Five Bahamian Students from Savannah State University Hope to Inspire Future Generations


photo: Jame'Cia Taylor, features editor, Tiger's Roar Newspaper

In November 2019, IIE provided 42 emergency grants to Bahamian students studying at U.S colleges and universities to help them cover educational expenses such as tuition and room and board. Due to the devastating impact of Hurricane Dorian on several islands in the Bahamas, numerous Bahamian students found themselves without financial resources to pay for their education as families had to use any available funds to rebuild their lives on the Bahamas.

Funding for these emergency grants came from IIE’s Emergency Student Fund (ESF) with the generous support from the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) and the Cyril Taylor Charitable Foundation (CTCF). IIE-ESF supports international students studying in the United States who are facing financial hardship and are at risk of dropping out of their studies because their home countries have been impacted by crises or natural disaster. Since the fund was implemented in 2010, IIE-ESF has awarded approximately 900 grants distributing over $3 million in financial aid.

Support IIE-ESF

IIE-ESF is one component of IIE’s Student Emergency Initiatives (SEI). Other SEI initiatives include the IIE’s Platform for Education in Emergencies Response (IIE PEER), the IIE-Julia Stasch Scholarship for Refugees & Asylees, and the IIE Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis. Read more student stories here.

Kevin Burrows, Shirneal Handfield, Nicole Harrison, Marcus Knowles, and Branden Taylor were thrilled to receive support through the IIE-ESF and are hoping that their experience at Savannah State University will inspire future generations of Bahamian students to pursue higher education in the United States. Read on to learn about the students’ experiences at Savannah State University, what they look to accomplish next, and how their time in the United States inspired them to bring change to the Bahamas.

Why was it important for you to attend university in the United States?

Kevin: Attending university here in America has a number of benefits for us international students. Experiencing a different culture and being completely immersed into it is shocking at first but it gradually grows on you. The facilities are modern, and the way of life follows suit. There is a wider range of ethnicities so you never know who you may run into. Also, there are many more opportunities for employment after graduation.

Marcus: It’s important for me to attend a university in the US because it offers more experiences, cultures and traditions that you wouldn’t have been exposed to in your country.

Branden: To attend a university in the United States has allowed me more opportunities than I would have back home in the Bahamas. It also allowed me to further my education in becoming a physical therapist.

What can a student gain from an education abroad?

Kevin: Most definitely the experience. As previously stated, you meet people from all different walks of life. America is a mixing pot, so it teaches you to appreciate your own culture, but at the same time respect the culture of every individual you meet. The population is so vast that you learn how similar yet different we all are. Networking is also on a much larger scale and this increases your opportunities.

Shirneal: Being a student while abroad you gain more than an education. You transition from being a teenager living with your parents, into an adult. Some may agree or disagree, but you learn more about yourself being away from home by discovering new interests you never thought of. There comes a time when you miss the little things from your home country, and you learn not to take them for granted.

Marcus: By enrolling in a study abroad program, you’ll have the chance to see a side of your major that you may not have been exposed to at home. Including yourself into the education system of your host country is a great way to really experience and understand the people, its traditions and its culture.

How will your degree help you to reach your academic or professional goals?

Shirneal: Earning my degree, I’ll have gained the knowledge and skills that are required for me to excel in my life and career.

Nicole: My degree will assist me in further researching best practices and natural disaster preparation moving forward.

Branden: Receiving my Biology Degree will help me tremendously. Even though that won’t t be the end of my academic career. I have hopes to go on to graduate school and chasing my dreams of getting my Doctor of Physical Therapy once I have completed undergraduate studies at Savannah State University.

How do you hope to make a positive contribution to the Bahamas?

Nicole: I plan to give back to the Bahamas by helping set up programs that will help to better market students to get into the college of their dreams, and to find programs that line up with their passions.

Marcus: When I return home I will be giving back to my community and someday I hope to be able to help another Bahamian from my island to go to the U.S. for college.

Branden: My positive impact to the Bahamas has already begun. I had to leave the Bahamas at an early age to get ahead of my peers. To take life full on, and also be prepared for the work force. I made my way through high school and am almost done with college. I want to show the young adults back home that your dreams do not stop after you finish high school, but instead they have just begun. No matter the circumstances or obstacle that may be in front of you, there’s always room to succeed.