Studying abroad as a Gilman Scholar fundamentally changed Max’s academic trajectory from chemistry toward language sciences. His time at the Complutense University of Madrid exposed him to a different academic culture where students who majored in chemistry were solely focused on becoming chemists and any academic exploration outside chemistry was rare. The full immersion in a chemistry-only environment helped Max realize that the field was not his passion despite his interest in science.
Meanwhile, his interests in languages thrived in Spain. Max was not only able to further advance his Spanish but also take Portuguese classes and start his journey of learning Chinese. Being in a foreign country for the first time solidified his desire to pursue an international career where he would be able to work in multiple languages and continue to live abroad.
Influenced by his time in Madrid, Max returned to San Sebastián, Spain, to pursue a master’s degree. He studied cognitive neuroscience of language, a field that combined his love for languages and his interest in science.
“It was something brand new, and I wouldn’t have thought of applying if I hadn’t already had some experience with Spain. And then it was really at that program, my second time in Spain, when I realized that this is the field, this is what I want to do with my life.”
Max is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, to continue his research in cognitive neuroscience. His connection to the Gilman Program also introduced him to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a grant he obtained at the early stage of his Ph.D. Through that opportunity, he traveled in 2018 to Nanjing, China, where he collected data that later served as a great asset for his doctoral studies. As a scientist and researcher, Max works toward creating mutual understanding where his work can “be an apolitical bridge” to connect people and nations.
Beyond shifting his professional trajectory, Max’s experience as a Gilman Scholar “shattered my comfort zone and previous worldview and taught me about myself and the world. I had to confront my personal relationships and my identity in fundamental ways.” After six years of living outside the United States, Max has continued his journey as a “perpetual foreigner,” sharing American values, learning about other cultures, and ultimately fostering mutual understanding between nations.