Hello everyone! My name is Andy Wu, and I am a first-generation graduate from Lehigh University. I was fortunate to be awarded the Gilman Scholarship, and I experienced the semester of a lifetime in Hong Kong during the spring of 2019. For 2021-2022, I am serving as one of the Gilman Scholarship’s Alumni Ambassadors to help others open doors to international experiences that can forge greater self-awareness, personally and professionally.
Enjoying a historical building of Three Lanes and Seven Alleys (三坊七巷) in Fuzhou City, China with my exchange friends
Before Going Abroad:
The Gilman Scholarship Program not only provided me with a support group prior to studying abroad in Hong Kong but also gave me the motivation to go overseas. The intensive application process helped me cultivate a better understanding of Hong Kong’s cultural and economic success as a global financial hub. I hoped Hong Kong’s distinct mix of eastern and western cultures would build directly on my dreams of becoming a professional businessman with a better understanding of Chinese heritage. Through this purpose, I became motivated and excited to embark on this journey. I was not anxious about leaving the United States because I could contact Gilman if I experienced an emergency while overseas. Little did I know, this sense of support I felt prior to going abroad would remain even after my study abroad experience concluded.
Taken at Love Locks near N Seoul Tower in Seoul, South Korea
A major benefit of the study abroad experience was the skill development I gained from this rewarding opportunity. In short, I developed a growth mindset to ease my transition into a foreign environment. As the only student from my home institution, I was saddled with the complicated task of establishing a personal community during my first few weeks. I became comfortable with being uncomfortable–learning to engage with students from all walks of life at different orientation programs and interacting with students in class. Through my ISOM 2310: Chronicle of Internet Commerce course, I befriended Andrew, a freshman from the Philippines, and our biweekly lunches after class became a tradition of discussing each other’s upbringings and philosophical differences. Furthermore, through our orientation trip to Victoria Peak, I met a group of ten exchange students from six countries. For four months, our daily dinner and evening meetings in the studying room became an enriching learning experience of understanding culture, language, and value divergences rooted in our vastly different, yet surprisingly similar, familial bonds and backgrounds.
Outside of campus, whether through our Hong Kong city/hiking adventures or through our time venturing out to China and South Korea, I also became well-equipped in travel planning. Using Google Sheets, I learned to develop an itinerary within our time constraints and budget. While planning trips as a group, we discussed unforeseen circumstances and what communication tactics to employ to tackle each situation, along with dinner and sightseeing plans that were inclusive of everyone’s interests. The successful outcomes strengthened my flexibility and problem-solving skills. Thanks to the Gilman experience, these skills positively influence my personal and professional lives to this day.
Cherishing my last lunch with friends at a Shanghainese restaurant in Wong Tai Sin District, Hong Kong
After Going Abroad:
Even after turning the page on my semester exchange, my experiences abroad with the Gilman Scholarship program are the link through which I live vicariously to this day. The memories motivate me to grow each day to build upon that chapter. Prior to becoming an alumni ambassador, I utilized the Gilman Professional Development Funding to take a fully funded certified edX course for two months on Business Analytics for Data-Driven Decision Making to expand my horizons in the field of information technology. In addition, I was selected to attend a virtual U.S. Future Leaders Career Readiness Seminar on Technology and Entrepreneurship hosted by Ohio State University, where I had the opportunity to engage with forty other Gilman alumni and discuss technology trends in business, such as FinTech, smart transportation, and healthcare. I am very much in awe and appreciative of the generous Gilman Scholarship for continuing to find unique ways to invest in its scholars, even after the completion of the program requirements.
As a Gilman alumnus, another major perk is the ability to participate in the Gilman Alumni Ambassador program, which allows me to see the other alumni benefits come to fruition through various media. The ambassador program gives me the chance to connect with six colleges across the nation and present this unique scholarship to study and intern abroad. While engaging with the 36,000+ Gilman alumni audience, I was able to mentor and connect with three ambitious college students through the easy-to-use Gilman Scholar Network: Gilman’s personalized LinkedIn platform. I provided one-on-one coaching sessions on transitions after the life-changing international experience. More recently, I took part in Career Connections Global+, a seminar series for U.S. alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs, where I received thought-provoking insights from expert professionals on how to advance my career.
While an applicant might perceive the Gilman Scholarship as just a study abroad funding mechanism, I can attest that once a Gilman scholar, you will receive a life-long opportunity for growth and an additional network of U.S. government-sponsored exchange alumni to propel professional advancement. In essence, receiving the Gilman Scholarship means a long-lasting impact of worthwhile acceleration to personal and professional development, and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to be granted this tremendous eye-opening Gilman experience. I had a great time abroad, and so will you if you choose to pursue this international adventure!
Connecting with people at memorable places leads to some unforgettable memories (photo taken on Seoul City Wall Trail)