“My greatest advice for aspiring and current Gilman Scholars is to define what makes you a Gilman scholar and how this scholarship helps you achieve your greatest aspirations.”
Hello! My name is Quincy Yangh and I am a 2020-2021 Gilman Alumni Ambassador from the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College majoring in Geography and Political Science with an academic focus on Climate Change and Environmental Justice. Additionally, I am a Doris Duke Conservation Research Fellow at the University of Washington, Seattle and a Midwest Organizing Fellow for Power Shift Network, a national climate justice organization. I was awarded a Gilman Scholarship in the fall of 2019, where I studied abroad in Kathmandu, Nepal and interned at iProbono, an international humanitarian NGO in Delhi, India.
Whenever I think about my Gilman journey in Nepal and India, I’m inundated with nostalgia. I miss seeing the Himalayas on a clear day and the warm smiles reflected in the eyes of strangers, the smell of fresh street food, and connecting with new people through conversations about place, identity, resilience, and belonging. What I miss most is the person I was while abroad–a novice academic, delighted guest, part-time English teacher, and U.S. cultural ambassador. To say I am humbled and grateful for these experiences as a Gilman scholar would be an understatement.
As a first-generation and low-income college student, being enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student at a private institution in itself felt like an immense privilege–the thought of study abroad felt even more daunting and distant. Truth is, undergraduate students of color, especially first-generation and low-income students are amongst the least likely to study or intern abroad. This is largely due to financial obstacles and the historic lack of sufficient study abroad resources. Although better than in the past, this reality remains true. For me, it was precisely this reality that revealed the crucial nature of my participation in studying abroad. A study abroad experience enables me to broaden my academic and professional horizons while also signifying the importance of U.S. representation abroad. I owe it to the Gilman Scholarship Program for making my study abroad aspiration possible.
What compelled me to the country of Nepal was its rich history of migration and the Himalayas. As an aspiring academic interested in the intersection of global migration and climate change, Nepal was the ideal location. I specifically enrolled as a student under the School for International Training (SIT), an intensive and immersive field-based research program. As part of the curriculum, we had a two-week fieldwork/research excursion to Tsum Valley, a sacred Himalayan pilgrimage valley located in northern Gorkha, Nepal. My research focused on storytelling, specifically how storytelling is used as a medium to document climate change and traditional ecological knowledge in Tsum Valley. During this two-week period, I had the pleasure of having local co-researchers who helped me navigate the landscape and communicate with locals. Collectively, my co-researchers and I spent hours documenting stories through interviews, analyzed results with each other, and engaged in meaningful cross-cultural dialogue. This academic experience affirmed the importance of community-based research, especially when tackling climate change and finding solutions. Furthermore, it instilled in me a sense of confidence and curiosity that I did not have before. Now that I am back in the U.S., I find myself being more critical of academic research and asking more questions on ethics in my classes. This new sense of purpose I found in academia as a Gilman scholar ultimately landed me an Academic Assistant position in my department.
While abroad as a Gilman scholar, I also had the great privilege of interning at iProbono, an international humanitarian nonprofit organization dedicated to secure equal access to justice and opportunity for underrepresented communities. Isabelle Onians, the Academic Director of my program, and SIT’s one-month Independent Study Period made this opportunity possible for me. As a full-time intern, I researched relevant humanitarian issues in South Asia for numerous pro bono lawyers and provided input on existing programs. This legal experience reinforced my desire to attend law school, specifically for international policy and environmental law. In the distant future, I aspire to work at the intersection of law, policy, and research. My Gilman experience enabled me to get a foot in this career. For this reason, I am grateful.
Moving forward, I’ve applied for numerous post-undergrad fellowships–one being a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant to Taiwan. In this capacity, I intend to be an effective English teacher, U.S. cultural ambassador, and an active community member. I am compelled to the intellectual and mental rigor of this grant as well as its emphasis on the importance of community engagement. I have strong faith that a Fulbright grant will sharpen my communication and leadership skills tremendously, making me a stronger candidate for higher education. Most importantly, I firmly believe that this opportunity (like Gilman) will prepare me for a lifetime of service devoted to cultivating meaningful relationships between world leaders, communities, and countries.
In many ways, I found the Fulbright application and mission similar to the Gilman Scholarship Program. Both invest in promising U.S. cultural ambassadors and leaders as well as the importance of public/community service. The Fulbright application was not at all easy. However, I felt much more confident going into it given my experience with the Gilman Scholarship application. Gilman not only sharpened my writing skills but also provided me with a unique study abroad, community engagement, and U.S. cultural ambassadorship experience that showcases my preparedness in pursuing a Fulbright Grant. Although the outcome of my Fulbright application remains a mystery, it is evident that my Gilman application and experience equipped me with the fundamental skills and expertise necessary for a future in international service.
With all said, my greatest advice for aspiring and current Gilman Scholars is to define what makes you a Gilman scholar and how this scholarship helps you achieve your greatest aspirations.
Thank you for reading,
Quincy, 2020-2021 Gilman Alumni Ambassador