• September 1st, 2021

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–– University of Alabama alumna and Boren, Fulbright and Rangel Scholarship recipient, Amica Rapadas, shares her story to inspire students to take advantage of the scholarship opportunities through the Office of External Scholarships and Fellowships that will help them achieve their goals.

Born in the Philippines, Rapadas moved to Alabama as a child and her experiences growing up in these two places shaped her career aspirations. Rapadas, of Homewood, AL, received a Bachelor of Science in geography and a Bachelor of Arts in international studies with a minor in Mandarin Chinese in 2019.

As a UA Honors College student, Rapadas was actively engaged in the Randall Research Scholars Program, the International Relations Club and the Asian-American Student Association. Rapadas volunteered as a language partner for visiting scholars and tutored English and math for surrounding public schools in the Tuscaloosa community. During her undergraduate experience, she also worked as an intern for the Education Abroad Office. She took this opportunity to research study abroad resources for different underrepresented groups and compiled content for the website’s new diversity abroad resource pages.

Rapadas saw a future for herself in the federal service and knew that language skills and experience abroad would contribute to her professional development. She became actively involved with departments aligning with her goals, like the Office of External Scholarships and Fellowships, formerly known as the Office of Prestigious Scholarships.

The Office of External Scholarships and Fellowships offers students guidance and support as they navigate through the application process for various opportunities. Rapadas first discovered the Boren Scholarship through the Honors Student Newsletter and immediately sought more information.

Dr. Carmen Mayer, Director of External Scholarships and Fellowships, was Rapadas’ advisor for the Boren Scholarship. “[Dr. Mayer] offered a great support system, helping me clean up my essays and going through the entire application process with me,” said Rapadas. “[The advisors] were all very supportive and a great resource during the process.”

Rapadas spent her junior year on a Boren Scholarship in Chengdu, China, where she saw how rapid urban growth can play out and researched the Belt and Road Initiative. In addition, she developed a taste for spicy foods and a genuine interest in development.

Rapadas was initially drawn to the Boren, Fulbright and Rangel scholarships due to their generous funding and also found that they were in parallel with her goals.

“I wanted to be intentional about what opportunities these scholarships provided and how they fit my academic and career goals. I applied for the Boren because I wanted to improve my language skills quickly and was set on a career in the federal service. I then applied for the Rangel Scholars Program because I wanted experience in Washington, D.C. and to learn more about what a career in international affairs means to me. For my post-graduation plans, I was looking for a way to gain experience working abroad related to diplomacy. The Fulbright Program would provide me with that opportunity, improve my intercultural competence and develop skills in cultural diplomacy. These opportunities built on each other to guide me on what an international affairs career could look like.”

Rapadas encourages other students to apply for scholarships. “If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, my advice would be to reach out to past scholarship recipients and learn about their experiences,” said Rapadas. Students often feel as though their background and skills do not align with certain types of scholarships and fellowships. “Your application just needs to reflect your unique voice, intentions and goals for the scholarship you are applying for,” said Rapadas.

The Boren, Fulbright and Rangel scholarships gave Rapadas the confidence to pursue her dreams. “My experiences with these opportunities showed me the importance of having diverse voices and representation in international affairs-related fields,” said Rapadas.

Her experiences continue to strengthen her passion for global outreach and support. Rapadas is the co-founder of Fulbright Lotus, an organization providing community, support and mentorship for AAPI Fulbright grantees and applicants, enabling them to pursue and fulfill international exchange programs to the best of their ability.

Rapadas will continue to leverage fellowship opportunities and further her education to aid her career in the federal service or development organizations. She plans to go to graduate school on a fellowship, allowing her to reduce her student loans and pursue internship opportunities and projects that she may not have otherwise had access to. “I value the support and networks fellowship programs could provide for me,” said Rapadas. She hopes to combine her passion for cross-cultural engagement with her interest in development policy in a career working on global development issues and sustainability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Rapadas speaks three languages and is a certified open water diver. She currently resides in Taipei, Taiwan, where she recently completed her Fulbright grant and is now studying Chinese at National Taiwan University. In her free time, Rapadas enjoys cooking, dance classes, escape games and asking strangers if she can pet their dogs. She is passionate about international exchange.