2014 Gilman Scholarship Winners
The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a prestigious national award for students embarking on an immersive study abroad experience. This past year, three University of West Georgia students were awarded this honor. Click on the photos below to read students' stories about their Gilman-supported study abroad experiences. Students interested in applying for this year's round of Gilman awards should contact Dr. Maria Doyle; more information about the Gilman is available here.
Linda Nguyen: ISEP Semester Abroad in Korea
Looking back at my life as an exchange student, I find myself asking if the past four months of my stay in South Korea were even real. While I was attending Korea University, I was able to experience the rigorous education that students were going through. I went to multiple cafes to study constantly, read textbooks thoroughly and repeatedly, and pulled all-nighters for exams like the Koreans. After all my hard work, I find myself motivated to do as well as I did in Korea back in the states.
Having my first experience of independence, I utilized my opportunity to explore South Korea on the weekends. I enjoyed hiking on the trail up Mt. Bukhansan, biking along the Hangeng River, sleeping in a sauna, and singing along to my favorite K-pop songs at a norebang with my newfound friends. I explored the many districts of Seoul as well as the city of Busan, and I was able to witness and capture pictures of my favorite entertainment companies and singers. I would visit cat and dog cafes whenever I was missing my own as well. To be able to witness the lifestyle of Koreans who strive to be healthy, I realize that I also need to make a change for my own healthy lifestyle back home by taking breaks from my studies to explore what is around me.
Not only have I developed my communications skills further, I’ve learned the value of education and made use of my freedom to explore and differentiate the culture of Korea from my own. Whether it is hiking Mt. Bukhansan or biking along the Hangeng River, the experiences I went through have not only been enjoyable, but it also taught me to persevere and to accomplish what I have in mind. Even though the chapter of my life as an exchange student in South Korea has ended, I am able to use my new knowledge to assist me in my career by beginning a new chapter of my life.
Taylor McAnally: Foreign Languages Program in France
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself living and studying in France for a month at barely any cost to me. Thanks to an array of financial scholarships and UWG’s incredible staff, I had the wonderful opportunity to complete one of my lifelong dreams. In Tours, France, I studied French literature, language, science, economics, and art at the Institut de Touraine and lived with my best friend and French-African host mother in a modern, economical apartment as part of the total immersion program. Tours, France, is the post-card city that I thought it would be. Bumpy, one-way streets speckled with tiny cars crisscross the entire city, wedged between tall buildings and aromatic cafes. Every day I walked fifteen minutes to the center of town, typically shielded by my umbrella against the cool wind and rain. Dry sunny days were a novelty that I took advantage of by lounging around in one of the city’s lush parks, a copy of Harry Potter à L'École des Sorciers and a French dictionary spread open on my lap, while my hands snapped pictures of French fauna with my camera. I spent most of my time squinting through my camera’s viewfinder, framing gorgeous gardens and castles after a short train ride to a neighboring city.
Tours was picturesque, but my favorite memories come from our brief stay in Paris. Some people argue that Paris is overrated, but I disagree. I loved the innumerable museums; I could ride the metro all day; and the Eiffel Tower is even more beautiful in person. Although words and pictures can’t capture the majestic beauty of France, I am compiling a photo diary in which I tell a story about the accompanying photos as part of my Gilman service project. I plan to publish it online so anyone can see/read about my experiences, and I hope it will encourage them to travel abroad as well.
LaFaydra Ellison: Foreign Langauges Summer Program in Costa Rica
This past summer I was able to participate in a month-long study abroad trip to Costa Rica. I am a Spanish minor and this trip allowed me to take two Spanish courses while being totally immersed in a Spanish-speaking culture. Living with a host family really helped with this immersion. The family I lived with didn’t speak any English at all, but my host mom, Emilia always knew what to say to me and how to break it down in a way that I could understand. I learned so much through our conversations. The host family was so close-knit and we would always sit down and eat meals together. We would talk about what we experienced throughout the day, life, and anything else that came up. I was constantly being exposed to new Spanish terms and I learned very quickly how to use the Spanish words I knew in order to convey thoughts and ideas that I had never expressed in Spanish. The language school that we attended was amazing! All of the teachers were very welcoming and understanding. The techniques that were utilized in my classes were very effective, and I learned so much. The courses helped to improve my language skills and my knowledge of Hispanic culture, which also contributed to some personal growth. There is nothing like learning about a culture while being able to experience it firsthand.
Everything about the trip absolutely exceeded my expectations. We were able to take trips through the cities and go on excursions that allowed us to interact with the people of Costa Rica, which further enhanced our cultural experience. We visited volcanoes, hot springs, beaches, malls, markets, parks, and many other local hotspots. We even took a day to play soccer with some of the local children in the park.
I am so thankful for the Gilman Scholarship and other organizations like International Services and Programs that allowed me to participate in the study abroad program. It was a life-changing experience and an opportunity that I would not have been able to take part in without help from these groups. I feel that every student should have the opportunity to study abroad, and I plan to join with other students and the department of International Services and Programs to help encourage more students to participate in study abroad programs.