Success Stories

Scholarship to study in Rome

Katie Oyama

One might think that it was a natural choice for Katie Oyama to select Classics as her major after attending Troy High School, with a neighboring school named Athens. While Oyama did take four years of Latin in high school, she says it was their class trip to Italy and Greece that sparked her interest.

“We visited Athens and Olympia in Greece, but I was most impressed with Italy and seeing the ruins of Pompeii,” said Oyama. “If I had to pinpoint a moment that made me want to return to Italy, that would be it. I knew that in college, if I were to study abroad, it would be in Italy.”

As a junior at Grand Valley, Oyama was the recipient of the Benedetta and Giancarlo Galassi-Bera Scholarship. The $19,000 award pays for a semester of study at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies. Administered by Duke University, ICCS provides undergraduate students with an opportunity in Rome to study ancient history, archaeology, Greek and Latin literature, Italian language and ancient art. It also includes a weeklong field trip to ancient ruins in Sicily.

“Grand Valley has so many options for study abroad. You can go for a year, a semester, a summer, or even a few weeks,” said Oyama. “Once I learned about the ICCS program, I was quite excited because it is a Classics-focused program that is perfect for me. But I was also nervous because it is a very competitive.” She also recognizes that the scholarship opportunity to study abroad will be very helpful toward her goal of teaching, following graduate school.

While attending Grand Valley Oyama has already studied Latin and Greek with her major emphasis in Classical languages, but also Italian, French and Spanish. She has presented her paper on the role of gods in Greek tragedies at the Grand Rapids Undergraduate Research Conference, and worked on literary translations, including a portion of Seneca’s “Morale Epistles,” for which she received the W. Robert Connor Award.

A member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Fraternity, Oyama also makes time for activities outside of Classics, including Grand Valley’s Latin Dance Group, Sabrosísimo, for which she has served as treasurer. She is also a volunteer tutor at the Hispanic Center of West Michigan and is involved with the Grand Valley Crohn’s and Colitis Student Initiative, and serves on the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s Grand Rapids Take Steps Walk committee as the Camp Oasis chair.


by Mary Isca Pirkola