International academics

First-generation students earn study abroad scholarships

By Rachel Huck | 3/25/15 10:04pm

GVL / Emily Frye Angel Williams

Thanks to a collaborative effort from multiple campus departments, three first-generation Grand Valley State University students have earned scholarships to purchase passports – the first step to studying abroad.

The Padnos International Center, Educational Support Program and the Oliver Wilson Freshman Academy Program teamed up to provide passport scholarships to students during GVSU’s Passport Fair last month.

Winners include sophomores Zoie Williams and Angel Williams, and junior Nina Hatter.

Zoie, a biology major, said she would like to go to Australia to gain experience working with large animals.

“It feels amazing to start a legacy of my own that hopefully others in my family can follow in the future,” Zoie said.

To apply for the scholarship, students were required to attend a study abroad fair, write an essay and attend an advising session.

Angel, an advertising and public relations major, said her involvement in GVSU’s Freshman Academy is what motivated her to pursue her dream of studying abroad.

Through Freshman Academy, speakers come to GVSU to talk about what the university has to offer and how students can prepare for their futures and careers.

“One night there was a…speaker who came in and shared her story of how the study abroad process went,” Angel said. “At first, I didn’t think I could afford to study abroad, but from her story, I know that it is possible only if I truly want (it) and go after it.”

Angel said she is interested in studying in China.

“I think it’s an awesome experience to go to another country and step outside your comfort zone,” she said. “And this is the time to do it.”

Angel said this scholarship will benefit more than just her own education.

“I’m doing this for my sisters and brothers who are younger than me and who look up to me,” she said. “I want them to get excited about college, and this will be a great opportunity to share with them. Now I will not let anything stop me from conquering my study abroad goals.”

Angel said that when it comes to the once in a lifetime experience of studying abroad, the time to act is now.

“If you really want it, you will make it happen,” Zoie said. “It is possible with low income.”

Hatter, a marketing major, said she would like to study fashion in Italy, and this scholarship provides the first step.

“I knew that the area that I grew up in could not be how the entire world feels,” Hatter said. “Since then, I knew that going abroad was what I wanted to do.”

Hatter said she is eager to see the world from a different perspective.

“It feels amazing to know that I can actually go abroad,” Hatter said. “Nothing is unattainable.”

For more information about studying abroad and to check out scholarships, visit

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