FARMINGTON — Travis Bent has never been on an airplane and has been outside of Maine only a handful of times.

Bent, of Norridgewock, will graduate Saturday from the University of Maine at Farmington, and in September he’ll embark on the adventure of his life when he sets off for Spain.

“I’m in for culture shock,” Bent said, “but I am most excited to experience something different.”

Bent, 22, is among 361 graduates who will receive UMF diplomas Saturday. Bent will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, with minors in Spanish, French and international and global studies.

In March, after a rigorous application and consideration process, Bent was awarded a 2016 Fulbright Fellowship. The Fulbright U.S. student program is a national program sponsored by the State Department that gives college graduates and graduate students the opportunity to teach English as a foreign language or pursue a research project abroad. The program awards about 1,900 of the fellowships a year, according to a news release from UMF.

Bent, who is graduating cum laude, is the only graduating UMF senior who received the award this year.

“Receiving a Fulbright award is such an honor and a significant personal achievement,” UMF President Kathryn A. Foster said in the release. She said the school is proud of Bent and two alumni who also have received the award and “the course they’ve charted as ambassadors to the world.”

“UMF has strategically invested in growing our Fulbright program to support this type of academic excellence, and this year’s strong showing underlines its success,” she said.

Also receiving the award are 2014 graduate Kyle Manning and 2015 graduate Caroline Murphy.

Through his fellowship, Bent will spend the 2016-2017 academic year in Spain as an English teaching assistant at a college yet to be determined in the Madrid area.

Bent said he always has been interested in expanding his view of the world through his studies.

“Growing up in one small area (my) whole life, I started to look outside,” Bent said.

He began taking Spanish classes in eighth grade as a student at Skowhegan Area Middle School, then continued with the subject through his four years at Skowhegan Area Middle School.

Bent had to pay for college himself, so he chose UMF because it is relatively affordable and he commuted from his home in Norridgewock, 30 minutes away, the first two years.

Bent said while he picked UMF for an economic reason, the school has expanded his horizons and ambitions.

“I think I have gotten a lot more out of this university than I had originally expected,” Bent said. “Taking the language classes wasn’t something that I had planned on doing intensively like I have done. But I’ve done it here for the last three years and I’ve gotten to meet a lot of interesting people and professors.”

Bent worked hard throughout his time at UMF — and not just in his classes — but also at his longtime job at Fonzo’s Pizza in Norridgewock. On top of a full class load, taking four or five classes at a time, Bent worked 35 to 40 hours every week to put himself through school.

On top of work and school, he also made time to be a peer mentor on campus, meeting with students who needed guidance. Bent was also active in Spanish club.

Despite his accomplishments, Bent said he was surprised when he was told he received the fellowship.

“I really couldn’t believe it,” Bent said.

Through learning Spanish, Bent said, he started paying attention to the country’s culture and media. Over last summer, he said, he used his free time to follow the news in Spain. The information he gathered from his news consumption he then used in his “statement of purpose” letter, which he needed to submit in order to be considered for a Fulbright Fellowship.

What Bent noticed while following Spanish news is that Spaniards were interested in American news stories such as the rise in police killings within the U.S. Similarly, over the election cycle, he said, Spanish news outlets are struggling to understand how a candidate such as Donald Trump could make it so far in the presidential race.

During his time in Spain, Bent hopes to help people understand American politics and news.

“I think through this experience, maybe I can attempt to explain (American issues),” Bent said.

When asked what he wanted to do when his fellowship was though, he answered instantly: stay in Europe.

Once he is through with his fellowship in Spain next year, he has his eyes set on traveling to France.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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