Last school year seven students received the prestigious Gilman Scholarship to study abroad. The scholarship is notable not only for how competitive the application process is, but also for providing the financial support needed for students who otherwise might not be able to travel during their college experience.
“The Gilman Scholarship is a program offered by the U.S. government in support of students studying abroad,” Bren Tooley, the Director of the Stellyes Center for Global Studies, explained. “It is especially intended for students from low-income families. The award is generous. It’s up to $5,000, with a $3,000 supplement for critical languages.”
Critical languages are considered by the State Department to be especially important for the United States. These include Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Korean and Arabic.
Senior Karen Lynch. one of the students who traveled abroad last fall. Lynch traveled to Amman, Jordan and took courses in basic Arabic. She also learned about Jordanian culture and the country’s political interactions with the surrounding countries in the Middle East.
“I looked at a few different scholarships and I just felt that the Gilman was probably the most accurate to what I wanted to do, especially since they really value international relationships being formed,” Lynch said.
Lynch, an international studies major, chose Jordan because of its diplomatic relationship to the United States. She explained that it was important to her that Jordan is an Arabic country with its own government still intact that is also willing to communicate with the West. She mentioned that the State Department’s role in the scholarship allowed her some unique opportunities.
“I got more opportunities through e-mail notifying me about people I could meet,” Lynch said. “And though I didn’t do a ton of those other programs because I was busy with my studies, I did end up meeting with the United States Ambassador in Jordan and having a few conversations with her, which was really amazing.”
One of the major aspects of the Gilman Scholarship is encouraging other students to study abroad. A part of the application process includes proposing a project that the recipient will complete upon returning to America. For her project, Lynch went back to her high school in Pueblo, Colo. to talk about her experience.
“What I did was I created a program in the high schools of my hometown to encourage high school students to study abroad when they’re in college,” Lynch said. “I also helped their counseling offices by providing material to help students learn more about studying abroad.”
Senior Lillian Sronkoski did a similar project in the high school of her hometown Carbondale, Ill. Sronkoski is a double major in environmental studies and political science who received the Gilman Scholarship to study in India last fall.
“I wanted to go somewhere different,” Sronkoski said about why she chose India. “I didn’t want to do Europe. That side of the world really interested me and India was something I always had in the back of my mind.”
While in India, Sronkoski learned about the history of Indian politics and shadowed a member of an environmental organization.
Sronkoski explained that not only did the Gilman Scholarship help her study specifically in India, but allowed her to study abroad when she otherwise would not be able to.
“The financial help was necessary for me,” Sronkoski said. “Without Gilman that would not have been possible. It was really amazing that I was able to receive that. And also because I applied for Gilman, Knox funded my plane ticket for India as well.”
Lynch also mentioned how receiving a Gilman Scholarship impacted her life beyond college.
“It pushed me to go to another level,” Lynch said. “I think that going to Jordan was something that was so instrumental to my goals in the future and what I want to be doing in the world. It was really an amazing opportunity.”