In April, Cohort 1 of the Reginald F. Lewis Scholars enjoyed their weeklong study abroad experience in Paris, France. The inaugural trip for the program provided a chance for Scholars to build cultural competency in the City of Lights and gain invaluable experiences preparing them for life after graduation. For many Scholars, this opportunity is their first time leaving the United States. For three, this marks their first time on an airplane.  

The University of Louisiana System is debuting a video series reflecting on the transformative experience including insights from Scholars, partners, and System leaders. Videos will be released weekly ending June 19 in celebration of Juneteenth and the UL System’s Black Male Summit. The videos will be posted on YouTube and the Reginald F. Lewis Scholars’ social media channels.  

“There is more out there than what you’re used to,” said Jaderic Talbert, Scholar from Grambling State University. “I encourage all of my peers to take every opportunity and advantage you are offered. Getting out of your comfort zone produces tremendous results.” 

Aside from immersing themselves in a foreign culture, Scholars grew academically by attending lectures about the foundations of democracy at the historic Sorbonne University. The trip also marked the culmination of a faculty-led research and international exchange program. Scholars presented their joint research project to students and faculty at the Pôle Universitaire Léonard de Vinci. 

Growth is evident in each of the Scholars. The group dealt with typical travel challenges—jetlag and lost luggage—but showed resilience and found solutions. Program facilitators have noted marked differences in confidence and preparedness among the Scholars. 

“After seeing our group face the challenges of adjusting to a culture that is new to us, I realize that learning to adapt to cultures that aren’t our own is an essential skill,” Robert Hill, Scholar from University of New Orleans, said. 

Scholars recognize that their perspectives and attitudes have broadened and they hope to continue learning through the exploration of other cultures. 

“Studying abroad brought a positive mental change. I feel reinvigorated, and I was able to reap knowledge relating to my passions that I never thought I would be able to experience,” Hill continued. “I suppose the trip aided greatly in my motivation. It inspired me in ways I didn’t think possible.” 

In 2021, the University of Louisiana System established the Reginald F. Lewis Scholars to improve the collegiate experience and success of Black males. The curated educational experience focuses on three areas: academic, social, and service. Each of the nine University of Louisiana System member institutions select two students each year to join the program based on need, leadership and merit. 

“The Scholars are poised to become the next leaders of our great state and beyond. Their success knows no bounds,” UL System President and CEO Dr. Jim Henderson said. “We are so proud of our Scholars and so appreciate those who are sowing into their success—campus facilitators, corporate partners, state lawmakers, nonprofit organizations, and individual donors.” 

The Reginald F. Lewis Scholars are primarily funded through corporate sponsorships aimed at closing the opportunity and achievement gaps among historically underserved populations. In order to continue connecting these young men with opportunities, donations and sponsorships are critical. Cohort 2 will travel abroad in summer 2024.