Four Elon students received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a Department of State grant dedicated to funding opportunities for underrepresented students to study in underrepresented locations.
By Natalie Zagorski ‘20
With the opportunity provided through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, Araya Sykes ’20, Jaylan Evans ’20, Jordyn McAtee ’19 and La’Shaundranique Marshall ’20 are studying abroad this semester in various programs from London to Cape Town.
The Gilman Scholarship program is a way for students to obtain global engagement experiences regardless of their financial means.
The scholarship program is open to undergraduate students in the U.S. who currently receive Federal Pell Grant funding at two-year or four-year colleges or universities. This program allows students to study or intern abroad, allowing them to internationalize their outlook on the world and help them in becoming more globally-engaged citizens.
Sykes is spending her fall semester in the United Kingdom studying at the Theatre Academy London. Sykes is most excited about the chance to “fully experience and engage in a new culture” and looks forward to the new skill she will gain from being challenged by different perspectives.
The Gilman Scholarship application “made me consider why I had applied to the specific study abroad program that I chose,” says Sykes. “It also made me think more deeply about what accomplishments I hoped to achieve and the impacts that I anticipated that it would have on me both now, as a student, as well as in a future professional career.”
Sykes hopes that upon her return to Elon she can show the university community how impactful a global engagement can be on the educational experience and how scholarships like the Gilman make studying abroad financially possible.
Evans is also studying at the Theatre Academy London.
Never having left the U.S. before, Evans is excited to experience growth in himself and his worldly experiences as he studies classical drama and culture in Europe. He recognizes that as a music theater major, there are often perceived barriers to going abroad for the semester.
While many students sit out global engagement due to a fear of missing training at their home institution and losing footing in a competitive market, Evans hopes that other students will realize that going abroad is a possibility, and a great opportunity to practice their craft in a new setting.
“I understand Europe is a popular place to travel, but not many are usually an African-American, male, artist wishing to study acting,” says Evans. “My hopes are to disrupt the common patterns and stereotypes such as Caucasian, female, humanity majors being the majority demographic traveling to Europe. I can be a role model for other underrepresented individuals like myself, letting young black men know that they too can study abroad.”
McAtee is studying in the United Kingdom but at the Elon Center in London.
McAtee is excited to spend her semester in a city where so much art, culture, and history exist due to its diverse population and complex history. She spoke on her Gilman application process, sharing that that vulnerability and authenticity are key characteristics in pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
“When you are dedicated and true to the things you’re passionate about, there will always be a way for you to accomplish your dreams no matter how far out of reach they seem,” McAtee says. “For many students, financial issues are the main reason that they cannot pursue a study abroad experience, and with my project, I am hoping to eliminate that barrier for as many students of color as possible through education and exposure to outside funding for trips such as mine.”
After studying in Cape Town, South Africa, Marshall hopes to be able to look back on the compelling history and culture of the country and appreciate all she learned through her experience after she returns home. Her Gilman application helped her learn a lot about herself.
“I learned about the specific goals that I want to achieve while abroad, and I made connections between my short-term and long-term goals. I was also able to think of creative ways to help other students learn about the Gilman scholarship,” Marshall says. “Hopefully once more students learn about this scholarship, they will take advantage of this resource that can help them have a meaningful study abroad experience.”
The mission of the Benjamin A. Gilman program is parallel to that of Elon University. Elon’s core values include diversity, inclusion, and global engagement. As Elon leads the nation in study abroad participation rates, the university recognizes the need to extend this opportunity to all Elon students. As part of the Elon strategic plan, the university aims to provide 100 percent access to global engagement, regardless of family finances and other barriers.
“The Global Education Center is eager to support Elon students who are interested in applying for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship,” says Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion in Study Abroad Allegra Laing. “As an office, we have a goal for 50 percent of our Pell-eligible students to submit an application for the Spring 2019 scholarship cycle. We are dedicated to seeing the number of Gilman winners on our campus grow, and are working to more heavily promote this scholarship.”
Shanna Van Beek, Communications Manager for Global Education, contributed to this report.