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Two UNG students win Gilman International Scholarship to study in China and Spain

2017-12-19-Lyric Jones
University of North Georgia (UNG) senior Lyric Jones had her heart set on studying the Chinese language in China in her quest to become a translator. The Augusta, Georgia, native has done just that. Jones, a 22-year-old majoring in Chinese, received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for a full academic year of study in China.

University of North Georgia (UNG) senior Lyric Jones had her heart set on studying the Chinese language in China in her quest to become a translator. The Augusta, Georgia, native has done just that.

Jones, a 22-year-old majoring in Chinese, received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for a full academic year of study in China.

"I was drowning in happiness," Jones said after receiving the news last summer.

She left for China in August with plans to return for her July 2018 graduation.

Jones is not the only UNG student who received Gilman scholarship this year. Monica Pizano of Jefferson, Georgia, won a scholarship for the spring 2018 semester to study abroad in Spain.

2017-12-19-Monica Pizano

Monica Pizano of Jefferson, Georgia, won the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for the spring 2018 semester to study abroad in Spain.

"I was jumping up and down and really excited," Pizano said after learning she got the scholarship. "I messaged my mom and she said 'Hard works pays off.'"

Jones and Pizano are two out of 1,000 American undergraduates to receive a Gilman scholarship. Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of Research and Engagement at UNG, explained the scholarship is unique because it is geared toward supporting students who are underrepresented in study abroad programs.

"The scholarship is interested in diversifying the types of students who study abroad, including those who do not have the economic resources to do so," she said.

In the past five years, 22 UNG students have received Gilman Scholarships, including a record nine students in the 2016-17 academic year.

UNG’s Center for Global Engagement, Financial Aid office and many academic departments collaborate to find opportunities for students to travel overseas and thrive while learning in a new culture.

Jones can attest to that. She received the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study abroad for eight weeks in China during summer 2016 after being overseas a year earlier.

"It was an intensive program similar to what we have at the UNG Summer Language Institute, but it is at a higher level," said Jones, who is part of UNG's Chinese Language Flagship program.

She also encourages others try the study abroad experience.

"It will help your career … because it will make your resume more competitive," she said. "And you will have the opportunity to meet different types of people."

Pizano, a junior majoring in Spanish, is looking forward to immersing herself in the culture and language. She said she grew up speaking Spanish with her parents, who are from Mexico, but it was not encouraged.

"I didn't want to be bilingual," she said.

Now, Pizano will have to speak Spanish for five months. She hopes it will help overcome her mental barrier of speaking the language fluently, which will be required of her as she plans to teach Spanish.

"I think my study aboard will give me the confidence I need to speak Spanish in front of people," she said.

Jones and Pizano are not the only two UNG students who applied for the Gilman scholarship for the 2017-18 academic year. Kathryn Boniol from Gray, Georgia, applied and was named as an alternate for the spring semester. If another recipient declines the scholarship, she is in line to receive it.

"There is hope someone will change his or her mind, but I don't know how often it happens," Boniol said.

The 24-year-old junior majoring in Spanish still plans to study in Peru this spring and is working to raise the funds herself.

"In order for me to be fluent in Spanish, I have to live in a country that where the people speak primarily Spanish," she said. "I have to learn things that I won't learn in a normal classroom, like slang. And I will be able to gain a new perspective and adapt to new culture and speak in Spanish fluently."

The Gilman program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is supported in its implementation by the Institute of International Education.

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