Students win scholarship to study in Europe

Darin Sweet ’25 served as a research assistant at Zealand University Hospital in Denmark

Award provides chance to explore research and language in Denmark, Sweden, France

Wheaton students Darin Sweet ’25 and Emily Carmel ’24 are expanding their academic horizons overseas as recipients of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

With support from the scholarship, Sweet spent the summer of 2023 conducting scientific research and taking a course in Denmark and Sweden; Carmel will head to Montpellier, France, this fall to study French language and culture.

The Gilman Scholarship is a U.S. State Department scholarship program for college students who are U.S. citizens and Pell Grant recipients. The program—which awards up to $5,000 per student—aims to provide more equitable access to international experiences. The students applied for the scholarship with assistance from Wheaton’s Center for Global Education.

Sweet, a biochemistry major, spent nine weeks living in Copenhagen, Denmark, and serving as a research assistant studying age-related macular degeneration at Zealand University Hospital. His research mentor was a University of Copenhagen professor and chief physician in ophthalmology at the hospital. 

“I am specifically interested in ophthalmology, which deals with the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders, due to having eye issues of my own. I have learned more about this field through my Wheaton courses. It fascinates me how we can take in and process visual information, and how this can be disrupted by certain diseases and disorders,” Sweet said.

In addition to gaining knowledge in ophthalmology, the research opportunity enabled Sweet to develop skills using new software that collects data from patient scans into a computer. He also expanded his ability to write research papers and present scientific information, which was part of the experience.

This opportunity has confirmed that I want a career in either medicine or medical research. The data that I collected will be used in a large-scale project I am doing, and it is really fulfilling and exciting to know that I have contributed to making a difference in the medical field.”

Following his research assistantship, Sweet spent three weeks in Stockholm, Sweden, taking a molecular and cellular neuroscience course.

This fall, Carmel will head to Montpellier, France, to study French language and culture through a University of Minnesota program. In the program, students take classes entirely in French. 

She started taking French classes in second grade and hopes to become fully bilingual. Carmel, a theater major, plans to explore careers in the arts. She also is a singer and songwriter who is a member of Wheaton’s a cappella group The Blend. 

“While trying something new can be difficult, I am eagerly looking forward to fully immersing myself in the language and culture in Montpellier. It would be an environment where I couldn’t revert to communicating in English. This is exactly what I need to become bilingual truly,” she wrote in her scholarship proposal.

She added that as a first-generation student, the scholarship ensures she will have access to a study abroad experience. 

“I know that I will come back from this experience a stronger, more capable person than I ever believed myself to be,” Carmel wrote.