This year, Kristina (Kris) Hale and Carlos Giron are expanding their world view, literally.
The juniors from California State University, Dominguez Hills have been named 2012-13 recipients of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a competitive grant program through the U.S. State Department that aims to make it financially easier for undergraduates to afford the opportunity to study abroad either for a summer, semester, or year. Hale is spending eight weeks this summer in Thailand through the nonprofit University Study Abroad Consortium, and Giron will be spending a full academic year in England through the CSU International Programs. A third student, Stephan Fomenko, who is currently completing his final semester of a year abroad in South Africa, also received a $3,000 Gilman Scholarship. He could not be reached for this story.
Learning only weeks before she left in June that she had been awarded $3,000, Hale said the news was an “an enormous relief.”
“I was going to Thailand on faith that everything financially would work out. I had just enough to make the trip but not to do it stress free,” said the 37-year-old English major. “I still have financial responsibilities here, and I would have been counting every penny while I was away. Receiving the Gilman Scholarship allows me to have the trip that I envisioned and to do all the things that I hoped to do.”
The Long Beach resident, who had never previously traveled overseas, was attracted to study abroad because it would allow her to fulfill a dream of seeing the world, and because “when you have lived in one place for so long it is easy to believe that ‘this is it’ when in reality this is only the surface of what the world has to offer.” She chose Thailand because of how different from the U.S. it seemed to her.
“I felt that Thailand would allow me to experience cultural diversity in a greater way,” she said. “The culture of Thailand is very different from the U.S. and, in my opinion, will offer more lessons… than a place with a greater American presence.”
While there, Hale has been teaching English to local students, taking classes in Buddhism and international business relations, meeting people, and exploring the country.
When she returns home next month she would like to share her experiences in hopes of encouraging more people to travel.
Related Article: Student Kris Hale on Her Time in Thailand
It may take until he’s on the plane for it to truly sink in to Giron, 21, that he will be spending a full year in England. He has never lived very far from where he grew up in South Central Los Angeles, and has never traveled outside of the United States, but said he wanted to take advantage of this opportunity offered him as a student to expand his horizons.
“I’ll be away for a whole year, which scares me, but I know when I get back I’ll have a new perspective on life and myself,” he said. “What I’m really looking forward to is the experience itself.”
“My parents have always talked about going to that part of the world,” he said, adding that from the perspective as a political science major he wanted to go there because “the UK also has a long history of political influence on the United States, which I find very interesting.”
From September 2012 to June 2013, Giron will be attending the University of Hull, in the village of Cottingham on the eastern coast of northern England. He plans to continue his studies in his major and enroll in political science classes. Outside of class, he would like to immerse himself in the campus culture by joining various student clubs, and he would like to do a lot of traveling.
Giron doesn’t intend to work while he’s there, so he’s been working a lot now, and socking away every penny he can. He said the $5,000 he was awarded through the Gilman International Scholarship was a welcome surprise, and one that ensures he really is going.
“I still can’t believe this is happening. It feels like a dream,” he said.
A number of CSU Dominguez Hills students each year choose to study abroad as a way of broadening their educational and cultural experiences. The university’s International Education Center helps students through the process of selecting and applying for a study abroad program and assists them in understanding the costs associated and financial aid, scholarship and work study options available to them. For more information, visit the IEC in Room 136A of Small College Complex 1, call (310) 243-3919 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.