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US State Department scholarship is Business School student's ticket to Brazil

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Rutgers Business School student Juan Flores knows how to make the most of an opportunity.

When he learned about the U.S. State Department's Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship that gives eligible students an opportunity to study abroad, Flores thought winning would be an experience of a lifetime.

He spent 20 hours writing essays and developing a strategy for how to help promote the scholarship program as part of the application process. In April, he learned he had won and would be going to Brazil for an intensive, month-long language class in Portuguese. (Two other students at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Daniel Ioselevich and Epiphania Njoku, were also winners this year.)

"I think this experience will help me, especially if I want to work here (in Newark),” said Flores, who is an accounting major. "There are a lot of accounting firms that work with Portuguese companies, and they do want people who speak Portuguese.”

Flores has ambitions of eventually becoming an executive – or an entrepreneur. "I’ll start with accounting and see where it leads,” he said. "Accounting is very reliable. I feel it will help open doors.”

This year, the chance to study in Brazil comes with an added benefit, especially for Flores, who was born in Peru and started kicking around a soccer ball when he was six. The World Cup, which is being hosted by Brazil, will be in the quarter finals when he arrives in Rio de Janeiro. He’s planning to arrive before the study abroad program begins so he can experience the World Cup fanfare firsthand.   

"You know how soccer is in other parts of the world,” Flores said, grinning. "It is very popular.”

Flores, a 31-year-old senior, immigrated to the U.S. when he was 16 years old. He transferred into Rutgers Business School two years ago after attending classes at Essex County College.

At Rutgers, he is an honors college student – with a GPA of 3.65 – and attends classes with financial assistance from the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund, one of the factors that made him eligible for the Gilman scholarship.

Named after retired Congressman Benjamin Gilman from New York, the scholarship offers grants to eligible students to help them gain international experience, which is considered increasingly important in a global economy and interdependent world. The scholarship awarded Flores with $3,000 to cover the cost of attending the Portuguese language class.  

Kinna Perry, director of the Honors College at Rutgers University Newark, said Flores pushes himself to get as much as he can from every opportunity. “He’s making the most of the time he has here,” she said.

Perry said there are nearly 200 applications for every one student who wins a Gilman Scholarship. Flores is the first student from Rutgers University Newark and Rutgers Business School to win one, she said.

Flores, who works as a teaching assistant at Essex County College, has pursued other scholarships to help offset the cost of tuition, but he said the requirements involved with applying for the Gilman Scholarship were particularly demanding. In addition to developing a strategy to promote the Gilman scholarship, he had to write four essays.

He’s not complaining though. "It was worth it,” he said. "Brazil is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’m happy to be going.”

As for soccer, well, he’s rooting for Italy. (He is part Italian on his mother’s side.) "I like the way they play,” he said of Italy’s team. "They play like warriors.”