Author Archives: Sharonda Alumni Ambassador

How Studying Abroad helped me in Graduate School

Study Abroad and graduate school are usually not in the same sentence. What does your previous experience abroad have to do with being in graduate school? Studying abroad has helped me navigate this overwhelming and daunting experience of the first weeks of graduate school. For students who are thinking about pursuing graduate studies, your experience abroad will help you along the way. Here’s how:

Living in a different city. I decided to attend graduate school in a state that I had never visited before.  Coming from the South and now living up North, I was quite anxious. I became more comfortable with the situation because I remembered the time when I lived in a different country three years ago and how I had to overcome the challenges of living in a new place. Even if you do not travel out of state for graduate school, you will need to work with new people and a department that might have a different culture that you may not be accustomed to. Looking at your experience abroad will help you overcome settling in a new environment.

Connections. I connected with my cohort because most of us had experience abroad, studied a language, or aspired to have a career outside of the States. This allowed us to instantly become friends during the first week of our graduate school. Talking about your international experience with a stranger can sometimes break the ice in conversations. It is an open invitation for people to know more about you and direct you to opportunities. Based on the conversations I had with one of the staffs at my university, I was invited to attend a talk with South Korean diplomats that was hosted at my university. Never put your experience on the backburner!

Language. Do not think that if you are not getting a Master’s or a Ph.D. in a foreign language you cannot take language classes in an academic setting. There are many scholarships/fellowships that are offered at universities and through the US government that can help with your language ability. Your experience abroad can make you an applicable candidate to further peruse language acquisition. My university offers scholarships such as the FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) and several other funding to help with improving with your language ability. There is the Critical Language Scholarship, Boren Fellowship, etc. Knowing about several types of funding has made me look forward to furthering my Korean language skills.

Obtaining more education can be stressful! A new location, new people, and possibly a different lifestyle. However, looking back at how you navigated living in a different country can help you apply previous knowledge and experiences towards your professional degree and make the journey fun!


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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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