Everything began with a chance. The dreams of a kid in the streets of Maryland to get an education and make something of himself became a reality, all that was needed was a chance. Aside from getting a public education, the kid began to do work as a landscaper, as a house painter, and so on. Told that there was absolutely no way he could succeed beyond high school, it was best to be comfortable with his current labor skills. Ambitious, the kid applied to colleges in secret, wanting to also surprise his parents, he gambled his future for more. At the age of eighteen, the kid was accepted into an institution but with no means of getting there, the dream could have ended there. He hitchhiked, fled over 200 miles alone to get a higher education, and a new chapter of his life began without expectations.
That kid was me. When I made the journey to my institution, I had no idea where I was going or what I should expect. I did not want to expect anything, I wanted the surprise of the unexpected from here on. The only thought in my mind was that I wanted to take full advantage of this chance to go to college. When it came to studying abroad, I wanted to do it but thought that it would take an immense amount of out of pocket money to do so, but I was willing to do so. I worked as much as five jobs my first year to cover my tuition and to save for my study abroad experience. Each job gave amazing experience, and expanded my network to hear of more opportunities. My journey took a huge turn when I heard of the Gilman Scholarship by the end of my first year.
I gambled with the Gilman Scholarship, if I were to be denied, I had plenty of semesters to try again. I wanted to at least take my shot at it. I was the recipient of the Scholarship for the Spring of 2020 in the first try, it was unbelievable. The Gilman helped me in two fields
- It was a chance to travel and learn, it was phenomenal to be up in the air. It was a chance to meet people of a different culture. As a kid, I only heard stories of what was beyond the borders of the United States but with no way to see it for myself. There were many differences between my Hispanic culture and their culture (Nepal, Jordan, etc.) and also similarities. What I learned through the study abroad program, a program on Human Rights, truly cemented my ambitions to study international law.
- The money I saved thinking that studying abroad was going to be very very expensive was used to help me see my family after a decade apart. I was reunited with my grandfather who was one of the few people to believe that I could reach high. Once he recognized who I was, there were a lot of tears. I could not help but tell him of all the opportunities at college and all the places I have traveled. Yet, with all the opportunities in the world, I still yearned to return to my roots, to my family.
Being a Gilman Scholar has been more than simply receiving a scholarship fund. When I was abroad I learned about what more it provided, but as my grandpa would say, only if you’re curious enough. The Gilman Scholarship opened the door to a variety of opportunities and support. I learned about the Fulbright which I plan to apply for in the future. I learned about the Gilman Network that excited me, getting to meet new people. It helped me prepare for the law process even more which has been great and learn a bit about what it’s like to be a law student. Helped me return to the United States in the Spring of 2020 which was my study abroad semester, an unforgettable journey. And presented me with the opportunity to be a Gilman Ambassador.
Now at the age of 22, I not only received the Gilman Scholarship but became one of the ambassadors of the scholarship. It has been phenomenal to speak about the amazing national scholarship and encourage others to apply. The scholarship for me, was a chance given to me, which for me is the best gift anyone can offer. A chance to prove myself, and my work as an ambassador is not only to explore more opportunities but a way to say thank you, for giving me a chance. My story is a very strange one, but shows how much the Gilman Scholarship can do for a student with its support. I am grateful for the chances I have been given and future ones yet to be. I hope that through the presentation of the Gilman Scholarship whether virtual or in-person and other activities within the Gilman Network I have shown the high value of this amazing scholarship. Through each experience, I hope I can help even more people in the future.
It all begins with a chance, Gilman Scholarship give me a chance, and I chose to take it.