and the Student Nursing Association.
“I want to get really involved and make the campus community better any way I can,” she says.