Community members and University of Houston-Victoria faculty, staff and students can receive stipends to study in Mexico or Guatemala by agreeing to participate in a research study of a patch vaccine for the intestinal problems that often plague travelers.
Under an innovative agreement between UHV and Intercell, a biotechnology company headquartered in Vienna, Austria, the TREK Study will provide stipends of up to $1,500 each to participants. The stipends are nearly enough to cover the entire cost of studying abroad in Mexico or Guatemala for two or three weeks.
“The TREK Study and stipend program addresses two obstacles at once to studying abroad,” UHV President Tim Hudson said. “It overcomes the cost issue for students, and it attacks a persistent health issue that impacts so many travelers.”
Vic Padelford, UHV international programs director, said the study not only will allow participants to increase their knowledge of Spanish language and culture, it also will help clinicians better understand a problem that affects many travelers.
“It is no secret that about half of all travelers to Latin American suffer from stomach and intestinal difficulties,” he said.
Although participants won’t go to Mexico or Guatemala until May 15 at the earliest, they should sign up now because only 1,250 people will be allowed into the study, Padelford said.
Participants can go to any location in Mexico or Guatemala where they would like to travel, but if participants want to earn academic credit, they must attend one of UHV’s partner universities, such as the Universidad Internacional in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Padelford said. UHV administrators also will award academic credit on a case-by-case basis from other universities if the program meets UHV standards.
The overall cost of the program will be $1,985, which includes tuition for three semester credit hours, room and board, and the bus trip to and from the chosen destination, Padelford said. Participants can apply financial aid such as Pell Grants and Stafford Loans to help with costs, in addition to the TREK stipends. Community members who do not want UHV class credit will pay $1,650.
Participants will take a Spanish-language online evaluation before they leave, so that they can be grouped with others at the same level of skill during their study abroad experience. During the trips, students will study Spanish in small classes for 20 to 30 hours a week.
“We want to make the community and students, faculty and staff aware of all the available funding sources to allow them to study abroad,” Hudson said. “It is critical that people learn a foreign language to be successful in our increasingly global economy. TREK is a unique win-win.”
Participants must pay to travel to a research site in South Texas a month before they leave to have researchers place the patch vaccine on their arm for six hours and then again 15 days before their trip. As part of the study, they must maintain a trip diary and follow up with U.S.-trained medical personnel while they are studying abroad.
The research is part of a late-stage field study for the patch vaccine being developed by Intercell, Padelford said. In 2006, some UHV students participated in a double-blind test for the same product.
For more information about the TREK Study, go to www.holatravel.org or contact Padelford at 361-570-4186 or firstname.lastname@example.org.