Everyone knows that one person whose life was changed so much by studying abroad that they can’t stop talking about it, sharing their pictures, and relating everything back to their international experience… even though it was years ago. If you have studied abroad, you are probably one of the people adding to this stereotype. But don’t stop! Hearing about how influential, eye-opening, and amazing your personal experience was helps to motivate those that may not have considered an international education before.
As a Gilman Scholar I spent two semesters living and studying in Lyon, France (plus a summer travel spree to visit new friends around Europe, because I couldn’t bare to return home before my Visa absolutely made me). Was moving to France scary and overwhelming? Yes. Did I speak French? No. Did I survive and thrive? You betcha! And the entire time I kept thinking to my self “Other students don’t know what they are missing!” The connections I was making were priceless, the education I was receiving was top notch, and the cultural competencies that I was gaining will help me in every part of my life moving forward.
So how do you share this with the world? Talk people’s ears off, share your photos, and attribute your success stories to your time abroad. Being a Gilman Scholar is about so much more than just receiving a one-time scholarship. It is a chance to go somewhere new, learn something new, and reap the amazing benefits in your future life and career. It’s also your duty to share this with others.
As a Gilman Ambassador (for life, as I will never want to stop talking about the Gilman), I aim to share and inspire people to go abroad in any way that I can. While most people have heard of the Fulbright, the Gilman needs a little extra push into popularity. Have you spoken with someone who is concerned about the financial aspect of studying abroad? Recommend the Gilman! Their Home University doesn’t have a large international learning office and they need extra information and support? Recommend the Gilman! They want to study an amazing but rare topic that traditional department scholarships don’t cover? Recommend the Gilman. Tell them that the possibilities with the Gilman are endless, and watch their eyes get wide with excitement.
Not only do I want to share how the Gilman provides an opportunity to study abroad, I also try to focus on how it provides a vast network of alumni, resources, and experiences upon your return. If there is one absolute takeaway that I can highlight from my experience, it’s the ability to network. You have to make new friends abroad, interact with your professors, meet locals, etc. These are all things that increase your ability to network, and let me tell you, life is all about your ability to network. You never know who you will meet and how they will propel your life forward. The ability to confidently approach a new person, make a connection, and maintain a relationship will help in your personal and professional life immensely. I landed my first Job in the private sector of Washington D.C. a month before graduation by attending an absolutely random dinner party with a friend of a friends co-workers, and net-working my way to a job referral. Boom. Networking, just do it.
I am still (and will forever be) one of those people that never stops raving about their time abroad, because it completely changed my life, and continues to open new doors and possibilities. Everyone deserves the opportunity to study internationally, and if my ranting and raving inspires even one more person to pursue studying abroad, then the stereotype has done some good.
Cheers and happy travels!