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Putting his graduate school plans on hold, Norfolk native Mark Santana, who graduated in May from Old Dominion University, will study water quality in Spain thanks to a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship he recently received.

"All of my hard work has paid off," Santana exclaimed. "I'm on cloud nine!"

The 22 year-old, who plans on becoming an environmental engineer, will spend nine months living and working in Zaragoza, Spain, a 2000-year-old valley city in the northeastern part of the country. Under the Fulbright program, Santana will study the Ebro River and work at the University of Zaragoza.

"I will work on a research project involving water quality," he explained. "I will be looking for correlations between the quality of the water and the number of government and business facilities located in the region. In doing so, I will be working with international engineers, researchers and the Spanish scientific community.

"I'm excited about this research, along with the opportunity to build a database of contacts and getting to know other students, like myself."

Fluent in Spanish, Santana first visited Spain with a group of ODU students studying linguistics. Having also visited Montreal and Puerto Rico, he longed for the opportunity to live and study abroad, leading him to apply for the Fulbright program. After anxiously playing the waiting game for past seven months, he found out he received the award two weeks after graduating.

"Naturally, my parents and I were very excited, very happy. The first thing we did was drive over to the university to thank the professors who helped me."

Of course there will be plenty of time for sightseeing and making new friends, a big plus for Santana. He is looking forward to seeing the Basque country, Barcelona and Madrid. But he is most interested in diverting well off the beaten path to experience Guadix and its "Barrio Troglodyte," where the citizens live in caves - some with electricity, marble floors, and yes, even Internet access.

Santana's Espana excursion begins Sept. 13.

This article was posted on: July 25, 2006

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