Oklahoma City University students Jennifer Burke and German Garcia were awarded the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad during the fall semester. Both students plan to study in Spain.
Burke, a mass communications major with a minor in Spanish, will study at the University of the Basque Country in San Sebastian, Spain. She is a member of the U.S. Kayak team and was invited to train with the Spanish National Squad while in San Sebastian.
“I have chosen to study in the Basque region of Spain to be integrated in a Spanish-speaking world and develop my conversational communication skills,” Burke explained. “I am inspired by the independence of the Basque culture and the difference in lifestyle. It seems the Basque people have a greater passion for life and relishing each moment. There is a greater focus on keeping good friends, moments and experiences rather than work, status and money.”
Garcia, a political science and justice studies double major and a Clara Luper Scholar, will study in Seville, Spain, at Pablo Olavide University. He plans to explore courses that complement his two majors, particularly his justice studies peace and conflict major, while polishing his Spanish speaking and writing skills.
“I’ve grown attached to neighborhood outreach programs that aid lower income families and am really excited to learn that the Pablo Olavide University offers classes focused on such programs,” Garcia said. “I believe the cultural experiences and discovery of different perspectives offered through these classes will make me a more rounded person and thinker. It will be especially interesting to view the United States from a European perspective.”
Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad program costs, and a limited number of Critical Need Language Scholarships are given each year for a total award of $8,000.
The Gilman Scholarship Program aims to diversify the kinds of students who study abroad and the countries and regions where they go. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in Houston.
Burke and Garcia are two of more than 2,330 undergraduate students from more than 550 colleges and universities across the U.S. who were awarded the scholarship this year.
The Gilman International Scholarship Program was established in 2000, and more than 10,000 students nationwide have received the award. Congressman Benjamin Gilman, who retired in 2002 after serving in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chairing the House Foreign Relations Committee, commented, “Study abroad is a special experience for every student who participates. Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views, but also adds an enriching social and cultural experience. It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”
Recipients of the scholarship have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages and economies, making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector. According to IIE President Allan Goodman, “International education is one of the best tools for developing mutual understanding and building connections between people from different countries. It is critical to the success of American diplomacy and business, and the lasting ties that Americans make during their international studies are important to our country in times of conflict as well as times of peace.”