My name is Thomas, and I am a 2021-2022 Gilman Alumni Ambassador from Alabama. I graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2020 with a degree in International Studies and a minor in Anthropology, which is the field of the master’s program that I am actively pursuing at the same university. As a Gilman Scholar, I studied the Arabic language abroad in Amman, Jordan in 2019.
When I as preparing my Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship application one of the sections I was most concerned about was the Follow-on Service Project. The Follow-on Service Project is not only vital to the Gilman scholarship’s ideals and goals but was vital to me in my growth and arrival back to the United States from abroad.
The Follow-on Service Project can be a stressful idea to think of both when you are writing your application and when the times comes to actually complete your approved project. However, with some simple tips and tricks it can become a rewarding experience that you may hold as in such high regard as even your study abroad experience.
For my Follow-on Service Project I proposed to speak to local low-income high schools about the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, the application, and my experience of studying abroad. My proposal was accepted with no modifications requested and I was able to get started on my proposal swiftly after my arrival back to the US from studying abroad. However, I underestimated the obligations I had including my University classes, the clubs I was a member of, my family, and my other social relationships, as well as my Follow-on Service Project. I quickly had to dial in all of my responsibilities and work to stay motivated to complete my project. In order to complete the project I incorporated the following tips to get it done and make it not just beneficial for the students I spoke with but also for myself.
#1. Stay Organized
- While I recommend that you always organize your tasks and time throughout the day, no matter what, navigating your responsibilities AND the Follow-on Service Project calls for even more dedication to staying organized. This tip entails blocking of your time everyday and dedication substantial time towards preparing for your project, conducting your project, and subsequently writing up your project report that you will submit to the Gilman program.
#2. One Step at a Time
- It is important to keep the overall big picture of your project in mind, but breaking up your entire project, including your preparation and follow-up report, into bite sized tasks will help you get to the finish line without tearing out more of your hair. Give yourself short-term goals that lead to mid-term goals, that lead to the long-term goal of finishing your project.
- Be sure to hold yourself accountable to the smaller tasks you worked out from Tip #2. You could do this by putting task completion dates in your calendar, asking your friends and family to check in with you to ensure you are on track, and by setting meeting/presentation dates well ahead of time so you have plenty of time to prepare. Holding yourself accountable will help prevent you from procrastinating and losing track of your tasks and self-made due dates.
#4. Review and Analyze
- When you start to lose motivation and drive to complete your Follow-on Service Project, you should take a step back and review the goals you have set for your self and analyze whether they are realistic in the timeframe you have set for yourself. Burn out is a real thing and forcing too many tasks in short of a time will certainly not result in your best performance for your project. If all else fails, remember why you proposed your Follow-on Service Project and remind yourself how much your study abroad experience benefited yourself and hopefully you will the feel more motivated to share the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship with others.
Your Follow-on Service Project is a big project and task to accomplish. You should take care in how you prepare, conduct, and analyze your project in your report. Hopefully, like me, you will gain another incredible experience showing others just how real the possibility of studying abroad is.