My name is Ayyad Algabyali and I am currently a Gilman Ambassador for 2020-2021. I received the Gilman Scholarship for my internship at the US Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for the year of 2018.
As a Gilman Ambassador, I want to convey the importance of abroad experience to Gilman Scholars and college students. The experience afforded to me by the Gilman scholarship has enabled me to nurture my leadership skills and become an all-around better decision-maker and the person who I am today. Before going abroad through this and the Department of State Internship Program, I had envisioned a career in diplomacy through which I aspired to serve my fellow compatriots abroad and represent my country and the values it stands for. However, the exposure I had at the American embassy in Saudi Arabia, in addition to the major shifts in the political climate back home opened my eyes to the amount of work that had to be done at a more local level.
Interning abroad not only allowed me to work alongside US diplomats yet strengthened my knowledge about diplomacy and enriched me with first-hand experiences. During my internship abroad, I learned the culture and political dynamics of my host country, Saudi Arabia. It also allowed me to gain a more in-depth understanding of U.S. foreign policy towards Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East region. Also, the Gilman scholarship not only supported me financially for my internship yet allowed me to learn about effective ways to promote collaboration among diverse groups of people, build coalitions, and find solutions to common issues. The internship along with field excursions and speaking with Saudi citizens offered me the chance to explore the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as it shifts to a “Modern Monarchy”. Moreover, I was able to witness life-changing events such as allowing women to drive, a right Saudi woman had been seeking for many years. While abroad, I utilized my strong bilingual writing, speaking, and communication skills to assist our diplomats.
In conclusion, the Gilman Scholarship helped me in becoming the person I am today. The abroad experience is endless, and I will forever remain grateful both to the Gilman family and the Department of State Internship Program. I am urging you to study or intern abroad because of the rich experiences and the life-time connections/friends you will make during your time abroad.