Micah Kittel will board a plane in the next few weeks and fly 5,000 miles to his new home in Chile for the next year thanks to a fellowship from our Beatrice S. Demers Fund
Kittel, 23, of Portsmouth, is one of 17 URI students who won Demers grants for foreign travel. The former University of Rhode Island professor spent her life teaching foreign languages, first to students in the Pawtucket schools and then to students at URI, where she taught for more than 30 years.
After her death in 2007, she left us $4 million to give students the opportunity to combine overseas travel with academic enrichment. This year, the URI students are sharing a total of $238,545 to study in Germany, France, Chile, China, Japan and Jordan. The fellowships cover the cost of tuition, fees, travel, housing and living expenses.
Kittel says he wouldn't have been able to go overseas without his award. He’s in his fourth year of URI’s five-year International Engineering Program, which combines engineering with a language.
“To be frank, without the Demers scholarship I wouldn’t be going to Chile,’’ says Kittel, who is concentrating in ocean engineering and Spanish. “I’m beyond grateful. It has made my trip financially feasible. I’m extremely excited.’’
Kittel and the other applicants were judged on their dedication to foreign language study; the likelihood that the program will promote language fluency; and the variety of languages and programs.
The Demers fund is open to all Rhode Island residents, not just students. Non-resident students who attend a Rhode Island college or university are also eligible. Preference is given to URI applicants.
In Chile, Kittel will study at La Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, taking language and engineering courses with Chilean students.
“That’s the beauty of the program,’’ he says. “I’ll be taking classes alongside native Chilean speakers. That’s the best way to learn the language.’’
Mackenzie Mitchell, 20, of Coventry, a biomedical engineering student in the German International Engineering Program, will study at Technische Universität in Braunschweig for six months. After that, she hopes to work on sensors for another six months at Siemens Healthcare.
“I’m so thankful,’’ she says. “Money is always a struggle when it comes to school. I pay my own way. I was just so relieved to get this scholarship.’’
Ethan McClure, of Wakefield, has been studying in Japan since October. The electrical engineering and mathematics major first lived in Tokyo, where he was a research student at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Now he’s living in Kyoto working at an electronics company called Shimadzu.
“I was honored to receive the Demers,’’ he says. “My time here in Japan has been incredibly interesting academically and culturally. The entire experience has been life-altering.’’
The other Demers recipients are Jean-Francois Brehany, Andrew Brown, Ibrahim Brown, Michaela Connell, Jose DaSilva, Christopher Fraraccio, Matthew Freeman, John Kahrs, Ian Kanterman, Joseph Korzeb, Kayla Lombardi, Katherine O’Brien, Michael Palmer and Thomas Schubert.