Hey there! My name is Jeydelyn Martinez and I’m a proud first generation, low-income graduate from Marquette University who was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship in 2015 to study in Madrid, Spain. This 2020-2021 school year, I work in a TRiO program and I am serving as one of the Gilman Scholarship’s Alumni Ambassadors.
Whenever someone asks me what I’ve been up to since graduation, they seem intrigued when I tell them I’ve taught ESL in multiple cities and countries in the past four years, while traveling the world. When they dig deeper and ask me what motivated me to embark on that journey my answer is unchanging and it begins with “I was awarded the Gilman scholarship back in 2015…” Being a Gilman scholar is something I say with such pride because I know firsthand the impact it has. It is so much more than a scholarship. It’s a springboard for a lifetime of opportunities.
Not only did it enable me to study abroad, it empowered me to believe in myself and know that I was worthy of incredible international opportunities. Following graduation I returned to Spain to serve as a Language and Cultural Ambassador in three different cities and public schools. I also applied for the Fulbright ETA in Argentina. Although I didn’t receive the Fulbright, I don’t think I would have felt empowered to apply had it not been for my Gilman experience and moving through its application process. Fast-forward to March 2020, with the pandemic unfolding, my work as an ESL Kindergarten teacher in Shenzhen was suspended and I had little choice but to return home early. I felt lost and coming back stateside after several years away was jarring, to say the least. I thought my time abroad had come unfairly and swiftly to an end. I started thinking a lot about the community I had formed throughout the years and wondered which community I could seek out that could provide support. The Gilman community quickly came to mind and I reestablished my connection with it through the Gilman Scholar Network. Some weeks later, I saw a post on the network promoting a professional development webinar titled “Now what? Setting and adjusting your goals after unexpected change.”
How’s that for timing?
Now as a Gilman Alumni Ambassador, I make it a point in my virtual presentations to share my story and urge prospective applicants to know they are worthy of international opportunities and to not let self-doubt hinder them. It’s been very rewarding and comforting to be an active member of this unique community again. I hope I can continue to empower prospective students to apply as well as encourage Gilman scholars to reconnect.