VCU Gilman scholars share their adventures abroad

By Taylor Herndon
VCU Global Education Office
(804) 828-3636

RICHMOND, Va. (October 9, 2019)—As the fall semester settles in and midterms slowly approach, three Virginia Commonwealth University students talked with us about their experiences studying abroad this summer as recipients of the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Gilman scholars received up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs.

Amari Cummings

Major: Theatre Performance
Study abroad location: London, England

Why did you choose the location that you studied abroad?
I always wanted to visit London because of my major and the rich theatre history in the city. I always wanted to see a show at The Globe and I finally got the opportunity at the age of 20. This is an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

How did receiving the Gilman scholarship impact your opportunity to study abroad?
Gilman covered the entire cost of my tuition abroad allowing me the freedom to experience life abroad more freely. I was able to travel to Italy, France, and the Netherlands all because Gilman covered the majority of my expenses.

Tell us about your experience abroad?
This was my first time out of the country and without the Gilman I don't think I would have been able to travel as much as I did. Not having to worry about the cost of tuition really allowed me to explore and spend my budget on more cultural experiences rather than tuition responsibilities.

What advice would you give to anyone that wants to study abroad?
Fun Fact: My program was cancelled two weeks before I left the U.S. and I had to apply and get accepted to a different study abroad program less than twelve days before I left for Europe. So, with that being said, I would say never give up because if it’s meant to happen, and if you want it badly enough, it will happen.

Ashley Galicia-Perez

Major: Anthropology
Study abroad locations: Mexico City & Oaxaca, Mexico

How did receiving the Gilman scholarship impact your opportunity to study abroad?
Receiving the Gilman Scholarship is something I will forever be grateful for because it truly helped me study abroad. I am a first-generation college student and I come from a family that does not have much, so studying abroad was something I never even thought was going to be possible for me. However, after being informed that I had received the Gilman scholarship, that thought quickly changed. Through financial aid, the support from my parents, and especially the Gilman Scholarship, I was able to pay for the service-learning program I went on. It really did allow me to enjoy my time in Mexico without being constantly worried about paying it off before the fall semester began. Another benefit of receiving the Gilman is being able to discuss it with others who are worried about not having enough money to go abroad and encouraging others to study abroad. Becoming a recipient of the Gilman scholarship gave me an unforgettable and life-changing experience.

Tell us about your experience abroad.
I had never traveled outside of the country before going to Mexico. My experience abroad was like nothing I could have ever imagined. I have made amazing friends, and together, we were able to experience things I will never forget such as ziplining in Sierra Norte and visiting places such as Hierve El Agua. The only downside of going to Mexico is that now I have the urge to travel to many more countries. I want to learn more about other cultures and experience things in other countries because I realized just how amazing our world is. I was able to get a tiny glimpse of life outside of the United States and now I am ready to experience and learn more.

What advice would you give to anyone that wants to study abroad?
If anyone is looking to study abroad, I would certainly say to keep an open mind, be respectful wherever you go, and just have fun. Wherever you may be going, the customs or norms may not be similar to what you have experienced growing up. But that is okay. The largest reason for going abroad is to experience something new and unfamiliar. While doing that, you must learn to respect each other’s differences and be open to their customs. This will allow you to grow as a person and learn more about the people in the world.

Brianna Griffin

Major: Psychology and Biology
Study Abroad Location: Athens, Greece

Why did you choose the location where you studied abroad?
I chose Greece because I had always loved Greek history and mythology growing up, so that definitely got me on board with the program. I also chose it because Greece is not as popular a destination for European study abroad programs, but still seemed similar enough to what I was used to that I wouldn’t spend precious time abroad dealing with severe culture shock.

Tell us about your experience abroad.
I had not studied overseas prior to receiving the Gilman, so it was definitely a new experience to live for a longer time abroad, but I really did enjoy my time! Living abroad has always been a dream of mine and doing so for the month I was in Greece has definitely made me want to seek out longer-term programs abroad.

What advice would you give to anyone that wants to study abroad?
Plan early! I waited a long time to seriously look into study abroad and it’s one of the things I regret most. After going this past summer, I wanted to do another program for a full semester, but since this is my final year, it is nigh impossible unless I pushed my graduation back. Even if you’re on the fence about studying abroad, start doing research and asking questions as soon as possible!

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program supports undergraduate study abroad and was established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000. It provides awards for U.S. undergraduate students who are receiving federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study abroad programs worldwide. The scholarship program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Institute of International Education. The VCU Education Abroad office and National Scholarship Office work with students to develop competitive scholarship applications. The next application cycle opens in January 2020.