Gilman Scholarships Help Students Get Off the Beaten Track

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Briana Cardwell, left, and Monique Lillis, right (in the Bowdoin shirt)

Monique Lillis ’17 spent last spring in Namibia, where deserts meet the ocean and red sand dunes rise above white salt pans. With these landscapes as her backdrop, Lillis studied Namibia’s history, politics, and environment with Augsburg College’s study-abroad program based in Windhoek.

Briana Cardwell ’17 lived abroad in the Dominican Republic, where she got to pursue her interest in studying the African diaspora and improve her Spanish language skills. She took classes, in Spanish, in Dominican folklore, politics, and sociology.

Both students received grants from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, which supports US students who want to head off to “non-traditional destinations.” Only those who receive federal Pell Grants for college tuition are eligible. The program states that it “aims to diversify the kinds of students who study and intern abroad and the countries and regions where they go.”

Christine Wintersteen, Bowdoin’s director of international programs and off-campus study, said that Gilman fellows decide that a study-abroad experience in a culturally and geographically environment so different from Bowdoin gives them opportunities to achieve goals that they wouldn’t easily achieve in a more traditional destination.

Lillis, a neuroscience major and Italian minor who grew up in southern Maine, said she was drawn to Namibia because she wanted to have experiences she would never have at Bowdoin, and she wanted to take a brief break from science. “The program looks in depth at politics and history of Namibia and South Africa—apartheid, colonialism, and modern day.” She also studied environmental issues, such as poaching in the national parks and wastewater recycling plants.

Cardwell, who is an Africana studies major and sociology minor, said she traveled to the Dominican Republic in part because she’s interested in becoming an immigration or civil rights lawyer. Spanish, she figures, will be an important part of her career. When she was in the D.R., she started a research project looking at what pushes people in the D.R. to emigrate to the United States. Back in the states, she is now interviewing immigrants on whether their expectations were met once they started new lives here.

Wintersteen is encouraging more Bowdoin students to apply for the Gilman scholarship. Though Bowdoin offers financial aid to students during their semesters abroad, students still benefit from having extra funds to cover personal expenses and provide financial support to take full advantage of local opportunities once they’re overseas, she explained.

Next fall, both Min Kyo Jeong ’18 and Mariama Sowe ’18 have received Gilman scholarships. Jeong will study in India. In 2012, Viola Rothschild ’14 received a Gilman grant to study in China.

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