Why Giving Back to Your Community is Important

I recently had the opportunity to promote the Gilman Scholarship at my alma mater’s annual study abroad fair. It was my first time promoting the scholarship as a Gilman Ambassador with generous support from the organization. Furthermore, it was an opportunity to use my time to present students with an option to lessen the cost of studying or interning abroad.

Compared to last year when I volunteered at the university, more students came to my table to ask about the scholarship, requirements, or both. Additionally, I had help from another Gilman recipient who could talk about her internship in Belgium. Some students heard of the scholarship beforehand, while others were in the process of finishing the application before the deadline of the Spring and Summer 2019 cycle. I was able to assist a student at the table when he pulled out his laptop to discuss an issue with his application. I was able to resolve this issue with him. It was also a nice gesture when the international education vendors who were inside the room suggested that students talk with the Gilman booth about financial aid – this showed me the importance of how much exposure the scholarship had gained. The most heartfelt moments were with students whose faces would light up when I asked about their region or country of interest. It brought me back to the time when I was excited about the possibility of studying abroad in South Korea for a year. They thanked us for our time and some said they would contact me about applying for the scholarship. A couple of days later I also helped a student by sharing information on the scholarship and application process.

Relaying information is essential to promote awareness of international education, especially in the aspect of funding. What I learned from my time at the study abroad fair was that sometimes students need information about funding and a face that can say, “I did it and so can you!” To know someone from your neighborhood, organization, or university who has been in your spot beforehand and who has lived the opportunity you also seek shows students that it is possible. Without the opportunity of the Gilman scholarship, I would not have had the assistance to give back to my community in such a profound way.

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