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Eight students win Gilman international scholarships

2021-01-15 Gilman collage 2
Eight UNG students won the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. They are, top row from left, Stephanie Castillo and Maggie Simmons; and bottom row from left, Haley and Hannah Menees, Caleb Brooks, Makae Bythewood and Kimberly Burns. Recipient Philip Weed is not pictured.

A few weeks before Christmas, University of North Georgia (UNG) student Kimberly Burns received an early present. She and seven other UNG students were awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The program enables students who are eligible for the Pell grant to study or intern abroad for at least three weeks and gain skills critical to national security and economic competitiveness.

"This will be my first time to travel abroad and my first plane ride," said Burns, a senior pursuing a degree in East Asian Studies with a concentration in Chinese. "I'm excited and looking forward to a rewarding experience."

The 24-year-old from Boston, Georgia, plans to immerse herself in the Taiwanese culture and Mandarin Chinese language for nearly two months during summer 2021. Joining her for their own unique experiences in six other countries are seven others from UNG.

Simmons, a 20-year-old from Snellville, Georgia, is looking forward to her experience in China for two reasons. First, last spring she was selected as an alternate for the Critical Language Scholarship before the programs were suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, she hopes to return to the country of her birth.

"I've always wanted to study abroad and improve my Chinese language skills," Simmons said. "But I've wanted to go to the place I was born since I was adopted from China."

Dr. Kathryn Quinto, fellowships adviser for the nationally competitive scholarships office at UNG, explained that the Gilman scholarship provides students like Burns and Simmons the opportunity to learn about another culture and language through an immersive experience.

"This helps broaden their perspective and strengthens their intercultural communication skills," she said. "It also helps them to be more competitive for graduate school and in their future careers."

Sisters Haley and Hannah Menees of Cumming, Georgia, said their trip to Peru will help them improve their Spanish-speaking skills, which is a priority for the aspiring doctors.

"I want to become an OB/GYN doctor, specializing in gynecologic oncology," said Haley, an 18-year-old freshman. "This trip will increase my linguistic proficiency and understanding of the underlying logic and values that affect the medical outcomes of the second-largest ethnicity in the United States, the Hispanic populations."

The sisters said they selected Peru for their study abroad experience to live with a host family.

"We want to meet with the locals and have that enriching cultural experience," said Hannah, a 20-year-old sophomore.

Quinto also credits the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) for promoting the study abroad programs in the new virtual environment and helping students find their ideal situation.

"CGE has been amazing in their outreach and support for students," Quinto said. "We collaborate with colleagues in CGE to advise students during each step of the application process."

Students interested in learning more about nationally competitive scholarships, including Gilman, should contact for more information. Students interested in learning about study abroad opportunities through various programs may visit UNG's Center for Global Engagement.

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