Two Gilman Winners for Summer 2014

Release Date: 
Monday, May 5, 2014

Two UNH students have received competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to fund study abroad trips in summer 2014. They are Gabriela Aguilera and Lena Khawatmi.

Since 2013, eleven UNH students have received Gilman Scholarships, which provide up to $5000 in financial support to students who are traveling abroad on university-approved programs that are four weeks or longer. For students studying a critical language, that amount can be increased to $8000. To be eligible for a Gilman, a student must have financial need, as evidenced by being a Pell grant recipient.

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.

Gabriela Aguilera, a junior Russian/Justice Studies dual major from Cincinnati, OH, received $4000 to participate in the Bishkek Summer Internship Program in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, run through the American University of Central Asia and Bard College. “I was thrilled and definitely shocked when I found out I had received a Gilman scholarship,” Gabby said. “Studying abroad is such a wonderful opportunity in itself and receiving the Gilman will allow me to fully immerse myself in this experience without being preoccupied by the financial aspect of it.”

In her application essay, Aguilera explained that the Bishkek program offers opportunities to learn and develop skills relevant to both of her majors. This program provides a chance for Aguilera to immerse herself in a country where Russian is widely spoken and also intern with a non-government organization in the area of Human Rights, Immigration, and Peace Building.

For her follow-on project when she returns, Aguilera will work with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA) to develop a presentation and workshop specifically geared toward minority, first generation, and other under-represented students.

In her application, Aguilera noted the need for additional outreach to these groups, writing, “The Center for International Education at the University of New Hampshire does a wonderful job of reaching out to the student body in general and making them aware of the study abroad opportunities that are available to them. However,” she added, “I have met many students who are minorities, first generation, and non-traditional who think that these study abroad opportunities are unattainable.”

Aguilera will use her presentation as an opportunity to encourage students to consider study abroad and provide some of the resources that will help make international travel possible.

Lena Khawatmi, a junior Political Science/International affairs dual major from Salem, NH, will be traveling to Jordan for the Summer Middle East Studies program through the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) program at the Princess Sumaya University of Technology in Amman. Khawatmi received the maximum award of $8000 to fund her study. “The first thing I did when I found out was call my parents,” Lena said. “I was so excited. I could not believe that I get to study in the Middle East and not have to worry about how I am going to pay for it!”

Khawatmi, who hopes to one day work for the State Department, looks forward to bringing her insight and perspective back to the UNH campus this fall. As she wrote in her Gilman application, “I am hoping to be an ambassador for an underrepresented and misunderstood region of the world.”

Khawatmi will do a presentation in the Memorial Union Building for her follow-on project, either during International Education week or as part of the Cultural Connections series. She will give an overview of her experience and research in Jordan as well as provide food and pictures.

Gilman Scholarships are offered twice a year, with deadlines in October and March. The Office of National Fellowships, the Financial Aid Office, and the Center for International Education work closely with Pell-eligible students to advertise the Gilman Scholarship and support students who choose to apply.

“The Office of National Fellowships provided me with extensive support while I was going through the application process,” Aguilera said. “The director, Jeanne Sokolowski, convinced me to apply for the scholarship in the first place when I had hesitations about my qualifications for it.”

Khawatmi agreed. “Her dedication, along with the help of CIE, opened my eyes to several scholarship opportunities that I didn't even know existed,” she said. “I am so grateful to have advisors on campus that want to see me succeed in every aspect of my college experience.  I could not have done it without them!”

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


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

Written by Jeanne Sokolowski, Director, Office of National Fellowships