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Students Reflect on Study Abroad Experiences Made Possible by Gilman Scholarship
Zack Watson’s college experience has been a full one so far.
A student veteran, Watson served in the U.S. Marines for five years. He completed boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, and was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. He is now a Syracuse University junior studying political science in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School.
He has fully immersed himself in student life and his major. He participated in the University’s performance of “Separated” at Syracuse Stage. He is a member of the Student Veterans Organization. And he played on the University’s club rugby team. Something was missing, though.
“Studying abroad has always appealed to me. I enjoy traveling, and I’m always seeking to grow as a person. I love meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. I’m a curious person and I like adventures—I want to see more,” Watson says. “It’s a big reason I joined the military when I was 17, and it still drives me today.”
Shanel Bailey, a senior musical theater major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, also has enjoyed a full college experience. She has had roles in six SU Drama/Syracuse Stage main-stage productions and is a member of the Raices Latin dance troupe. She has expanded her academic experience to learn about culture and how to combat discrimination and micro-aggressions. Bailey is currently studying in New York City through the Tepper Semester.
Bailey also craved an opportunity to study abroad. “I wanted to study abroad before I even applied to college. I had no clue which school I wanted to go to, but knew that I wanted to go abroad to a Spanish-speaking country,” she says. “I particularly wanted to travel to Spain, the birthplace of the language and the home of my best friend’s family, who introduced me to paella, flamenco and the Spanish culture I fell in love with.”
Both Watson and Bailey have fulfilled their goals to study abroad as recipients of the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship. Bailey studied in Madrid during summer 2018, and Watson is currently studying in London.
The Gilman Scholarship offers awards of up to $5,000 to undergraduate students in good standing who are U.S. citizens and Pell Grant (federal financial aid) recipients—and up to $8,000 for undergraduates studying abroad and learning Critical Need Languages (such as Mandarin Chinese or Arabic).
The Gilman Scholarship’s mission is to broaden and diversify the student population that studies and interns abroad. The program especially encourages applications from student veterans; students with diverse ethnic backgrounds; students going to non-traditional study abroad destinations; students in fields underrepresented in study abroad; and students with high financial need.
Since 2017, 23 Syracuse University students have been selected as recipients of the Gilman Scholarship and have used the award to fund experiences around the world, from Ghana to Hong Kong to Australia to Chile.
The application period is now open for the 2019 scholarship, which will provide funds for study abroad in summer 2019, fall 2019 or for the full 2019-20 academic year. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, March 5. Students planning to study abroad in spring 2020 can apply in the fall Gilman competition, with a deadline of the first Tuesday in October.
The Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA), in collaboration with Syracuse Abroad, will host a writing workshop on Friday, March 1, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. in 306 Bowne Hall. In addition, Syracuse Abroad will have walk-in advising hours at its office, 106 Walnut Place, from 1 to 4 p.m. on Monday, March 4.
Those attending either the writing workshop or the walk-in advising hours should bring copies of their application essays to receive feedback.
Bailey says she had an academically and culturally immersive experience during her time in Madrid. She stayed with a host family, took an advanced Spanish class, traveled and explored the neighborhoods of Madrid. “I truly got a better understanding of the place in which I was living,” she says.
Bailey also learned flamenco, her favorite dance genre, and has taught two dance workshops in Syracuse in a workshop designed to alert students to study abroad opportunities and to promote the Gilman Scholarship. She even looking into introducing flamenco into her childhood dance studio. “I have woven my Madrid experience into my daily life in various ways,” she says.
Watson is enjoying his time in London. “My experience in the U.K. has been great so far,” he says. “I study political science, and this is an interesting time to be in this country with Brexit going on. So seeing it everywhere in the media and talking to people about it has taught me a lot. I am a passionate student of history, and I have already been to many museums here, as well. I’ll take all this back to my studies at Syracuse.” Watson is also planning to meet with veterans during his time abroad.
Watson and Bailey both worked with CFSA Director Jolynn Parker on their Gilman applications.
“I was really taking a shot at something that I saw as my only ticket to studying abroad,” Watson says. “I knew if I worked at it, though, I would have a chance. Jolynn was enthusiastic in helping me edit my drafts and was invested in giving me the best advice and point me in the winning direction. I gave her a good story on paper, but technically, it needed a lot of work. With her help, it became a great scholarship application.”
Bailey’s advice for students considering applying for Gilman is to do it. “Take a leap of faith and don’t let the idea of a negative ‘what if’ stop you,” she says. “I had an experience I will never forget because of Gilman, and that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t just try.”