For Nicolette Brito-Cruz (they/them), an aspiring foreign correspondent, studying abroad in Rome this summer has been an experience they believe will impact the trajectory of their career – and it’s been made possible, in part, by the Gilman scholarship.
Nicolette is one of 14 Rutgers students – a record number for the University – who have been awarded the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad for the 2022 cycle.
Established in 2001, the Gilman International Scholarship is congressionally funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and provides up to $5,000 to students of limited financial means (they must be receiving a Federal Pell Grant to be eligible) to intern or study abroad. Students can apply for a supplemental award of up to $3,000 if they study a critical need language deemed important to national security.
Despite the crucial cultural and language skills and rich international and professional experience to be gained in a truly immersive environment, many students often cite financial considerations as a major reason for their decision not to study abroad. And students who come from limited financial means are underrepresented in the population that goes abroad. The Gilman scholarship was created with this need in mind.
This year, 10 Gilman scholars were selected from Rutgers-New Brunswick, three from Rutgers-Newark and one from Camden. They belong to a cohort of 3,000 students selected across the United States who will study or intern in 91 countries during this cycle.
Kelly Andrade, Study Abroad program manager for Rutgers Global, is committed to increasing access to study abroad for Rutgers students and has made it a major goal to increase student awareness of the opportunity to apply for the Gilman. “Some students think that studying abroad is too expensive. As a result, students may self-select themselves out of the process without knowing that they can use the majority of their existing financial aid on top of applying for multiple funding opportunities. The Gilman Scholarship is an especially an amazing opportunity which allows the student to share their academic, professional, and personal aspirations tied to international education.”
Since its inception, the Gilman program has received over 134,000 applications and awarded over 34,000 scholarships. The application process is rigorous – students must submit three essays that require a substantial amount of vulnerability and openness – sharing their story and why they believe going abroad would be fundamental to their journey.
“We know that these essays are tough, so we offer the opportunity for students to work with us on the essays and empower them along the way,” Andrade said. “Rutgers students are driven, so we want to encourage them to apply for the Gilman if they are eligible.”
Brito-Cruz learned about the Gilman Scholarship through the Rutgers Global website and decided to apply. Fast-forward to this summer and they are immersed in Italian culture – experiencing the transformative power of studying abroad firsthand, forming meaningful networks, and obtaining critical work experience in their field.
“While being here, I have been able to network with creative individuals, immerse myself in a new culture, and have been inspired to start my own literary and art review” Brito-Cruz says. “This will surely open new doors for me in the media industry and I am excited to continue studying here and learning from creatives around me.”
In fact, central to the Gilman’s mission is creating a generation of American leaders in their given fields with meaningful international networks. Gilman’s 20-Year Impact Report released last year found that 94% of scholars remained engaged with their host country in some way after their experience.
Gilman recently removed its requirement that study abroad programs must be 21 days or longer to be eligible. With increasing awareness and expanded access to include winter and short-term programs, the number of Rutgers students awarded the Gilman each cycle should continue to increase.
Dan Waite, Study Abroad executive director at Rutgers Global, said, “We are incredibly proud of the fact that 14 Rutgers students, across all three campuses, were able to receive this prestigious scholarship, and experience firsthand the transformative power of global learning. Rutgers is committed to ensuring that all of our students can engage the world first-hand as part of their education - whether through global internships, global-local learning, or traditional study abroad. A global learning experience is much more accessible than many students have imagined, and a wide variety of scholarships like the Gilman help to make that possible.”
Part of the Gilman scholarship is a follow-up project that provides students with an opportunity to reflect on their experience. While Brito-Cruz is still finalizing what they will focus their project on, they have no doubt that this summer has represented a lifelong dream fulfilled building connections that will follow them throughout their life.