Makenna Barbara wanted to be different when it came to her study abroad experience her senior year of college. Europe? Too cliche — seemingly everyone goes there. She looked south and set her sights on New Zealand.

Barbara knew she had tuition covered because of her scholarship at Texas Christian University. Getting to Auckland, the largest city on the island nation more than 4,400 miles away from Fort Worth, would be more difficult. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to afford traveling and living costs.

Fort Worth Abroad scholarship

The deadline to apply for a Fort Worth Abroad scholarship is July 15, 2022, for both the fall 2022 and spring 2023 semesters. Scholarships are $1,250 per recipient.

To be eligible, applicants can either:

  • Have a diploma from a Tarrant County public high school.
  • Or previously qualified for financial assistance for a Fort Worth Sister Cities travel program.

Fort Worth Abroad gives preference to applicants who attend a program at least a semester in length, study in a country with a primary language other than English, taken classes in that country’s language, and earned 60 or more credit hours from an accredited university.

To apply, visit: https://www.fortworthabroad.org/scholarships/

Enter Fort Worth Abroad, a nonprofit that awards scholarships aimed at providing students with funding to cover the cost of their flights. Eight students, including Barbara, have won the scholarship since it started in 2016.

“Having this definitely gave me the confidence to say, ‘You know what? I’ll make it work,’ ” Barbara, 24, said.

Bill Jacobs and Michael Karol are the founders of Fort Worth Abroad. They wanted to help give students who grew up and graduated from Fort Worth high schools to be able to travel and see what the world offered beyond Cowtown. 

As they assembled the nonprofit, Jacobs saw a long list of benefits for Fort Worth and the surrounding region. All of them came back to an expectation Jacobs had set.

“It’s really just more of a long-term return on investment and approach to enhancing the capability and skill sets of our workforce eventually,” he said.

Half of the scholarship recipients have stayed in North Texas, according to Fort Worth Abroad. Another two are still in school, and the other pair returned to countries they visited as students for a work or travel program.

Jasmin Gonzalez, 21, is a rising senior at TCU studying educational studies and Spanish. She is currently on her study abroad trip that started in Spain and now is in the Netherlands. She picked Spain because she wanted to see the country where a lot of Hispanic history originates. 

“As for the Netherlands, I have always looked forward to studying in a country where language would be a barrier, and I would feel uncomfortable being with a group of people I did not know beforehand,” she said.

Her Fort Worth Abroad scholarship helped ease her financial worries ahead of her trip. She didn’t have to work overtime during the academic year leading up to the summer just to save up money for her trip. All she had to do was focus her hard work on her studies — and helped her avoid burnout while reaching toward her goals.

Jasmin Gonzalez, a rising senior at Texas Christian University, is studying abroad in Europe. (Courtesy of Jasmin Gonzalez)

“Studying abroad has always been a dream that has been on my bucket list since I can remember,” Gonzalez said. “As a young woman of color who has been part of a community culture full of diversity, I have always wanted to immerse myself in other countries where I can be challenged.”

Fort Worth Abroad does not offer a full-ride scholarship, but Jacobs sees his organization as removing a barrier for students. To be eligible, students must have attended a public high school in Tarrant County or have previously qualified for financial assistance for a Fort Worth Sister Cities travel program. 

“From my experience studying abroad, really the biggest difference in cost that I saw was the plane ticket. The tuition was about the same, and really the biggest difference was the cost of getting over there,” he said.

That focus is important for Gonzalez, a 2019 graduate of Trimble Technical High School. Fort Worth Abroad is helping provide an opportunity for students who cannot afford to stop working, she said.

“Their intentionality to aid students wanting to study abroad makes a big difference as they are working towards closing the opportunity gap,” she said.

Gonzalez graduates next spring. She plans to become a middle school or high school teacher after going to graduate school. She wants to be an inspiration to students who are like her.

“At a young age, I realized the need to have more Latina teachers from our community teaching our youth. I had amazing Spanish teachers who not only taught me the structure of Spanish, but truly dived into the diversity of the Spanish language and the culture that many countries share with it,” Gonzalez said.

Scholarship recipients like Gonzalez and Barbara are prime examples of what Jacobs wanted to accomplish with Fort Worth Abroad. They ventured into the world, and are now giving back to the community that raised them.

Barbara has seen the benefits of her study abroad experience at her job as a senior analyst at MDH Partners. Her classes in New Zealand were more rigorous than those in the United States. She had to learn how to be quick on her feet and adapt her work. The experience also taught her something valuable about herself.

“It was just one of those experiences where it taught me how much more capable I am than I maybe thought I was before,” Barbara said.

After her trip to New Zealand, Barbara graduated from TCU with her environmental science degree. That adventure, though, gave her the travel bug. She decided to get her master’s degree at a school outside the U.S. Barbara was more comfortable with traveling because of her study abroad experience. 

This time she set her sights elsewhere in the world, and earned her master’s in banking and finance at King’s College London in the U.K. 

Editor’s note: This story was updated July 7, 2022, to clarify scholarship qualifications. To be eligible, college students can either attended a public high school in Tarrant County or previously qualified for financial assistance for a Fort Worth Sister Cities travel program.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jacob Sanchez

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University.