Federally funded programs help to send students abroad

Alyssa Elso/ Contributing Writer

Students studying abroad are receiving the ultimate global experience through scholarships and internship opportunities at U.S. embassies around the world.

FIU is the first American university to combine three existing federal programs: the Pell grant, the Gilman scholarship and the Department of State summer internships. This is available through senior international officer of Undergraduate Education and former U.S. diplomat Hilarion Martinez’s connections with U.S. embassies and the U.S. Department of State.

Over 2,300 U.S. undergraduate students, 11 of whom were FIU students, received up to $5,000 to study abroad through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship program during the 2011-2012 academic year. The program aims to extend study abroad opportunities to undergraduate students with limited financial means or to students studying in underrepresented fields such as science and engineering.

Students who receive the scholarship and choose to study a critical need language while abroad are further eligible for a Critical Need Language Award; this will grant them an additional $3,000 towards their study abroad program costs.

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be receiving a federal Pell Grant during the term in which they study abroad, and must be accepted to a study abroad program for academic credit through their University.

The 11 FIU Gilman scholarship recipients, who are spending the spring 2013 semester in France, Argentina, China, Japan, Spain, Australia and the United Arab Emirates, are also eligible to apply for a summer internship with the U.S. embassy in their country of study before returning to FIU.

In collaboration with colleagues at the U.S. embassies in Paris and Buenos Aires, Hilarion Martinez and Edward Loo, diplomat in residence at FIU worked to make these internships accessible to students.

“The opportunity to work with the U.S. embassy will provide FIU students with a better understanding of how our country addresses challenges and global issues, and will prepare them to one day assume leadership roles, whether in the public or private sector,” said Martinez. “It may even spark an interest in them to eventually become American diplomats.”

Recipients of the scholarship are chosen through a competitive selection process based on academic performance, statements and student essays.

Students previously awarded the Gilman scholarship, who wanted to expand their study abroad experience, went on to pursue more ambitious scholarship opportunities.

“We had a student who received a Gilman scholarship and is now involved in Fulbright, a highly competitive scholar program,” said Magnolia Hernandez, director of Study Abroad. “She is currently away in Colombia for a full year teaching English, and getting funded by the U.S. Department of State to do so, and it all started with the Gilman scholarship.”

“Pairing the Gilman scholarship with the U.S. embassy internship is a way for students to further integrate into the cultural community abroad, and is an innovative approach that most universities are currently not offering,” said Hernandez.

Students who receive a federal Pell Grant and wish to apply for the Gilman scholarship, the applications for summer and fall 2013 are due by Mar. 5, 2013, and U.S. embassy internship applications for fall 2013 will also be due in spring 2013.