The opportunity to study abroad can be elusive to students with meager financial means, but the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship helped two university students spend this semester overseas.
Blake Bohanan, a senior in psychology, and Holly Dye, fourth-year in animal science/pre-veterinary medicine, both received the scholarship for this spring semester. Bohanan is currently studying in the Netherlands while Dye is in Australia.
They are among 407 students around the country to receive the scholarship out of 1,189 applicants.
Along with their application, every candidate for the scholarship has to submit two essays. The first is a Statement of Purpose explaining the student’s reasons for studying abroad, specifying his country of choice and detailing the impact this program will have on his future goals.
The second essay is a Service Project Proposal, where students need to propose a service project they will undertake upon their return to the United States. The project’s purpose is to promote the Gilman Scholarship and studying abroad in their university and home community, according to the scholarship’s official guidelines.
Scholarship recipients are awarded up to $5,000 to cover part of their expenses while abroad.
According to its Web site, the scholarship mainly attempts to help students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to study abroad. One requirement is that all applicants must already be receiving the Federal Pell Grant, a form of need-based financial aid, which does not need to be repaid and is awarded to undergraduate students by the U.S. Department of Education.
But Bohanan said that regardless of any scarce financial resources, when there is a will — there is a way.
“Anyone can travel like this. I feel that if I can, anyone can,” Bohanan said. “With help from the PAO (Programs Abroad Office) and the Writing Center, I was awarded free money to pay for my trip to Europe for six months, who wouldn’t be O.K. with that?”
Providing funding to students who are underrepresented in the study abroad population is another goal of the scholarship, Malaika Serrano, programs abroad coordinator, said.
Students majoring in science or intending to study at a non-traditional location are more likely to be stronger candidates for the scholarship.
Since 2001, seven UT students have received the scholarship, Serrano said.
As UT students represents less than 1 percent of the recipients nationwide, Dye did not expect to make the cut.
“I was so surprised,” she said recalling the time when she learned she was one of the two Tennessee recipients.
According to Serrano, the two students were chosen based on the strength of their essays and proposed follow-up projects. Once the students return, they must complete a project that stems from their experience abroad.
For his follow-up project, Bohanan will be helping Pellissippi State Technical Community College organize its annual international fair. He plans to share literature, photos and journals reflecting his experience in the Netherlands. The country is bordered by Germany to the east, Belgium to the south and the North Sea to the north and west.
Bohanan chose to study in the Netherlands because of its cultural significance.
“I chose the Netherlands because of its attractive history and the very different method of structuring society,” he said. “Some of the greatest writers and painters originated there, such as Descartes, Vincent van Gogh and M.C. Escher.”
He said he hopes the Netherlands’ rich culture will not only develop his knowledge in the arts but further broaden his life’s experiences.
“I chose to study abroad because I have always wished I had experienced more unique opportunities when they were offered,” Bohanan said. “I always found a way to justify not taking advantage of those life-changing experiences, and I now desire to change this.”
Upon her return to the United States, Dye will also be reaching out to encourage students to study abroad for her follow-up project. She is keeping a daily journal of her experiences abroad and will use this to help students in UT’s Programs Abroad Office.
“Also, I want potential study abroad students to know that financially there is a way to study abroad no matter what your financial situation,” she said.
Dye chose Australia to fulfill a lifelong dream.
“I have always wanted to visit Australia since I can remember,” she said. “Studying here gives me an opportunity that I could only dream about otherwise.”
Some neighboring countries are Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the northeast and New Zealand to the southeast.
Considering Australia’s numerous neighbors, Dye said she wants to expand her understanding of the world during her time abroad.
“I will be traveling to New Zealand and possibly Singapore while I am over there. I want to see things outside of America and learn how people view Americans.”
Serrano said the study abroad experience changes lives, and it allows students to see the world in a different way.
He said students should study abroad because it is “the kind of experience that can’t be replicated here.”
“Studying abroad is one of the few things you can do at UT, or in your life, that has the ability to change the way you view the world.”
For more information on studying abroad or the Gilman International Scholarship, students can visit the Programs Abroad Office, 1620 Melrose Avenue.