Students receive Gilman Scholarship

by Kelly Gerdts

Senior Paul Munoz and sophomore Kelly Hein were two of 854 undergraduates nationwide to receive the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship this semester. The scholarship rewards students with five thousand dollars to put towards their semester abroad in Thailand.

Munoz, a biology major and Spanish minor and Hein, a sociology major, with minors in Spanish and religion, left for Chiang Mai, Thailand early on Jan. 12. They will spend the semester in the Thai and Southeast Asian Studies Program at Payap University. While there, they will learn the Thai language, history and culture with students from all over the world.

“I have heard many stories from a friend of mine who had done some missionary work in Thailand, and ever since then I have been intrigued by the country,” Hein said. “When I saw Simpson had a program set up to study abroad there, I was thrilled and wanted to take on the adventure.”

Munoz had similar reasons.

“It’s a developing country and I wanted to see that, and it was a place I know I wouldn’t visit later in life,” Munoz said. ” I want to learn some of the language and look into some of their alternative methods of health care.”

Hein also has a list of things she would like to accomplish while overseas.

“By expanding my environment and experiences, I hope to broaden the way I think,” Hein said. “In order to do so, I have to realize that all the thoughts that have been implanted in my head up till now might not be right, and this new culture might.”

To apply for the Gilman Scholarship students must fill out the online application, which includes two essays. The first essay is the statement of purpose. In this essay students tell the committee about themselves and reflect on how the study abroad program they have chosen and the Gilman Scholarship will impact their academic, professional and personal goals and what challenges they have faced in their decision to study abroad.

The second essay is the follow-on project proposal. This project is meant to help promote the Gilman Scholarship Program and study abroad programs in general. In this essay students must outline their plan to share their study abroad experiences with the community.

For example, Munoz plans to return to his high school in Correctionville, Iowa.

“I will be talking to juniors and seniors who are thinking about college,” Munoz said. “I hope it will interest them more into just going to college, not just studying abroad, because my school didn’t have as many kids go to college.”

When they return from Thailand, Munoz and Hein will have six months to complete their Follow-on Project.

According to Simpson’s International Education Coordinator, Jay Wilkinson, Simpson has a very good track record when it comes to students receiving the Gilman Scholarship.

“In the last two years we’ve had five students apply and four have gotten it,” Wilkinson said. “We’ve been very fortunate.”

The scholarship aims to help undergraduate students who might otherwise not be able to participate due to financial reasons. In order to qualify for this scholarship you must already be receiving a Pell Grant.

The other reason is that this year’s recipients did not find out that they had received the scholarship until early December. Students have to be committed to the trip before hearing back about the scholarship. According to Wilkinson, getting the scholarship means the student doesn’t have to take out as much in loans.

Normally, after students have applied and been accepted Wilkinson goes to financial aid and they work together to target eligible students.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Wilkinson said. “Students who receive Pell Grants should definitely consider applying.”

For students who plan to study abroad this summer or next fall, the deadline for the Gilman Scholarship is March 1.