For U students looking include a learning abroad experience in their academic career, but in need of some additional support, 2020 marked a milestone year. More U students were awarded the competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship this year than in the last two years combined. In total, 22 U students received awards to fund Learning Abroad and Hinckley Global Internship programs in 15 countries, including Japan, Brazil, Prague, Ghana, France, Costa Rica, Thailand, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Spain, Peru, Russia, and Fiji. In 2018 and 2019, six and nine U students received Gilman scholarships, respectively.
Recipients must be U.S. citizen undergraduates currently receiving a Pell Grant, and according to the program’s website, the scholarship “broadens the student population that studies and interns abroad by supporting undergraduates who might not otherwise participate due to financial constraints.” Basic awards total up to $5,000, with additional funding up to $8,000 for students who study “critical need languages” deemed important to national security. Students can apply funds toward travel, lodging, and program expenses.
The U’s Learning Abroad staff have worked concertedly over the past several years to help more U students include international experiences in their academic plans. The Gilman Scholarship, funded by the U.S. State Department and administered by the Institute of International Education, plays a key role in that strategy.
“Gilman is a huge door opener,” said Kathryn Timm, learning abroad coordinator and scholarships team lead. “It advances access and inclusion.” Knowing this, Learning Abroad has increasingly coordinated with offices across campus to make students more aware of the opportunity. Their efforts seem to have paid off with the record number of awardees.
Of course, this year the celebration comes with a caveat, as recipients have been asked to defer their study abroad plans due to the spread of Covid-19. “It’s very bittersweet. We want to celebrate the work these students put in and their accomplishments,” said Timm, noting the rigorous application process. “They put enormous emotional and academic energy into planning these trips and we want to honor that. That said, we are also very sensitive to the reality of the pandemic and how that may limit the use of these scholarships for some time,” said Timm.
Recipients have been asked by the Department of State to defer their in-person learning abroad and global internship plans until 2021 but will have the entire calendar year to use their award. Students can also apply funds to a virtual program this fall.
“My internship abroad this semester was supposed to be a Nursing internship located in Lambayeque, Peru. I was wanting something that would allow me to gain some more experience in the medical field, as well as open my eyes to techniques and processes that healthcare workers use outside of the U.S.” said Nursing junior Madi Tripp. “I either had to defer my scholarship or do a virtual internship.” For Tripp, the Fall 2020 semester was the only one that worked for her schedule, so she has enrolled in a virtual internship.
“Although it won’t be the same as traveling and indulging in the culture of a different country, I am still excited about the opportunity to expand my knowledge and to connect with people around the world.”