Category Archives: Gilman Alumni Ambassadors

A New Five-Year Plan: Gilman’s Lasting Impact

If you had asked me three years ago what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said a journalist. My five-year plan was to graduate, get a job at a local news organization, and to seek the truth and report it.

Receiving the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship changed almost all of that by allowing me to study abroad in the Czech Republic in 2017. I studied mass media, politics, and diplomacy at Charles University in Prague where I learned how to translate my passion for journalism into public diplomacy and global communications.

In class I studied the impacts of authoritarian regimes and censorship, visited the Radio Free Europe headquarters, met with Czech diplomats, and studied the political history of Central and Eastern Europe. These experiences helped to shape my academic interests, but it was the time I spent studying diplomacy with a former diplomat and at the U.S. Embassy’s American Center that completely reshaped my career goals.

As a Gilman Scholar – a participant in a federally-funded program that sends Americans abroad as part of public and cultural diplomatic efforts – I received invitations to participate in cultural events hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Prague.

I had the opportunity to meet U.S. foreign service officers, ask them my questions and experience public diplomacy in action. I shared my culture and language with Czech citizens, and learn about theirs in turn, at events like Coffee and American English, and as a volunteer “student ambassador” with the American Student Association.

This is where I began to see diplomacy as more than just political negotiations. At its core, diplomacy is a about intercultural communication and as a journalist, someone who is passionate about communication, learning, and sharing stories, that is right up my alley.

The experiences I had as a Gilman Scholar opened my eyes to new interests and career paths that I would never have previously considered. My new five-year plan is to get a Fulbright, earn a master’s degree in international relations and global communications, and join the Foreign Service.

Since graduating, I have begun to volunteer as a Gilman Alumni Ambassador because I want to encourage more students to apply for the Gilman Scholarship, and to connect with alumni and to hear how the Gilman Scholarship has changed or shaped their goals. I am continuing my education by learning Arabic in order to apply for a Fulbright to study the visual representations of war and conflict in the Middle East. From there, my sights are set on applying to two additional federal fellowships – the Rangel and Pickering Fellowships – for graduate school.

So, for those of you looking to apply for the Gilman Scholarship, my advice for you is to ask yourself, “why?” Really think about why you want to study abroad and the impact it will have on you. Be open to new paths. And for those of you currently abroad, attend cultural events, accept invitations to events with the local Embassy, be open to new opportunities, and connect with people from different backgrounds. Studying abroad is whatever you choose to make of it and your experiences could change what you want to do in life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gilman Alumni Ambassadors

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gilman Alumni Ambassadors