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Student Earns Nationality Room Scholarship and Sets Sights on Shanghai

This summer University of Pittsburgh student Deirdre Ladas will pack her bags and board a plane to Shanghai, China, where she will intern and study abroad for her summer break. Ladas, who is pursuing suing a dual degree in economics and business administration, received one of the University of Pittsburgh’s prestigious Nationality Room Scholarships to assist in her dreams of studying abroad during her time at Pitt.

“I came to Pitt knowing study abroad was something that I wanted to do. I’ve never been out of the country before, and here I am getting ready to study and intern abroad in Shanghai,” Ladas says.

The Doylestown, Pa. native chose Pitt to explore city life and find her passions both in and out of the classroom. “Pitt offered so many different majors. I thought about a lot of different majors, but I knew that I wanted to go into business. It’s really advantageous to enter into a professional business environment with knowledge of international culture and language,” Ladas says.

“When I was deciding where I wanted to study abroad, I knew that I wanted a completely different culture. I wanted to go somewhere that I wouldn’t go to on vacation—somewhere I might never go back again. I knew that Shanghai would push me far out of my comfort zone,” Ladas explains.

Ladas is a Nationality Room tour guide, where she leads groups of visitors through the Cathedral of Learning’s intricate nationality rooms, interprets the different rooms’ meanings, and answers questions from visiting groups.

The Nationality Rooms were originally created after World War II under the direction of Chancellor Bowman. Identifying the United States’ need for intercultural exchange of communication and ideas, the formation of the scholarship fund soon followed. It remains one of the oldest scholarships at the University of Pittsburgh.

With 43 scholarships offered annually and over $3 million awarded over the years, the scholarship is offered to both undergraduates and graduates and allows students to tailor a program to their schedules. Students select an independent research program, internship program, study abroad program, or a combination of the three in order to meet their needs.

“Our mission is to give away these scholarships. We want people to apply from all different schools and all different backgrounds. Our winners represent a holistic view of the university—some are from the sciences, some are from business, and some have never been abroad before,” says Christina Lagnese, Scholarship Administrator of Nationality Rooms Program.

 “Students submit an application, which includes their proposals for their program and another essay, and two letters of recommendation. If selected for the next round, students will participate in an interview with members of the scholarship committee and faculty or staff from the university. Students learn that same day if they have been selected for the scholarship,” she says.

During Ladas’ program, she will intern at a Shanghai business and take classes, including Chinese economics and conversational mandarin. “I’m already doing Duolingo, but we’ll see if that helps,” she jokes.

“I am most excited about being immersed in the Chinese culture. I will be rooming in a dorm with a Chinese student, and I plan on spending a lot of time with students there, experiencing the city and seeing what everyday life is like,” Ladas says. “I wake up every day and everything is the same. I’m excited to wake up and see that everything is so different.”

For more information about Nationality Room Scholarships and application requirements, visit