Many students come to college with the dream of studying abroad.
For West Virginia University students Joan Conte, Donavin Dorsey, Cecily Flight, Andrea Hubbard, Allison Mascatelli and Rose McGonigle, the Gilman Scholarship program has turned that dream into a reality.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Gilman Scholarship is designed to assist students who want to study abroad but have financial constraints in doing so.
The scholarship program was developed in 2001 in honor of retired U.S. House of Representative and chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee Benjamin A. Gilman as a product of the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000. There are 19,000 alumni of the program from 1,124 U.S. institutions who have studied in 144 countries.
Prior to this year, 14 WVU students have earned Gilman Scholarships.
Ryan Claycomb, assistant dean of the WVU Honors College, says the Gilman Scholarship gives students an opportunity to broaden their horizons and acquire invaluable educational opportunities afforded by studying abroad.
“The Gilman Scholarship awards are an important way to create access to the rich and rewarding educational and professional benefits offered by study abroad,” he said. “The fact that West Virginia University students have been so competitive in this process – not just this year, but year after year – attests to these students’ readiness to move out into the world, to learn around the globe, and to excel wherever they find themselves.”
A senior English major, Conte has been interested in Japan since she was a child.
Thanks to her $1,500 Gilman Scholarship, she had the opportunity to explore the culture and language of a country she has spent her life studying.
“Most of my classes at WVU are about language and culture; I wanted the opportunity to improve my conversation and language skills and tutor children in English,” she said.
Conte, from Martinsburg, studied in Nagoya, Japan from April to August. Her award covered her plane ticket to Japan, and gave her the opportunity to experience more culture while she was there.
In fact, her experience had such a profound impact on Conte that she hopes to return to Japan to teach English.
Overall, Conte is grateful for the opportunity she had to broaden her horizons through the Gilman Scholarship.
“I made a lot of diverse friends from different cultural backgrounds and learned so much more about the world,” Conte said. “This trip was a huge accomplishment for me.”
Dorsey, a senior economics major from Martinsburg, knew a little money could go a long way in Asia.
Dorsey was awarded $4,500 to study in Hong Kong.
“I was interested in Hong Kong because it is tied to mainland China, but it still possesses an English influence that I felt would make adaptation easier,” he said.
Dorsey said moving to a country outside of his comfort zone helped him to immerse himself in another culture and meet new people.
“I would certainly recommend that anyone with a slight interest in an unfamiliar country study abroad,” Dorsey said.
Senior international studies major Flight’s fascination with the Arabic world led her to apply for a Gilman Scholarship to support her plan to study in Morocco for the entire 2015-2016 academic year.
It was a decision that paid dividends for the Wheeling native as she received the highest Gilman Scholarship ever awarded at WVU at $8,000.
“Being a first-generation college student really inspired me to apply for the Gilman Scholarship,” she said. “I believed spending a year in Morocco would really help me academically and would be a tremendously rewarding experience.”
Flight leaves at the end of August for Morocco and has big plans during her year abroad, including volunteering, working with organic food, learning more about the Arabic world and language.
“I am just fascinated by the Arabic world in general,” she said. “The culture and religion had a big influence on my education, so I hope that I can use this opportunity to master French and learn the Arabic language.”
When she was growing up in Ripley, junior ceramics major Hubbard never imagined that she would have the opportunity to study abroad.
Once she received her Gilman Scholarship to study in China for the fall semester, Hubbard knew that she needed to make the most of the award and use it as an opportunity to teach her younger nieces and nephews and students at her high school the value of hard work.
“Regardless of what you are given in life, you can make things happen for yourself,” she said. “Once I return from China, I want to do outreach and go back to my high school to present on what I’ve learned and hopefully inspire others.”
She will likely have much to share, as China is one of the leading countries to study ceramics and produces the most porcelain in the world.
“I hope that being immersed in the ceramic culture will help me hone my skills,” Hubbard said.
A sophomore geography major, Mascatelli used her Gilman Scholarship to travel to Tanzania with 14 other students for a month.
“It was an incredible learning experience,” she said. “We took course credit while we were there; we went to farm and co-op organizations and learned about the culture.”
“We just experienced so much during our trip,” she said.
Mascatelli, from Ashtabula, Ohio, said the Gilman Scholarship gave her the opportunity to travel outside of the U.S. for the first time.
“I really thought it was a great opportunity to study abroad and expand my horizons,” Mascatelli said. “I’m glad that I did it.”
A trip to the study abroad fair resulted in a month-long trip to Tanzania for junior nursing major McGonigle.
“I went to the study abroad fair and learned about the assistance that the Gilman Scholarship could provide for me in traveling abroad,” said McGonigle. “I really wanted to study abroad in Tanzania, Africa, but I knew the price tag was too steep without assistance.”
Morgantown native McGonigle received a $4,000 award that enabled her to pursue her dream to experience other cultures.
“I knew that going to Tanzania would create inspiring memories, teach me about new cultures and ways of living,” said McGonigle.
CONTACT: University Relations/News
Check http://wvutoday.wvu.edu daily for the latest news from the University.
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.