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A Year Abroad: The McNeil Scholarship Experience

January 31, 2018

The St. Andrews Society of Philadelphia selected Drexel University for an annual McNeil Scholarship awarded to one student to fund a study abroad experience at The University of Aberdeen for a full academic year (September through June). The McNeil Scholarship offers up to $25,000 to a study abroad student at the University of Aberdeen; Nikita Frantz is Drexel’s first ever recipient of the scholarship.  

Nikita's interest in the "rich history, castles, and other landscapes" of Great Britain drew her originally to study abroad opportunities in Scotland. When she learned about the McNeil Scholarship, Nikita knew she wanted to apply to study at Aberdeen. She explains, "Once I was selected [for the McNeil Scholarship], I was able to meet the other four students that have been sponsored by the St. Andrews Society and learned about their scholarship application process." She was also able to hear about the experiences of past years' recipients. 

At the University of Aberdeen, Nikita has taken several courses related to her dual-major in finance and international business, as well as general elective courses such as an English course with materials written solely by Scottish authors and a philosophy course touching on rules in Scottish society. Through the university's "societies" (student organizations), Nikita has met other business students and applied what she has learned in her courses about culture and self-awareness. She acknowledges that her two former years of business classes and first co-op in the Global Treaty Team for reinsurance at Chubb have helped her to meet people from different countries and cultures, but her study abroad experience allowed her to realize that "in the end, humans are not that different, regardless of their culture or native language." 


While a majority of the McNeil scholarship is earmarked for specific expenses such as rent, tuition, and food, Nikita has been able to use some of the additional funds for cultural excursions to nearby countries. She explains, "Study abroad is a time to explore new places and soak in as much as you can." Through her study abroad experiences and related travel, Nikita feels more confident in herself and her own abilities. "I had to attend [events] on my own, even travel on my own... and this has helped me to trust myself and realize that I can do things by myself," she said.  

When asked about the most challenging part of her experience abroad, Nikita remarked that she sometimes struggles to balance her time. "There are so many things I want to do, yet school must always remain a priority," she said. Nikita finds that, even though she left Philadelphia several months ago, she is frequently in contact with Drexel's Study Abroad Office along with her Drexel academic advisors and professors to ensure her experience is going smoothly – on top of communicating with these same offices at the University of Aberdeen. With a positive attitude, Nikita says these challenges have helped develop her management and communication skills. 


As advice to students who may want to apply for the McNeil scholarship, Nikita encourages, "Even if you are only slightly considering applying, there's nothing to lose. If you are the chosen scholar, you were chosen for a reason; so, go out there, be an ambassador for Drexel! Meet as many people, see as much, learn as much, and eat as much as you can!" 

Students who are interested in applying to the McNeil scholarship or to study abroad at the University of Aberdeen should contact Drexel's Study Abroad Office about starting the application process.