- Meet with a study abroad adviser to find out what programs offer credits that relate directly to your major.
- Meet with a financial aid adviser to find out how much of your financial aid package can be applied to the program.
- Talk with your academic adviser (I know, a lot of advising going on here, but it really is necessary) about the programs you are interested in. Chances are they have had other students who have completed these programs and may have insights into which ones would fit you best.
- Look into your scholarship options. There are endless scholarship opportunities available and it is easy to be overwhelmed trying to figure out which ones are worth your time applying to:
- Abroad scholarships offered by your home university. You have better chances getting these as it is likely fewer students are applying to these as opposed to national scholarships.
- Scholarships offered by your college or major-specific scholarships. Again, it is likely you will have to compete against fewer students.
- Scholarships sponsored by your university’s study abroad department: Your study abroad department will do everything it can to get students into programs, and part of that is helping them fund trips. Look at your department’s site to see what scholarships they are promoting. They department will likely also have information on which scholarships they have seen more of their students receive which may save you some time. This is how I found the Gilman Scholarship which was instrumental in financing my trip.
- Study abroad scholarships offered by the program you are interested in: Sometimes study abroad programs themselves offer scholarships to applicants.
- Scholarships related to learning a foreign language: Some scholarships are exclusive to students whose programs include a foreign language component. If you are interested in learning a foreign language (or improving on your secondary language), many abroad programs include a language component. This is not only a great skill to have, it also may open up more avenues for scholarships.
Fund for Education Abroad: This is a good scholarship that is a bit more competitive, but could provide $5000 towards your trip. It also has easy access to affiliate scholarships that might apply more directly to aspect of your program.
Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
About the scholarship
Students must have been awarded the Federal Pell grant to be eligible and be enrolled in a two or four year university. Veteran, minority, disabled, and STEM students are encouraged to apply, as well as those with financial limitations to support underrepresented groups.
The scholarship also focuses on supporting students seeking to join a program that studies languages, especially critical need languages.
Students could be awarded up to $5000 towards their trip.
Students write two essays:
The Gilman site gives students clear instructions on answering the essay prompts as well as essay writing tips (linked above).
The statement of purpose essay asks students how a study abroad trip will benefit the student’s academic and/or professional goals, why they chose their study country, what aspects of the program they expect to challenge them, and what skills and experiences the student has to meet those challenges.
The community impact essay asks students how they will bridge their home and host communities. It also asks students to propose a follow-on service project designed to further the benefits of the study abroad experience to other community members.
Gilman has plenty of resources for students on ideas for service projects, departments that students can collaborate with, and how to edit their essays which make the process much easier.
In addition to the two essays, students are asked to upload unofficial or official transcripts and contact information on their study abroad and financial aid advisers, both of which need to certify your program and financial need. After that, you’re all done.
There are two application cycles for scholarships towards a fall or winter trip. Details on deadlines for applications and the quarters/semesters they apply to can be found here.
Award and in-country requirements
This is a traveler’s security system where you enter the dates and locations of your travel plans and are sent notifications of any travel advisories of those locations. My trip began right as COVID-19 broke out in China. Throughout the trip I received notifications of where the virus spreading and what travel restrictions were being enforced which allowed me to stay on top of my travel plans. It’s a layer of security for students, and ended up helping me remain updated on important travel information throughout the trip.