Student uses grant award to explore medicine in Belize

Christa Fernando grabs a tree in Belize.
Christa Fernando
Image credit - Courtesy Photo

21st Century Education

Grand Valley student Christa Fernando used a study abroad experience to explore learning about global health, funded in part by a competitive grant award from Phi Kappa Phi. 

Fernando said the award helped fund her trip to Belize, where she also studied ethnomedicine, which is the study of traditional medicine practiced by various ethnic groups, especially those with limited access to Western medicine.

The award program is administered by The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, a collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines.

The application deadline for study abroad grants from Phi Kappa Phi for next year is March 15.

Fernando, of Kentwood, Michigan, was awarded the $1,000 grant last year and was just one of 75 students nationwide to receive the award.

The grants are designed to support undergraduates from campuses that have Phi Kappa Phi chapters, as they seek expanded knowledge and experience in their academic fields by studying abroad.

Fernando is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, and used the grant to study abroad at the Sacred Heart College in San Ignacio, Belize.

"Thanks to the Phi Kappa Phi scholarship, I was able to participate in courses on ethnomedicine and global health in Belize in May 2019," Fernando said. "Studying abroad in Belize gave me the opportunity to explore the field of anthropology and how it impacted my intended profession of medicine. In the end, I fell in love with the country and discovered the importance of a holistic lens in global health work. I am grateful to be able to carry this expanded perspective of medicine into my future interactions in the health care field."

The selection process for a study abroad grant is based on the applicant’s academic achievement, campus and community service, relation of travel to academic preparation and career goals, a personal statement, letters of recommendation and acceptance into a study abroad program. Each recipient receives $1,000 to be applied toward travel abroad.

Established in 2001, the Study Abroad Grant Program has awarded more than $875,000 to undergraduate students. The grants are part of the society’s portfolio of award programs, which gives nearly $1 million each year to outstanding students and members through graduate and dissertation fellowships. Grants help fund post-baccalaureate development and grants for local, national and international literacy initiatives.

Students interested in learning more about Phi Kappa Phi awards and other nationally competitive scholarships should contact Elizabeth Harrington Lambert at [email protected] or visit the Office of Fellowships website,, for more information.


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