Seven UNH students with interests as varied as agricultural science and neurology have been honored by the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.
The program is offered by the U.S. Department of State to “enable students of limited financial means to study abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness.” Kiarra Austin ’21, Amada Guapisaca ’19, Tricia Kastelitz ’18, Allison Lehoux ’18, Rory O’Neil ’20, Avery Van De Water ’19 and Weicong “Tyler” Zeng ’18 were named scholarship recipients this spring.
“What’s really exciting is that UNH’s internationalization efforts seem to be gaining momentum and that we are seeing greater diversity among our Gilman applicants and winners,” says Jeanne Sokolowski, director of UNH’s Office of National Fellowships. “For example, our Gilman recipients for the summer cycles include a freshman, a critical language (Arabic) student, a daughter of immigrants, a biology major conducting research abroad, a transfer student and several first-generation college students. I hope that our student success in the Gilman competition sends the message loud and clear that study abroad is for everyone.”
Five of the scholarship winners discussed their future plans and what the Gilman means to them.
Amada Guapisaca ’19 will be interning in Lisbon, Portugal, through the Study in Portugal Network for eight weeks in June and July. There, she’ll work with the Fulbright Commission as a cultural exchange developer, supporting the exchange program and educational advising activities.
“Since my internship is a part-time position, I will also be taking classes at the University of Lisbon throughout the summer,” Guapisaca says. “If it weren’t for professor Fernando Beleza encouraging me to apply and helping me with my application and recommendations, I don’t think I would be able to take a part in this incredible opportunity.”
A TRIO Scholar, she also credits that program and the Office of National Fellowships for helping make her Gilman award a reality. “The Office of National Fellowships reviewed each one of my essay drafts and gave me really effective feedback, helping me make my essays the best that they could be,” she says.
UNH, she says, is helping her attain her educational and long-term goals with her dual major in economics and international affairs. “The advising team at Paul College has been amazing to me with all the twist and turns in my educational experience,” she says, adding, “Without the classes and experiences I’ve had at UNH, I never would have seen myself wanting to get into the field of public diplomacy for the U.S. Department of State.”
Allison Lehoux ’18 will be studying in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, for five weeks. “By studying abroad, I will take away a personal perspective of Italy’s food system at work and become part of a completely different food atmosphere in which food is fresher and grown locally,” she says.
Lehoux says she has always been interested in exploring the world. “Especially since becoming a sustainable agriculture and food systems major, I have wanted to see how other countries view agriculture and value their food systems — and what better place to do that than in Italy with its well-known cuisine,” she says.
“Being a first-generation college student, I figured it would be impossible for me to study abroad due to lack of funding … Receiving the Gilman has given me the opportunity to go abroad, gain hands-on experiences and enhance my education outside of the usual classroom setting,” she says.
Rory O’Neil ’20 will be spending the summer in Amman, Jordan, at the CIEE Study Center as part of the Arabic Summer Intensive language and cultural immersion program. A political science and international affairs dual major with minors in Middle Eastern and security studies, O’Neil says studying abroad has been one of her goals.
“The summer study abroad that I am participating in is ideal because it allows me to focus solely on language and cultural acquisition without worrying about keeping up on major requirements,” she explains. “It also allows me to make connections in my host country for additional study abroad opportunities in the future, such as an IROP or SURF Abroad from the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research.” O’Neil previously took part in the center’s Research Experience and Apprenticeship Program.
Like her fellow Gilman recipients, she has high praise for the Office of National Fellowships. “Jeanne Sokolowski is an invaluable resource for weighing all your options, deciding on the best application processes for you and then completing a competitive application,” she says, adding, “She keeps you focused and gives you encouragement in the crucial times where you may feel overwhelmed or defeated.”
Avery Van De Water ’19 will be studying at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging and Institute of Neurology of University College London. She’ll also be taking an intensive three-day course to prepare for her research, and will bring data from professor Donald Robin’s Imaging, Motor Performance and Rehabilitation of Voice/Speech Laboratory to analyze for her honors thesis.
“I am so excited to have the opportunity to study abroad and diversify my college experience as well as to immerse myself in cultures apart from my own,” she says.
A busy student on campus — co-founder of UNH’s chapter of Nu Rho Psi, a national honor society in neuroscience, who has been involved in cutting-edge research and has served in various posts for residential life — Van De Water notes that each achievement so far “was also a goal that I never would have imagined possible without the support from countless professors, supervisors, UNH staff members and some wonderful friends that I have made in my time here at UNH.”
Weicong “Tyler” Zeng '18 will spend five weeks in Berlin, Germany, taking an advanced German class and a course on German culture. "As part of the program, we will be visiting museums and the Holocaust memorial,” he explains. “Each student is required to research a topic of their choice, which will be presented in the last week of the program."
Zeng says traveling is one of his passions. "I always wanted to live in another country for an extended period of time, so study abroad has always been my goal."
During his years on campus, he says, "I am glad that I participated in two Undergraduate Research Conferences here at UNH, which gave recognition to my writing and research skills. These skills will help me with a broad range of employment opportunities."