Student Spotlight: Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar Recipient Alice Cho (SFS ’22)
The Office of Global Education is pleased to feature Alice Cho (SFS’22) to discuss her experience as a Gilman Scholar Recipient. Alice studied in Tainan, Taiwan as part of AC Study Abroad’s Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program in Summer 2021.
While Georgetown financial aid directly ports over to the undergraduate semester experience, students studying abroad during the summer may be more limited in their financial aid and scholarship eligibility. Outside scholarships like the Gilman Award can help offset the cost of an international experience during the summer.
Read below for Alice’s story, as well as tips and tricks for applying for the Gilman Scholarship.
With the Summer and Fall 2022 study abroad application deadline having passed, a lot of students have probably moved on to thinking about the next phase of the process—getting funding. For some of you, the excitement of studying abroad may be overshadowed by a growing anxiety of, ‘how am I going to pay for all this?’
I was in the exact same state of mind as I applied for summer study abroad programs junior year, spring 2021. My financial situation was almost enough to sway me away from the prospect of studying abroad—and it would have, if it weren’t for the Gilman Scholarship. Financial barriers to study abroad are real. My hope is that, through the Gilman Scholarship, such factors won’t be the deciding factor on your decision to study abroad, or at least lessen the financial pressure you feel so you can enjoy your study abroad experience to the fullest.
What is the Gilman Scholarship?
The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program hosted by the U.S. Department of State that is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding. This means that, from the beginning, the applicant pool is limited to those whose households probably can’t pay for the entirety of a study abroad bill.
The base scholarship is 5,000 dollars, but if you are studying a critical need language (Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Russian being some of the few), you’re eligible for up to 3,000 additional dollars after you submit an essay about what drives you to study that language.
If you receive the reward, you’ll also be eligible to receive a certificate of Noncompetitive Eligibility (NCE). When you submit this certificate with your application for any federal internships or jobs in the U.S. government, you could be fast-tracked within the application process, either skipping the formal hiring process altogether or only have to compete against a limited NCE applicant roster. You’ll also gain access to a network of Gilman Alumni who often have the same international mindset like you do and have a desire to either work abroad or serve in roles that will place them abroad!
The application consists of three essays, your transcript…and that’s it! You’ll want to notify your study abroad advisor that you’re applying so they can certify your application, but nothing else besides that. Very pain-free. The only thing that Gilman requires from you after getting accepted is that you complete a service project, which is just their way of saying ‘tell everyone about this opportunity to get study abroad funding’—which, you’ll end up wanting to do anyway. And this is coming from someone who had a less-than-ideal study abroad experience (a.k.a. online).
Okay, I want to apply—what are next steps?
Go check out the Gilman Application website and don’t be scared to take that click and start your application! And also, contact your study abroad advisor right away to give them a heads up saying that you’ll be applying!
Your essays are the bulk of what the committee will be looking at, so don’t hesitate to start writing! You don’t have to wait and hope that your magnum opus of an essay suddenly comes to you two weeks later. The Gilman website is nice enough to provide a list of tips to get you started beforehand, but my best tip to any potential applicant would be—just be straightforward. This isn’t like your college application essay where they’re looking to see how you think or what kind of person you are. All they want to know is: why does studying abroad make sense for you? Or to break this down into smaller questions: why do you want to study abroad in the country that you chose? How does this study abroad experience tie into your academic or professional goals? How will skills that you’ve built up help you in your study abroad program? All you’re trying to convince them of is that your study abroad will matter.
For the follow-on service project essay, I’d encourage you to get creative. Talk to your language teachers and departments to see if you could collaborate with them to spread the word about Gilman after your study abroad. Or, if you have the means, brainstorm unconventional ways to spread the word unilaterally—on your favorite social media account or video streaming platform, whatever that may entail. Gilman has been, from my experience, flexible about letting you change your service project later on, so don’t feel pressured to have everything figured out before proposing the project.
And finally, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need a second opinion on your essay or any general advice. I hope this post was informative, and that you’ll try your shot at Gilman! Best of luck on your study abroad in the near or far future!
The deadline for the next Gilman application cycle is March 1, 2022.
For more information on tuition, financial aid, scholarships, and budgeting for study abroad,
The Office of Global Education Funding Study Abroad Page is a helpful place to start.