University of Wisconsin-Superior junior Brittany Laehn is one of approximately 1,200 American undergraduate students from 354 colleges and universities across the U.S. selected to receive the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
The scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for students to study or intern abroad during the summer 2017 term.
“I was super happy and relieved,” said Laehn. “I didn’t expect to get it.”
A biology major from Gilmanton, Wis., Laehn will study abroad in Costa Rica as part of a customized health sciences internship while gaining the Spanish fluency needed to help as a future physician.
“I’m looking forward to expanding my fluency in Spanish,” she said. “I have a Spanish minor and I’ve taken a lot of credits here at UW-Superior. I think I’ll improve a lot while I’m there since I’m staying with a host family who only speaks Spanish.”
The opportunity to visit Costa Rica that was made possible through this scholarship will be a life-changing event for Laehn. She not only has never traveled internationally but has never been on an airplane.
“I love being outdoors and exploring, so I’m really excited about just taking it all in and vising a lot of places,” she said.
Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs. The program offers grants for U.S. citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies or internships abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness. Students receiving a Federal Pell Grant from two- and four-year institutions who will be studying abroad or participating in a career-oriented international internship for academic credit are eligible to apply. Scholarship recipients 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.
The late Congressman Gilman, served in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chaired the House Foreign Relations Committee. When honored with the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2002, he 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.”
The program is administered by the Institute of International Education. The list of students who have been selected to receive Gilman Scholarships, including students’ home state, university and host country, is available on their website: gilmanscholarship.org. According to Allan Goodman, President and CEO of IIE, “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.”