Saturday, December 4, 2010

Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship

I've mentioned the Gilman scholarship a few times on this blog, but I should really explain it better - especially for those from the UWRF SURSCA blog. To properly do so, we need to go back in time, all the way to September.

My research professor Dr. Huang had just planted the seed of a possible research endeavor in Taiwan, leading to me researching all the possible sources of funding that he and I might obtain. I quickly found two things: I was initially discouraged to find that 3 months before the trip was much too late to begin looking into the majority of the international studies grants out there. Then I found the one exception to this rule: The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. It was a procrastinator's/late starter's dream. Granted, upon finding it I had all of a week or so to complete the application before the submission deadline. It made for some hectic times, trying to coordinate with UWRF's study abroad office and Dr. Huang - in addition to my normal class and research load. Somehow, I managed to get everything squared away on time with some proficiency. While it all worked out, I must say that unless you really like coffee or really despise the sun, give yourself more time than I had.

A little about this scholarship, taken from the scholarship's website.

"The program aims to encourage students to choose non-traditional study abroad destinations, especially those outside of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The Gilman Scholarship Program aims to support students who have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad, including but not limited to, students with high financial need, community college students, students in under-represented fields such as the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and students with disabilities. The program seeks to assist students from a diverse range of public and private institutions from all 50 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.
Award recipients are chosen by a competitive selection process and must use the award to defray eligible study abroad costs. These costs include program tuition, room and board, books, local transportation, insurance and international airfare."
Some other good things to know regarding eligibility.
Finally, some things you might not find on the website.
  • It's really easy to apply, especially if you plan ahead. Most of the application is online and is used to determine if you are eligible. There were no letters of recommendation required and only two essays (that admittedly caused me a little trouble due to my professional writing having more in common with riding a merry-go-round while attempting to smash a speak-and-spell with my face). The rest of the applications largely consisted of proving that I was who I said I was. Honestly, for a chance at up to five grand, it wasn't a bad deal.
  • The program requires recipients to do a "Follow-on Project", which is basically a way to make sure that recipients give back to their college and community in addition to helping promote the Gilman program. This blog is one aspect of my project, as well as meetings with multiple student groups and classes. One unforeseen addition to my project is the welcome, albeit somewhat unnerving, publicity I've been told to expect in the weeks to come before I escape the country. Word on the street is that the UWRF PR dept, as well as the local newspapers want to cover me. Unfortunately, this means that I will probably have to shave and tame the mullet that's been cohabiting my head wear for the past few months.
  • You'll be missed.
  • This is technically on the site, but on average, 1 out of every three applicants gets accepted. I was one of roughly three thousand applicants, and the first student from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls to be accepted in the past ten years.
Ten years. That's ridiculous for one very, very simple reason: Me. 
I seldom find myself to be the sharpest tool in the shed. I don't have a 4.0 gpa. It's close, I'll admit, but I'm no prodigy. While it may help to be the best and brightest, the Gilman program is primarily geared towards the people who want it. In other words, it's is aimed at the people who recognize the importance of a global perspective and developing their standing not only within their own community, but in our ever-shrinking world. In my opinion, it's aimed at everyone, many just don't know it yet.