Study Abroad Within Reach for Pell Grant Students Too By Matthew H. Daugherty

Maybe you’ve been thinking you’d like to do something really fun while you’re in college, like go study in another country. But if you’re a student receiving financial aid, you might be telling yourself it’s only for people with a lot of money. Well, you’d be wrong about that.  For students on Pell Grants, a Federal program exists called the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship that can award as much as $5,000 for a summer or semester abroad. By combining a Gilman scholarship with other available scholarships or a loan, it may be completely feasible for you to study abroad and learn another language.

            Being one of three USA students who received the Gilman for the USA in Russia Summer Program this year, I can tell you it was totally worth the somewhat rigorous application process I went through last February. We spent five weeks in Moscow and one week in St. Petersburg in June and July, staying in a dormitory for Russian students at the Higher School of Economics. We were taught by Russian teachers, met Russian students, and went on numerous excursions to places I never expected to see in my life, like the Kremlin, the Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace, and an ancient Orthodox monastery. As Gilman scholars, we were even invited to the Independence Day reception of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, where we met U.S. ambassador John F. Tefft. In short, study abroad was a blast.

            Gilman scholarships are available to study numerous languages in countries all around the world, with emphasis on countries outside of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. For students studying critical need languages such as Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Turkish or Farsi, for example, the scholarship award may be as high as $8,000. The program is aimed at, but not limited to, students who are underrepresented in study abroad, such as students with high financial need, students in underrepresented fields like the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, students who have been in foster care or adopted, and students with disabilities.

To qualify for the Gilman, an applicant must be receiving or about to receive a Federal Pell Grant. The student must also be applying to or accepted into a study-abroad program or internship of the University of South Alabama or another accredited institution of higher education in the U.S.  The application is completed online, and the required two essays are especially important. One is a Statement of Purpose essay explaining the applicant’s reasons for wanting to study abroad, and the other is a Follow-on Service Project Proposal in which the applicant explains how he or she will promote the Gilman Scholarship to other students or targeted groups after returning from study abroad. USA students can get help with their essays at the Office of International Education.  Deadlines are strict; for example, the application deadline for summer study in 2016 is March 1, 2016.

For information about the Gilman Scholarship, go to For information about USA study abroad programs as well as other scholarships that could be combined with the Gilman, such as a USA Study Abroad Scholarship, go to the Office of International Education at 2300 Meisler Hall and check out their website: .  The Gilman Scholarship might just be your key to a life-changing experience.

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