November 13, 2009
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) University Honors student Grace Benton, 20, of Mobile, will spend spring 2010 studying at the American University in Dubai (AUD) in the United Arab Emirates as a William Jefferson Clinton Scholar.
Benton, a junior with a 4.0 GPA, is an international studies major specializing in Middle Eastern Studies and the daughter of Paul Benton and Martha Daughdrill of Lottie. While a Clinton Scholar, Benton plans to take four international studies courses and an Arabic language course at AUD.
"Arabic is very challenging in an engaging sort of way," says Benton. "It's never tedious, and it's just something that really piqued my interest. I took Arabic as a freshman, and it just seemed to fit."
The William Jefferson Clinton Scholars Program seeks to further the goals of the Clinton Presidential Foundation to strengthen the capacity of people in the United States and throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence. In partnership with AUD, the program provides U.S. students the opportunity to expand educational and cultural horizons by studying in the Arab world. The Clinton Scholarship program provides awards to up to 10 students per semester and pays for tuition and housing.
Clinton scholarships are awarded to students who "demonstrate exemplary academic achievement." Preference is given to students who show an interest in being exposed for the first time to Middle Eastern or Islamic culture.
"I have never been to Dubai," says Benton, "and I have never been to the Middle East. The population of Dubai comprises roughly an 80 percent expatriate community, which suggests that in addition to Middle Eastern culture, I will be privy to many other world cultures as well. Dubai is a vibrant, wealthy city that represents a unique merger between the East and the West.
"I hope to bring back with me a greater and deeper understanding of the importance of studying and working in a non-Western setting," she says. "I would like to generate interest in the Arabic program at UAB and provide more opportunities for practice and practical application for students already studying the language."
Benton says her interest in the Arabic language inspired her to travel to Tunisia the summer after her freshman year to work as an English Language Fellow for the Ministry of Higher Education. The experience was made possible through the Tunisian Community Center Study Abroad Scholarship Program. Her duties included conducting discussion groups comprising Tunisian students to better facilitate cultural and linguistic exchange.
Recently, Benton was selected by the UAB Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures as a Foreign Language Ambassador for Arabic. As an ambassador, she speaks to high-school students about Arabic Studies at UAB.
"My goal is to become a legal adviser or consultant for a negotiating team in the Middle East or to work for a human-rights group," she says.
Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, UAB is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center. Click here to learn more about applying to UAB.