For as long as Ana Aragon can remember, Korean culture has fascinated her. From its upbeat pop music (K-pop) to the cult-classic television shows she first discovered on YouTube, there was something about the art, the colors and the language that she loved.
“Little by little, I started picking up the language just by watching videos online. The more I understood, the more I wanted to learn and experience firsthand,” Aragon said.
The possibility of traveling 6,000 miles to South Korea seemed a far reach for the first-generation business major. Her mom and dad had already made a sacrifice sending her away to college; studying abroad was a luxury that was not in the cards for her. Then, she heard about the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.
Aimed at diversifying undergraduate students whohave a desire to study abroad, the Gilman Scholarship is a competitive award that gives highly-motivated students like Aragon the opportunity to fulfill their international dreams. Thanks in part to her academic advisor, Michelle Kechichian, Aragon was introduced to the scholarship. After a grueling application process that included her submitting a project proposal and letters of recommendation, she was accepted. “Being awarded this scholarship is a big deal,” Kechichian said. “I am so proud of her growth and achievements. Ana is inspiring and I admire her tremendously.”
Aragon is spending her spring semester studying at Yonsei University in South Korea, where she will participate in an intensive language study in Korean and immerse herself in Korean culture and business practices. She believes a global educational experience will help make her more marketable when she graduates from La Verne next year.
“I want to travel a lot and soak up culture wherever I am, so I want a career that will allow that,” Aragon said. “I’m really going to take this time and find out what kind of jobs are out there [South Korea] and gauge if I would want to work there after I graduate. I am the type of person who wants to venture out.”
Aragon took the first step in her quest of venturing out when she chose to attend the University of La Verne. “I am originally from San Diego County and I wanted to get out of my shell a little bit. La Verne is far enough for me to find myself but not too far away that my parents can’t visit me. I’m very attached to my family.”
As the second oldest of four siblings, Aragon is focused on setting an example that following your passion is not out of reach, no matter how far-fetched it may seem. She believes her parents’ support has resulted in her sense of empowerment to follow her dreams.
“My parents are my support system,” Aragon said. “They didn’t get to attend college, so they want us to do better and build a career so that we can have a great life. That’s what I am going to do.”