As the new year approaches I continue to reflect on my study abroad experience that Gilman has made possible. It has been about five years since my trip to Barbados with my 2015 Winter Session classmates. Even though it’s been so long it still feels fresh and new; all the lessons and experiences that I still carry with me to this day, and the continuous opportunities that the Gilman Program continues to provide.
I see the changes that Gilman and studying abroad has made, not only in myself, but In others as well. I received the Gilman Scholarship in the Winter of 2015 along with fellow classmate Ayanna Gill. The scholarship helped fund our study abroad trip to Barbados where we participated in service learning internships and courses. Ayanna, who was a communications major with a minor in journalism and black studies, served in an elementary school on the island, while I worked closely with the HIV AIDS Commission of Barbados.
Ayanna enjoyed her study abroad experience so much that she made the decision to study abroad for the second time the following year (2016); this time in Johannesburg, South Africa. There, she regularly volunteered at an adoption agency.
I recently sat down with Ayanna for coffee to catch up on all of the new things that she has been up to since graduating in 2016. We reminisced on our time in Barbados; the food, the culture, and the people. Studying abroad in Barbados was especially significant for her due to her families Bajan heritage. She was excited to learn about the history of the island, but she was even more compelled to explore her family’s roots and culture. Although her family was from Barbados she had not visited the country herself. Growing up she had always heard stories from her grandfather about the island and its customs but, with the help of the Gilman Program, she was given the chance to finally experience it all in person. During her trip she got to meet family members for the first time and see so many of the landmarks and places that she has always heard about second-hand.
Ayanna also took the time out to share her experience in South Africa. The particular timing of her studies had been very unique for her. While there, she had the chance to witness the protests and elevating tensions between the students and administration of the University of Pretoria over the subjects of race and tuition fees. As a communications major with a passion for journalism, this was a very significant opportunity. She was excited and thrilled to have the chance to witness a potentially historic moment play out right before her eyes. Her time abroad had certainly fueled her love of news and journalism. Presently she works as a production associate for ABC News. She assists with content and contributes to the news stories being televised by Nightline News.
It is amazing to see how far we both have come since receiving our Gilman award, and I know that 2020 has even greater things in store for these Gilman Alumni.
2015 vs. 2019