MEDIA CONTACT: Beverly Makhani, Director of Communications, WSU Office of Undergraduate Education, 509-335-6679, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE: Sarah Ann Hones, Director of Distinguished Scholarships Program, WSU Office of Undergraduate Education, 509-335-8239, email@example.com
PULLMAN, Wash. — It’s time for three students at Washington State University to pack their bags. They recently received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad in the upcoming academic year.
The recipients, Galen Green, Jackie Hill, and Maria Peden, are among approximately 800 undergraduates awarded the distinguished national scholarship for fall. Each year, about 20 percent of applicants receive funding for their travels.
The supporting essays are particularly important to the Gilman application, says Sarah Ann Hones, director of the distinguished scholarship program at WSU. In effect, they are a chance to tell a good story.
Gilman Scholars come from very different academic backgrounds and each have a personal goal for studying abroad.
A sophomore English major from WSU Vancouver, Galen Green will head to the Beijing Language and Culture University in China. Staying the entire 2013-14 academic year, Green will take classes in both English and Mandarin, the latter being his intended minor for his WSU degree.
An avid fiction writer, Green plans to start and facilitate a writing workshop in Beijing to stay active in his craft. He says life in another culture helps to accelerate an understanding of one’s own culture, stifling ethnocentrism.
“I’m excited to be frustrated, anxious, and completely mesmerized,” says Green. “There’s really no substitute for that kind of experience and why I think everyone should study abroad.”
Green encourages other students to look into opportunities and stresses that financial costs are not always an obstacle. He says he gave up driving just to save extra money for travelling, and that simple steps like that make the “excuse of cost for studying abroad not particularly impressive.”
In addition, there are scholarships like the Gilman. He says that getting the award is a reminder that sometimes an otherwise average student – someone who is just passionate about travel – can be recognized with a scholarship.
A favorite quote of his: “Never take a trip you can afford.”
Jackie Hill, a senior Chinese major at WSU Pullman, will leave at the end of August to spend a semester abroad in China with support from her Gilman award. She will attend the Harbin Institute of Technology in the city it is named after for an intensive Chinese language program, which is designed to completely immerse students in the language and culture of the country.
Hill hopes to use the experience to gain an edge in applications for Master’s programs to become a librarian who specializes in Chinese studies. Her goal is to help reduce misconceptions about Chinese history and culture, according to her Gilman application.
A senior anthropology major at WSU Vancouver, Maria Peden will use her Gilman support to spend the full upcoming year in South Korea. She leaves near the end of August for Yonsei University in Seoul.
Peden says her focus on studies in anthropology influenced her choice to go abroad. The concepts and principles of the field, she says, are best learned from gaining an inside perspective through cultural immersion.
Throughout the year, Peden will keep a blog to document her journey, and hopes to start a Youtube channel for the same purpose. She also hopes to get involved in volunteer activities while in South Korea to promote a positive image of American students and to give back to her host nation.
Like Green, Peden feels strongly about students going abroad for the many opportunities it presents.
“Going abroad helps teach and reinforce valuable skills,” Peden says. “You can look at problems from multiple perspectives and adapt to new situations. I think that’s applicable for anyone or any career.”
In preparation for her trip, Peden has been independently studying Korean and the country’s culture.
The Gilman offers support to students with financial need who wish to study abroad. Applicants must provide proof of receiving a Pell Grant, and be accepted into an education abroad program that will include at least four weeks of living in another country. Recipients are awarded up to $5,000, and those who are studying a critical need language (such as Arabic, Chinese, or Swahili) while abroad can earn additional support.
WSU students have been very successful in winning Gilman scholarships. More than 30 WSU students since 2006 have received the honor.
More information regarding the Gilman, applying for distinguished scholarships, and other prestigious awards can be found online at the Distinguished Scholarships website.