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Physics student and Gilman Scholar lives, learns in Chile

​Physics student Niko Reed traveled more than 5,000 miles to study abroad in Chile during UD’s 2020 Winter Session. Chile, Reed said, features clear skies and important telescopes.

University of Delaware physics student Niko Reed traveled more than 5,000 miles to study abroad in Chile during Winter Session. In December, Reed was named one of the University's newest Benjamin A. Gilman Scholars.

In a question-and-answer email conversation from Chile with UD’s Institute for Global Studies, Reed shared thoughts on the experiences and offered advice for fellow Blue Hens.

Q: Where and what are you studying? How does it relate to your major or educational plans at UD?

Reed: I’m in Santiago, Chile, with the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures’ Winter 2020 Study Abroad program.  I’m taking a class on Chilean history and a class on Chilean culture, both of which count toward the Spanish minor.

I’m a physics major, and it is possible that I will return to Chile, as it is home to the clearest skies in the world and the most important telescopes. While I am not yet sure where my career will take me, or if I will stay in physics after graduation, being fluent in another language is always beneficial. I’m even considering working abroad for a year after I graduate.

Q: What inspired you to study abroad and choose this program?

Reed: I have wanted to study abroad since I was eight or nine years old and first learned that it was an opportunity that existed. I have always loved learning languages, and I really wanted a chance to become fluent in Spanish. Chile was my first-choice country because of the beautiful and diverse scenery combined with the big city vibe of Santiago (home to seven million people!). Chile really has it all: a giant city, deserts, beaches, mountains, lakes, glaciers and lots of volcanoes.

Q: What educational or cultural experience will you remember most?

Reed: My host family will always have a special place in my heart. I love living with them and I savor our conversations. It is interesting to compare our thoughts on politics, culture and so much more.

In addition, I’m going to remember the nature I’ve seen here forever. I have been left speechless and overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the landscapes here many times.

Q: How will your international experience help you when you return to UD and in your future career?

Reed: This experience has been a huge confidence boost for me. I hiked over 30 miles in four days! I woke up at three-o’clock in the morning to catch a plane and then climbed a volcano all before lunchtime. I’ve gotten to know so many strangers while speaking only my second language, and I've done it all while taking six intense credits.

In the future, I think I will take more risks and pursue more opportunities because of this program. It has proven to me that I am capable of doing anything.

Q: How has UD helped prepare you for study abroad?

Reed: Between UD and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, I felt very prepared to travel. The Institute for Global Studies (IGS) made sure that I was signed up for the right safety alerts, prepared for a travel experience and familiar with this part of the world. I would never have known where to go for all of that information on my own.

Q: What advice would you give to future study abroad students and their families?

Reed: Anyone who wants to study abroad but thinks it isn't possible for them should explore if they can make their dream a reality. Just a year ago, I thought it would be impossible to study abroad. I am a STEM major, I have chronic health conditions, I have dietary restrictions and I am transgender. It felt like a lot to handle. But here I am, and it’s been going really well on all fronts. I’m so glad I didn’t give up on my dream. If you're in this position, meeting with a study abroad coordinator at IGS is a great way to get more information.

I also want to recommend Chile to any LGBT students interested in visiting South America. I am visibly transgender and have had nothing but positive experiences here in Chile, which is known to be LGBT-friendly. While it can feel overwhelming, don’t let your fears hold you back from studying abroad.

Q: What is the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship and how did it help you make study abroad a reality?

Reed: The Gilman Scholarship is available to all students who receive Federal Pell Grants. The goal of the scholarship is to create access to study abroad for students with limited financial means and to strengthen connections between people from the United States and abroad. In exchange for up to $5,000 in funding, the scholarship requires a follow-on service project. When I return from Chile, I will help other students with chronic illness and/or disabilities navigate global experiences. I am so happy to have been able to study abroad when I once thought it was impossible, and my goal is to encourage others and share tips I have learned along the way. More information about the Gilman Scholarship can be found at

For Future Explorers

Students interested in studying abroad should visit the Institute for Global Studies website to learn more about programs. Read more stories from University of Delaware students on the UD Abroad blog.

About the Institute for Global Studies

The Institute for Global Studies (IGS) inspires and facilitates the pursuit of global understanding by developing innovative and inclusive programs of study, opportunities for experiential learning and strategic partnerships.

Perhaps best known for leading the nation’s first study abroad program, IGS is also home to the first-of-its-kind UD World Scholars Program and the Delaware Diplomats Scholarship Program. IGS supports student success through advising for prestigious awards, including Fulbright, Boren, Gilman and Critical Language Scholarships, as well as sponsorship of the International House (iHouse) Living Learning Community.

The Institute annually administers internationally-recognized State Department public diplomacy programs, bringing more than 75 young leaders from around the world to UD’s Newark campus.

IGS provides faculty funding for research and collaboration abroad, manages the University’s global partnerships and agreements process and sponsors signature events, such as UD Global Month and the Spring Fulbright Lecture Series.

To learn more, visit the IGS website and follow along @UDGlobal on Instagram and Twitter.

Article by Nikki Laws; photo courtesy of Niko Reed

Published Feb. 19, 2020

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Niko Reed, a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar with a major in physics and a minor in Spanish, studied history and culture during Winter Session in Chile.

​Niko Reed, a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar with a major in physics and a minor in Spanish, studied history and culture during Winter Session in Chile.

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Adventures abroad
  • Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures
  • Jastak-Burgess Hall
  • University of Delaware
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