More U of A Students Afforded Study Abroad Experiences Through Gilman Scholarship

Breanna Kilgore during her time studying abroad in Switzerland this summer.

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Breanna Kilgore during her time studying abroad in Switzerland this summer.

U of A student Breanna Kilgore had the experience of a lifetime this summer when she spent six weeks studying global health and developmental policy in Switzerland. When not in the classroom, the biomedical engineering major from El Dorado was able to attend briefings from international organizations such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, in addition to conducting field research with biotechnology professionals.

The experience “produced memories for a lifetime,” Kilgore said. And she may not have been able to do it had it not been for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

Since its inception in 2001, the Gilman Scholarship has provided transformational study abroad opportunities for more than 34,000 American students with limited financial means — helping to provide transformational experiences for students while also providing a true representation of the diversity of American students.

“One of the big goals of the Gilman Scholarship is to accurately represent the breadth of US students studying abroad. Not all students are white and middle class who are financially advantaged and study in Western Europe,” said Katie Sabo, senior study abroad coordinator. “That includes students from all walks of life, from first-generation students who haven’t left their home state much less traveled abroad.”

And more U of A students are realizing these opportunities, thanks to the Office of Study Abroad in the Graduate School and International Education. While the university has traditionally had an acceptance rate of 20-25 percent among U of A students applying for the scholarship, the 2021-22 school year saw that number skyrocket to 65 percent. Several factors led to that increase, according to Sabo.

“In the past academic year, we’ve revamped our advising model and scholarship workshop model for the Gilman Scholarship, which has helped,” Sabo said. “But over the last few years, international mobility was limited, so a lot of awards weren’t able to be used, so I think that does come into effect, too.”

Kilgore first heard about the scholarship from the Honors College during a study abroad workshop. A participant in the college’s Path Program, she applied after encouragement from her mentor and the program’s director.

When she found out she had received the scholarship, she was “ecstatic.”

“I was excited to not only be receiving financial assistance, but also support during and after the program,” she said. “This scholarship is definitely a resume booster and provides an opportunity for me to possibly work for the US government with the non-competitive eligibility for job applications.”

“I also felt relieved when I realized I would have 24/7 emergency support while abroad, which made me feel extremely safe,” she continued. “This made me happy to be welcomed into the Gilman Scholarship family, and I was excited to finally live my dream of traveling outside of the country.”

Sabo reiterated the importance of study abroad experiences for students, both for professional and personal development.

“It’s important that the academic, personal and career benefits that go hand-in-hand with study abroad are opportunities available to all students,” Sabo said. “Just as it’s important for their voices to be heard in the community abroad, it’s also important for those students to have experiences that have tangible benefits such as higher GPAs, higher retention and graduation rates and higher employability.”

More information on the Gilman Scholarship can be found on its website or on the Study Abroad website.

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