Study Abroad Scholarships Worth the Effort Despite COVID-19

José Ortiz (left) and Anisa Dahir (right)

December 9, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY – Just as two Westminster students received the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for study abroad their trips were canceled due to COVID-19. Public health major Anisa Dahir (’21) and mathematics major José Ortiz (’21) — both students in the Honors College — applied for Gilman scholarships so they could participate in Westminster’s popular May Term study abroad experiences.

Unfortunately, the college recently canceled all 2021 May Term travel due to uncertainties of the global coronavirus pandemic. This decision was extremely disappointing for students — but not all is lost. The Gilman program offers alternative locations, deferment through the end of 2021 and other flexibilities. Dahir and Ortiz will also see many other benefits from going through the tedious application and competitive selection process.

“We are so proud of Anisa and José for embracing the fellowship process during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having honed their visions for their futures while writing their applications, their new status as Gilman Scholars will provide numerous opportunities for them, including access to the Gilman alumni network and noncompetitive eligibility for federal employment after they graduate,” said Alicia Cunningham-Bryant, director for Fellowship Advising at Westminster.

“I am excited to be a recipient of the Gilman award since I never had the opportunity to travel abroad, let alone study abroad,” said Ortiz. “Although COVID presents challenges, I hope to finalize plans and have a worthwhile experience. I hope that receiving this award serves as an example to others, especially my siblings, that these opportunities exist and all you have to do is apply.”

“Being a first-generation college student, this award means so much to me. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship will allow me to have my first travel abroad experience in my lifetime and will provide me with the opportunity to explore and learn a new culture,” said Dahir.

International service-learning, study abroad and internships are long-standing Westminster traditions and core to a holistic liberal arts education.

“The Office for Global Engagement is continuing to support students who wish to pursue international education opportunities. Through our partnerships with study abroad program providers, students can pursue programs in locations that have been vetted for health and safety along with alternative options like remote international internships,” said Alison Vasquez, director of International Student Services and Study Abroad.

The Gilman program is congressionally funded out of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. It aims to make study abroad, and its career advantages, more accessible and inclusive for American students. The program particularly focuses on supporting first-generation college students, students in the STEM fields, ethnic and racial minority students, students with disabilities and students who are veterans.

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Arikka Von

About Westminster

Westminster is a private, independent, and comprehensive college in Salt Lake City, Utah. Students experience the liberal arts blended with professional programs in an atmosphere dedicated to civic engagement. With the goal of enabling its graduates to live vibrant, just, and successful lives, Westminster provides transformational learning experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students in a truly student-centered environment. Faculty focus on teaching, learning, and developing distinctive, innovative programs, while students thrive on Westminster’s urban Sugar House campus within minutes of the Rocky Mountains.

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