Gilman Scholarship Makes Study Abroad Possible

September 27, 2016

Amanda Nagy

aerial view of the west cost of Senegal
The west coast of Senegal.
Photo credit: Katherine Ford

In recent months, several students were afforded study abroad or international internship programs with a U.S. Department of State scholarship for Pell-eligible undergraduates.

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship aims to diversify the students who study and intern abroad, as well as the countries and regions in which they go. The scholarship is open to students receiving a Federal Pell grant who wish to study abroad or participate in a career-oriented international internship for academic credit. Scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their program costs. The award also provides an opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages, and economies—making scholars better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.

Fourth-year Katherine Ford, an Africana studies major, spent six weeks in Senegal last May with the Dakar Institute of African Studies. The study abroad program includes internships, field trips, and lectures, and pairs each American student with a Senegalese peer from the University Chiekh Anta Diop.

“Not only did I visit amazing cultural sites, such as Goree Island, Thies, and Touba, I was able to take part in the day-to-day culture of living with a host family and discussing philosophy and African history with some of the leading minds on the subject,” says Ford, who is from Pasadena, California.

Ford says her interest in Senegal was inspired by her fascination with her African ancestors and heritage—which was fueled by a lack of in-depth history education throughout grade school. “The blank space left me searching for myself in my education. Unable to find that connection in the mainstream curricula, I began to educate myself. I learned that my history as a black American expanded far beyond slavery to the conscious memory shared by all peoples of the African diaspora. I found myself drawn to Senegal as the crossroads of African and African American culture.

“When I found out I had been accepted into the Dakar Institute of African Studies, I was beyond excited for a chance to find the answers to so many of my questions,” she says. “The funding I received through the Gilman Scholarship make it possible to have that experience, and their post-experience project encouraged me to think beyond myself and my experiences in another country.”

This fall, fourth-year Bradley Hamilton is taking courses at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. In addition to the Gilman Scholarship, he received a Freeman Award for Study in Asia to support his study abroad costs.

A neuroscience major, Hamilton’s participation in the Associated Kyoto Program is a departure from the career-oriented research internships he has engaged in while at Oberlin. Last summer, he was accepted into the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Exceptional Research Opportunities program, and he has conducted research with Oberlin’s neuroscience faculty.

“I’m not participating in any sort of research or even taking any type of science class. I planned this study abroad because I wanted to be challenged to study culture and history, and to do the things in which I am not accustomed, so I can really round out my education,” says Hamilton, who is from Clemson, South Carolina. “I studied Japanese for two years before coming here because I didn’t want to be bogged down in learning basic vocabulary and grammar when I could be out exploring. It was certainly the right choice, because I’m already improving my Japanese by striking up conversations with people I meet.”

Besides conversational fluency, Hamilton says he hopes to gain a sense of the history and culture in the collective consciousness of Kyoto citizens. “I go out and explore traditional things like Noh Theater and the Tea Ceremony in the place where they were developed and nurtured. All the while, I’m gaining skills in Japanese that I could never get in a classroom.”

Muntaha Mohamed also received the Gilman Scholarship to study abroad last summer in Tetouan, Morocco. The BCA-sponsored program offers beginner through advanced Arabic language instruction and cultural activities.

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