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Making the world a smaller place
By Chris Barnett / April 24, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...

Jeric Rodriguez always dreamed of studying in Europe, but money got in the way. “I saved every penny,’’ he says, “but still couldn’t afford it.’’

Now the University of Rhode Island junior is headed to Germany thanks to a fellowship from our Beatrice S. Demers Fund, created by a former URI professor who loved languages.

One of 17 URI students to receive grants, Jeric will study mechanical engineering next fall at Technische Universität in Braunschweig, then work for a semester at a German company .

“I’m a little nervous, but very excited,’’ he says. ““Today we live in a world where you can’t be isolated. It's important to experience other cultures and learn other languages. This is a huge opportunity for me to see the world, and see what I can do in it.’’

Demers 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. She was fluent in French, German and Spanish, and studied Chinese and Russian in her 70s.

After her death in 2007, she left us $4 million to fund fellowships for Rhode Island residents and anyone who is a student at a local college or university studying a foreign language. Fellowships cover the cost of tuition, fees, travel, housing and living expenses.

The Demers fund is one of more than 150 scholarship funds that we manage and administer. Last year alone, we granted more than $750,000 in scholarship assistance.

This year’s Demers recipients shared a total of $220,000 to study and will work in Germany, France, Spain, China, Brazil and Ecuador.

Braunschweig is also the destination for Sarah Rheault of Wakefield. After a semester of studies, she hopes to work at a rail transport firm, possibly in Berlin. Her field is industrial engineering, and she’s also in URI's international program.

“I’ve been planning on this trip for the past three years,’’ she says. “It’s a whole new place, and I can’t wait to check it out and use my German skills to communicate with new people and expand my engineering horizons and personal growth.’’

Applicants for the award were judged according to dedication to foreign language study, the likelihood that the proposed study program will promote foreign language fluency and the diversity of languages studied and program types.

Our 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.

The other recipients are Andrea Ayala, Rachel Andronowitz, Joseph Armendarez, Emily Collins, Caleb Gross, Shane Kirkland, Claudia Krah, Kevin Murray, John Nielsen, John Paquet III, Jose Perez, Angela Reisch, Christopher Salazar, Brenden Smerbeck and Michael White.

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