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Communication disorders major to experience new culture

moodyFrom Italy to Israel, Smithville resident Samantha Moody is no stranger to visiting new and exciting places.

“I have always loved traveling,” Moody said. “In the course of my life, I have traveled internationally multiple times. I love learning about the people, the culture, and the stories.”

While searching for a study abroad program to enhance her learning of communication disorders, Moody knew she wanted to go on a trip that was completely different from anything she had ever experienced.

“For months I researched different programs online,” Moody said. “When I discovered the School for International Training (SIT), I found out that the program was unique and would allow me to do my own research. When I compared SIT with other programs available, it seemed like the best option for me in the long run.”

Arranged by SIT, Moody’s study abroad program will have her in the Yunnan Province of China for three months during the 2015 spring semester exploring the complex and varied challenges faced by China’s ethnic minority groups.

“There is a huge demand for speech pathologists in China,” Moody said. “The Yunnan Province is home to 45 out of 55 ethnic minorities that are only found in that one province of China. Because each city has their own language it becomes much more difficult to provide services to help with language skills. As a future speech language pathologist, my mission is to learn about the cultural diversity within China.”

While in China, Moody will be living alongside local students at Yunnan Nationalities University.

“While for the most part I will be staying in the dorms, the class will be taking weekly trips to the surrounding areas,” she said. “One of the great things about this program is that I won’t be doing this by myself at all. From looking at previous groups, there will be about 15 or 20 students who will be involved in the same program as me.”

For the first part of the trip, Moody will take Mandarin and tai chi lessons while learning and reading about the ethnic minorities in the community. Towards the last four weeks of the trip, Moody will be given a stipend to create a research project.

“When we are given our stipend, it will be up to us to arrange where we’ll be going and how much we’ll be eating as well as to determine our budget for the next weeks while we research,” Moody said. “At the end of the program I have to turn in a 25-page research paper and present it for the class. I feel like everything in the classes will be leading up to creating a well-rounded and thorough research project.”

During her stay, Moody will be undertaking humanitarian activities and embarking on a weeklong trip to Beijing.

“While I am in China, we will be visiting the local schools where we will be observing the language class and interacting with the kids,” Moody said. “There is a huge thirst in China to know and speak English. Also in Beijing, we’ll be visiting historical landmarks including the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City.”

Upon discovering she had been accepted into SIT, Moody applied for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a scholarship open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide.

The congressional-funded Gilman Scholarship Program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. Although the award amounts vary depending on the length of study and student need, the average award is approximately $4,000 with the top award being $8,000, available only to applicants studying a critical need language while abroad.

“Receiving the top amount of the Gilman Scholarship really made the difference,” Moody said. “The Gilman Scholarship made it possible for me to do this program. I am really blessed these scholarships exist.”

Moody said it was an intense process to apply for the scholarship. 

“It was highly competitive and academically rigorous,” Moody said. “I was not expecting the full $8,000. I was hopeful, but it is so competitive that I knew that any tiny mistake could have disqualified me. A large part of why I was accepted is because I am a McNair Scholar and am therefore well-acquainted with the research process.”       

Moody said she is thankful for the support she received along the way.

“I couldn’t have done it without my family, friends and mentors,” she said. “Dr. Palis has been so helpful throughout the process. Daniella Medley helped me with the Gilman application and Dr. Monica Harn, who is my McNair mentor, also helped me with the application and was a huge positive influence.”

Moody said she is excited about not only expanding her knowledge, but also bringing home what she has learned.

“When I return I hope to be proficient in Mandarin, enough to retain the language to use in the United States,” she said. “While overseas, I hope to gain more experience in researching and to make connections within the medical field to help further the field of speech pathology in China. Ultimately, I want to obtain cultural understanding that will help me in the workforce.”

After graduating, Moody plans on attending graduate school to obtain her master’s degree.

“In the future, I hope to be researching traumatic brain injuries or furthering the research that I develop in China,” Moody said. “Eventually I will go out and treat patients as a speech language pathologist.”

Moody said she believes her Lamar education has helped prepare her for a successful future.

“I have absolutely loved attending Lamar,” she said. “I had excellent professors and really enjoyed being a student in the Speech and Hearing Sciences Department. Also, getting involved with the McNair Scholars Program was life changing for me. It gave me the confidence to venture forth and do future research.”

Study abroad director Jeff Palis said that Moody is an exemplification of what study abroad offers.

“The Gilman gives 50 students nationwide the top amount of $8,000, and Samantha is one of those 50 students,” Palis said. “This feat is extraordinary. Hopefully this demonstrates to other students that they are capable of this too.”

Palis said the trip will make Moody a more profoundly wise person.

“This trip will create a depth of world understanding resulting in cultural awareness,” Palis said. “She’ll be able to understand the challenges of communication and be able to relate to her patients in the future. The trip will be challenging and result in a positive impact on her work back home in the community.”

Palis said there are more than a dozen other summer programs available at Lamar.

“I encourage everyone, regardless of age or discipline, to study abroad,” Palis said. “Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. There are several courses and programs available that can appeal to a variety of interests and disciplines while helping the student earn class credit.”

For more information on study abroad, contact Jeff Palis at