Hi! My name is Soren Fuchs, and I am a 2021-22 Gilman Alumni Ambassador. I was awarded the Gilman Scholarship for the Fall 2017 semester, which I spent studying abroad in Budapest, Hungary. I graduated with a BS in Business Administration from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2019.
I can remember the exact moment that I received the Gilman Award like it was yesterday. During the summer of 2017, I was working various jobs as a bank teller, golf caddie, and soccer referee in order to fund the following semester abroad in Budapest. I had gotten off work and was sitting in my 1990 Volvo, when I opened my email and saw I had been awarded the Gilman Scholarship. To say I was ecstatic was an understatement. I had yet to understand that this was just the beginning of a journey that has impacted my life and career path in ways that I could not have foreseen.
During my semester in Budapest, I developed many skills; had some incredible travel experiences, took courses related to my business major, learned how to navigate a new city, but most importantly, I developed many new relationships. These relationships can be split into three areas; professional connections, friendships, and a curious class of third graders.
After getting off the plane and arriving at my dorm room in a city I had never been to, I had no idea what to expect. I did not know anything about my roommate(s) or the dorm in general. I opened my door around midnight, thinking I was going to have the room to myself, only to realize I was sharing it with 2 other guys. The first, Miklos, a half-Ukrainian, half-Hungarian, was already in the room. Little did I know, he had been living in the dorm for a couple years and was studying for his Master’s degree. Through the semester, I got to know a lot about his culture, family, and personal struggles. He provided great tips and ‘insider’ knowledge about Budapest that I would not have known had I roomed with another American. This relationship was fundamental to my experience in Hungary and allowed me to gain a deeper understanding at Hungarian customs and more importantly, friendship.
My Gilman Scholar community service project was another relationship I fostered during my time. I partnered with Reach The World, to bring my experience through Skype and blog posts to a classroom of third graders in Brooklyn, NY. Every week, I wrote about experiences I was having, such as grocery shopping, riding a bus to another city, or being a part of the local Rotaract Club. The elementary school students were able to live vicariously through this and during our Skype sessions they were able to ask questions about these experiences. I understood quickly that I needed to relate to them and the best way to do that was through animals. These children loved hearing about animals, especially the Hungarian puli dogs. After engaging with them for more than 3 months, I learned the invaluable skill of interacting with children. They learned a lot about cultural differences, history, and local festivities. It was through Gilman that this amazing opportunity was provided and gave me great skills to carry into other aspects of my life.
The third relationship that became more meaningful than all was during my student internship. Every Tuesday and Wednesday, I would walk from my university to an office about 20 minutes away and work at a company by the name of SSP. Through this position, I fostered a great connection with a man named Todd. He not only provided me with valuable career skills, but opened up a new world for me – the option to work abroad after graduating college. He was an American who had taken the risk to move abroad after college, which inspired me to do the same. I ended up working for this company for 2 years after returning to the US, leading to great career development and connections that will last a lifetime.
Upon graduating, I moved to Berlin, Germany, where I worked for two years at a travel company, chasing and pursuing my dream. Without the Gilman Program, I never would have understood that there was this possibility of studying abroad. I can relate entirely to the classroom of third graders in Brooklyn and see my experience through their eyes. I hope one day, they will be encouraged to pursue their dreams and seek international experiences, while influencing the next generation to do the same.
In summary, receiving a Gilman Award is much more than a scholarship. This is a life-changing opportunity that provides a network of amazing individuals, opportunities to develop great skills and the ability to give back to any community where one might find themselves. I am looking forward to inspiring others to study abroad and seek impactful opportunities, as they are for anyone and everyone!