Mohammed Islam Is the 2019 Recipient of the Fund for Education Abroad

Mohammed Islam

Mohammed Islam has recently become the College of Staten Island’s first student to be selected for a grant from the Fund for Education Abroad (FEA), a partner of the Institute for International Education that provides scholarships and ongoing support to students who are underrepresented among the U.S. study abroad population. FEA grants are highly competitive, with only about 5.86 percent of the applicant pool selected annually.

Commenting on receiving this honor, Mohammed said, “I feel honored and humbled by receiving this grant because it is a very competitive scholarship. The chances to fund my study abroad without FEA would have been very dim if they did not see me as a deserving candidate. I thank them for their generosity.”

Mohammed will use his grant to participate in a medical internship this summer at Fes University Hospital in Morocco, a program led by Prof. Abdeslem El Idrissi, which gives students the opportunity to shadow physicians within the Moroccan health care system, as well as conduct a presentation on the case studies they will encounter. Mohammed, an aspiring physician, will also use this opportunity to enhance his fluency in Arabic, as he plans to work with institutions such as Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization in the future.

Mohammed is a student of the Verrazano School Honors Program as well as the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), and has participated extensively in College and community initiatives, including serving as President of CSI’s Muslim Student Association, where he seeks to foster a sense of campus community among his fellow students. He has also made a difference for residents of the New York City Housing Authority by participating in an Advisory Group on Smoking and Health, which resulted in the implementation of smoking cessation policies within their buildings. He has additionally interned at Staten Island University Hospital by attending to patients via the Emergency Room Ambassador Program, an opportunity obtained through the CUNY Service Corps. Through a demonstration of his strong work ethic and outstanding manner with patients, Mohammed was hired as a scribe last year, where he works under the guidance of Emergency Department physicians.

Commenting on his CSI experience and how it has affected his receipt of this award, Mohammed said, “My time at CSI has contributed to this achievement in various ways; I am a first-generation college student and navigating college is certainly a challenge for me. However, I have had the fortune to be surrounded by amazing professors and advisors who went above and beyond to guide and assist me throughout my collegiate career. I would like to give special thanks to Dr. El-Idrissi,-Biology Department, for always believing in me and granting me the chance to do research in his lab. He introduced me to the Summer Medical Internship/Research Programs in Morocco that students take part in every summer and has encouraged me to take part year after year. Another special person who helped contribute to this lofty accomplishment was Michele Callahan from the fellowship and scholarship office. She has also been a continuous gift who has guided me all along my undergraduate years and helped me revise my essays and prepared me for the interview! I am very grateful for all the love, support, and guidance I have received from both Michele and Dr. El-Idrissi, and the rest of CSI.”

After his studies in Morocco, Mohammed noted that, “I plan to finish my undergraduate degree (only Biology Minor left!), prepare for the Medical College Assessment Test, and start my application for medical school.”


Amanda Tukaj Accepted to Columbia U. Graduate School

Amanda Tukaj

Amanda Tukaj, a Verrazano School Honors Program student, Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship recipient, and Journalism major at CSI, has recently been accepted into Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism for Fall 2019.

Commenting on her recent acceptance, Amanda said, “I am extremely excited to have been accepted into the Columbia School of Journalism. I put a lot of work into my application and have been trying to better myself not only academically as a student, but also professionally and personally over the last four years. I’ve been aspiring to become a journalist since I was about nine-years-old, so having been accepted into one of the most prestigious and longstanding journalism schools in the country is an honor. It all feels a bit like a dream still.”

While pursuing her degree at CSI, Amanda has engaged in initiatives to further her writing by composing profiles of former students for features in the College of Staten Island Alumni Newsletter. Amanda has also complemented her degree with a minor in Political Science, as her future goals include addressing issues surrounding bias in news reporting.

As a Watson Fellow, Amanda interned in the United Kingdom last summer for Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that advocates for freedom of information and the press. She has additionally interned at the Gotham Gazette in Manhattan, where she gained experience writing and publishing articles regarding New York City and State policy issues.

Recalling her academic career at the College, Amanda remarked, “My time at CSI has been very valuable to me. If I were not a student of the Verrazano Honors program, I don’t think I would have had the chance at the number of opportunities I’ve been given. Thanks to the resources available at CSI, I was able to make my four years here meaningful.” She also noted her Watson internships, and added, “I think having those experiences on my résumé really set my application apart and gave me a chance.”

Looking to the future, Amanda stated, “After I complete the MS program at Columbia and graduate, I plan to work for a media organization in the city for either print, broadcast, or digital journalism. Ideally, I’d want to write about international politics, but I’m open to exploring a lot of different media fields and seeing what comes out of that. I don’t necessarily have one singular ‘dream job’. I think it’s important to be flexible and to adapt when it comes to jobs in journalism because it’s undergoing a great deal of change at the moment. Some might argue ‘journalism is dead’, but I don’t think so. I believe the way in which we go about producing and distributing our media is simply changing. I know Columbia will prepare me for those changes, and I’m looking forward to learning as much as I possibly can.”

Gilman Scholarship Recipient Sosima Navarrete Shares Her Story about Her Study Abroad Experience in Brussels

Sosima Navarrete in Amsterdam

CSI senior Psychology major and Gilman Scholarship recipient Sosima Navarrete had the opportunity to study abroad in Belgium, this summer and she shared her experience with CSI Today:

“My time in Brussels, Belgium was by far the best experience of my life! Having some financial difficulties, I thought it would be impossible to go, but with help from the Gilman Scholarship, I made up my mind and decided to go abroad. When I first arrived in Brussels, I was scared, it was my first time in Europe plus I didn’t know the language. Although once I met my roommate and other study aboard students, I was more confident. The best part for me was getting to know the cultural difference between ours and theirs, they’re more open-minded and show more affection, even to strangers, something that isn’t seen regularly here. Since Belgium is in the middle of Europe, I got to travel with a friend to Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam, as well to other towns in Belgium. It was amazing! I got to experience how life is in each country I stayed. Even though the traveling was outstanding, for me the most mesmerizing time was during my internship with Serve the City. This internship allowed me to work with refugees, the homeless, children,  abused women, and the elderly. Being able to make a child smile, be a listener for the women who wanted to talk, and to serve food and bring comfort to the elderly and homeless who have no one, was the best experience of my trip. If given the opportunity, I would definitely go study aboard again!”

