UNH Students Travel to Japan, Ecuador on Gilman Scholarships

Release Date: 
Friday, December 6, 2013

Two UNH students have received prestigious and competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to fund study abroad trips in Spring 2014. They are Andrea Dionne (L) and Charlene Higgins (R).

Gilman Scholarships provide up to $5000 in financial support to students who are traveling abroad on university-approved programs that are four weeks or longer. To be eligible for a Gilman, a student must have financial need, as evidenced by being a Pell grant recipient. Both Dionne and Higgins received the full $5000 scholarship amount.

The Gilman Scholarship requires that students commit to a “follow on” project upon their return to the U.S. These projects help advertise the benefits of study abroad and the Gilman program to the university and local communities.

Andrea Dionne, a junior Linguistics/International Affairs dual major from Stratham, NH, is headed to Nishinomiya, Japan, in the Kansai region, where Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto are located. She has advanced proficiency in Japanese (she passed the highest level Japanese government proficiency exam) and chose the Kwansei Gakuin University (KGU) program because she will be able to take classes for both her majors taught entirely in Japanese. Dionne didn’t believe she actually had won when she first read the email. Now that reality has sunk in, she says, “I’m excited about the region KGU is in. I’m looking forward to the temples, castles, and traditional gardens, as well as experiencing cherry blossom season.” For her follow-on project when she returns, Dionne will do her part to help increase the number of UNH students going to Japan by speaking to Japanese classes here and specifically addressing common questions and concerns about studying in Japan.

Charlene Higgins, a senior Environmental and Resource Economics major and Honors program student from Hamburg, NY, will be traveling to Ecuador on the School for International Training (SIT) program. “I opened my email after returning from a long day of classes and work to find the pleasant surprise of receiving a Gilman scholarship!” Higgins said. She is eager to get hands-on experience in the field of development through the SIT program, which includes field-oriented research and the opportunity to study Spanish and Quechua. Through SIT, she’ll have the chance to visit the Amazon, improve her Spanish proficiency, and “learn from others with different life histories and perspectives.” Higgins’ follow-on project will create a bridge between New Hampshire and Ecuador: she will organize an e-tutoring/peer mentorship program between Ecuadorian youth and UNH Spanish students.

Gilman Scholarships are offered twice a year, with deadlines in October and March. Jeanne Sokolowski, the Director of the Office of National Fellowships, contacted all UNH Pell grant recipients in September with general information on the scholarship, held several information sessions and worked closely with students applying.

These students were also advised by the Center for International Education on choosing a program that was an excellent fit for their academic and professional plans, which is an essential factor in writing competitive applications for the Gilman. The Center will continue its support to the Gilman winners through one-on-one advising, pre-departure orientation and reentry services—similar support that it gives to the approximately 25% of all UNH students who study abroad.

The winners are also involved in two other Hood House programs: the International Affairs (IA) major (Dionne) and the Honors program (Higgins). The IA program includes language proficiency, study and research abroad, and capstone project and presentation requirements. The Honors program provides an enhanced academic experience for intellectually motivated students.

Interim senior vice provost for academic affairs, P.T. Vasudevan, congratulated the winners, remarking, "We are celebrating the 14th anniversary of International Education Week and the timing of this award notification is perfect. The international experience in Japan and Ecuador will prepare these two students to work effectively in a globalized world. It will help them gain skills, self-reliance and a world view to compete in a global economy.”

Vasudevan added, “The Center for International Education and the Fellowships Office, along with the Honors and International Affairs progams, should be commended for working together to support these outstanding students."

About the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships: The Gilman Program aims to increase the number and diversity of students studying abroad, including students studying in non-traditional countries, especially those outside of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand; students with diverse ethnic backgrounds; students from a diverse range of institutions; students engaged in non-traditional (for study abroad) fields of study, such as the sciences and engineering; and students with disabilities. For more information, visit http://www.iie.org/Programs/Gilman-Scholarship-Program

About the Office of National Fellowships: Established in 2005, the UNH Office of National Fellowships provides information, counsel, and editorial support to high achieving students applying for national and international fellowships and scholarships. The services of the Fellowships Office are available to undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni who are interested in opportunities like the Gilman Scholarship. Contact Jeanne Sokolowski at (603) 862-0733 or jeanne.sokolowski@unh.edu