By Jiaxi Zhang
Gabrielle Jackson, a sophomore majoring in community health with a Spanish minor, received the prestigious Boren Scholarship, which offers opportunities for highly motivated individuals to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests.
Gabrielle recently returned from her spring semester in Madrid, and she described her study abroad as “transformative.” She has studied Spanish since eighth grade and has always been eager to help others by making a difference in any way she can. With a focus on the social determinants of public health, her experience abroad helped her gain new insights into issues including how factors such as race, affordable housing, access to public transportation, and social support affect health outcomes. This journey not only broadened her horizons but also deepened her passion for helping others, as she loved her experience of working as an English conversation assistant at a local Madrid high school.
Jackson’s strong interest in community health started even earlier—one summer afternoon when she and her mother visited her grandpa in the hospital. When they were in the waiting room, her mother asked her to look around and told her that most people in the same room with them didn’t have healthcare insurance to go a primary care provider. Shocked by that fact, Jackson started researching preventive medicine and the importance of primary care. She came to realize the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and social support to her long-term health condition.
Gabrielle is now in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for her immersive Portuguese language study experience, made possible by the Boren Scholarship.
“I applied to the Boren scholarship so that I could learn Portuguese in the hopes of doing future research on the intersection of race, class, and health within urban areas. Brazil is a wonderful comparison to the United States in terms of its multiracial history, but also in terms of health disparities across race--especially concerning the Black population,” said Jackson. “My trip this summer will not directly deal with this research but learning Portuguese will give me the foundation to study in the future and make cross-cultural comparisons that will hopefully improve health and social outcomes for populations in both nations.”