According to its Website the “U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness. The Gilman Scholarship Program is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide.”

Brussels, Belgium
Palace of Versailles, Paris, France
Paris, France

Student/Artist Gnome Collaboration Covered by NY1

NY1 reporter Nicole Ashley recently came to campus to cover the unveiling of the College’s latest sculpture addition, a giant sleeping gnome. The work is a result of a collaboration between visiting Finnish artist Kalle Mustonen and CSI students. Ashley’s report is available online.

Arlinda Draga enjoys a feast of art and cuisine in Florence

Arlinda Draga ’16 is a Verrazano student studying Biology with a Biochemistry minor and took advantage of a study abroad opportunity to travel abroad to Florence, Italy, in the winter of 2016 to feast on the arts and the cuisine.

I had an amazing experience on my study abroad trip to Florence, Italy this past winter. Florence was defiantly a huge culture shock for me.  I had the opportunity to live with three other students from New York on the top floor of an apartment next to Duomo di Firenze.  Duomo di Firenze is the main church of Florence and is considered to be one of the largest churches in the world.  Everyday my roommates and I would walk past the Duomo and get our cappuccinos before going to class.  I had the privilege of taking an introductory drawing class that was taught by an Italian artist who lived in Florence.

My professor taught us many different ways to draw and made us appreciate all the famous art work of Florence.  During class we would walk to museums and do sketches of famous paintings and sculptures.  We also had the privilege of drawing live nude models to help us practice for our final drawings.  For one of our final projects we were told to go to the top of Piazza Michelangelo and sketch a drawing of the view at the top of the hill.  We were also told to go to three famous areas of Italy and complete a drawing of our view.

My roommates and I went to the leaning tower of Pisa, the Coliseum in Rome and the top of the duomo in Florence and did three separate sketches of these breathtaking views.  This art class not only taught me how to draw, but it gave me the experience to travel Italy and see the real lifestyle of an Italian.

Throughout my trip, I tried some of the most amazing Tuscany dishes which included truffle pasta, T-bone steak, caprese salad, gelato and much more.  Florence is definitely an experience like no other.  Every other store down most of the blocks either sold wine, leather jackets or pizza.

During the night there were secret bakeries at different corners that would sell the freshest pastries.  The people of Florence would tell us to find the bakeries by following the smells in the streets of the pastries being prepared.  I believe that I adapted to the Italian culture very well on this trip.  I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Florence at such a young age.  This humbling experience not only made me more open minded to different cultures but it made me want to travel all over the world.



To read more about the adventures of Verrazano students, visit the Verrazano Voyager Web page.

Ni Hao Shanghai!

Veronica LaManna

Veronica LaManna ’16 is a Verrazano student majoring in International Business with a business finance and a French minor. She has taken advantage of Verrazano Study Abroad scholarships on more than one occasion!  She shares her latest adventure here.

If I were to build a time machine and go back in time to tell freshman Veronica that she would study abroad two times in two different countries before she graduated, freshman Veronica would think future her was crazy.  Over the Winter 2016 Semester I was blessed to have a second opportunity to study abroad in Shanghai, China.  Even though it was a last minute decision, I can say that this experience changed my life once again.  Before studying abroad in China, I spent a semester in Nice, France.  Well, France and China couldn’t be more different from each other.  As I got on the plane and started my journey to the Far East, I began to question my decision and myself.  Was this the right place to study abroad? Will I be able to survive without knowing the language or without Facebook for one month? (The use of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat is banned in China.)  I was expecting to be in complete culture shock as soon as I landed in China.  Well my expectations were correct.

Veronica LaManna and friends

I had never experienced that much culture shock since my trip to Morocco, except it was a very different type of culture shock.  As we took our stop in Japan, we began to enter what seemed like the future.  Finally after twenty-four hours of traveling we finally arrived in Shanghai, or I should call it the future.

The bright lights and the metro were just two things that felt like the future for us.  The first time taking the metro was an experience in itself.  First you are overwhelmed by the amount of people rushing to catch the train, then you are overwhelmed by the amount of futuristic vending machines selling anything from Sony Headphones to freshly squeezed orange juice, finally you are overwhelmed by the skill needed to actually get on the train without being closed in the doors.  Besides my fear of the metro, the other culture shocks I experienced in Shanghai were well worth it.

Veronica LaManna

Everyday the other students and I would try our best to try every type of street food Shanghai had to offer and even try to speak Chinese, or what sounded like Chinese to us, with the locals.  We all felt like we were gaining about two hundred pounds but thankfully all the walking we did exploring evened it out for us.   I would say the only negative side to studying abroad in Shanghai was the amount of time we had there.  We wanted to do so many things but since we only had three weeks and had to attend Chinese classes every day it made it difficult to complete every adventure.  Nonetheless studying abroad in Shanghai has given me not only unforgettable memories but also valuable friendships.

Veronica LaManna and friends

After we left China, some other students and I even got to take a four-day stop in Japan.   I’m so grateful to have received the study abroad scholarship and the student government travel grant in order to make this experience possible.  Xie Xie!



To read more about the adventures of Verrazano students, visit the Verrazano Voyager Web page.