Students awarded Gilman International Scholarship

By Elyse Greenwood | 10/8/18 2:27pm

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Courtesy / Rebecca LaLonde

The prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship was recently awarded to 23 Grand Valley State University students to fund the study abroad experience of a lifetime. 

The 23 Gilman scholars from GVSU received $8,000 toward their study abroad costs for their trip in either the spring or summer of 2018. This scholarship aims to allow students the opportunity to gain skills that are essential in economic competitiveness and national security. These leadership skills that the students are encouraged to bring back to the U.S. stem from the broader understanding of cultures, languages and economies that study abroad provides.  

One GVSU student took advantage of the scholarship in exactly the way it was intended by diving into a foreign language while studying abroad.

“I actually went over [to Ukraine] to learn the Russian language,” said Rebecca LaLonde, a legal studies major at GVSU. “I knew it before, but I just brushed up on my skills and learned more in six weeks than I have in the past two years taking classes. It was incredible.”

Not only does this grant program encourage the applicants to learn a foreign language, but it also expects students to benefit from immersing themselves in different cultures. 

“I’m really interested in Italian art, and Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance,” said Theo Randall, a GVSU senior with an art history major. “It was really cool getting to see and learn more about all the pieces that I’ve been learning about my entire undergrad and to live in the city. I took a year of Italian before I went so I knew enough to talk to my host family.”

Currently, more than 160 GVSU students have been awarded Gilman Scholarships. For many, this award turned study abroad dreams into reality. 

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to study abroad at all if I hadn’t gotten it,” Randall said. “The scholarship pretty much made the whole thing possible.”

With so much to gain, the application process, which includes a personal statement essay and a follow-on service project proposal, has proven worthwhile. 

“It was easy because the essay was very personal,” LaLonde said. “I think once you dig down deep, it just all comes out because all they ask is why you want this. If you want to study abroad bad enough, it’s so easy to come up with a perfectly written essay on why you want this. So I recommend it to anyone. I think it’s easy because they want to help you achieve your dreams. That’s what I wrote my essay about. I was born in Russia and it’s my dream to go back and learn the Russian language.”

Any students who receive a Federal Pell Grant and will be studying or interning abroad for at least 21 days in host countries with Level 1 or 2 State Department Travel. Advisories are able to apply for this award. 

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