Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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Enrique Munoz, a previous SDSU Gilman Scholar recipient, stands in front of the Byodo-In Temple in Japan. Enrique Munoz, a previous SDSU Gilman Scholar recipient, stands in front of the Byodo-In Temple in Japan.

Eight SDSU Students Receive Gilman Scholarships to Study Abroad

Award supports students facing financial constraints and those seeking non-traditional destinations.
By Michael Klitzing

With the start of his study abroad program in Taiwan fast approaching, political science senior Eddie Garcia was experiencing some mixed feelings. On one hand, he felt the excitement of embarking on a life-changing journey. On the other, he felt the stress of not knowing how he’d make ends meet during the yearlong program.

"I had already decided that my budget was going to have to be really low,” Garcia said. “I come from a low-income family and I'm a first-generation college student, so I only really had a couple hundred dollars to budget over there for the entire year. I was really stressed for a while, thinking of ways I could scrape some money together.”

He doesn’t have to anymore. Garcia recently received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship – an award that means he’ll now have an extra $2,000 added to  his formerly shoestring budget. 

‘Amazing’ opportunity

Garcia is one of eight SDSU recipients of the Gilman Scholarship for fall and academic year 2016. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the scholarship aims to diversify study abroad by awarding up to $5,000 to students facing financial constraints and those seeking non-traditional study abroad destinations.

Additional SDSU recipients and their destinations include sociology junior Rosa Flores (United Kingdom), international business senior Guillermo Aguilar-Urrea (Chile), English and Japanese senior Amy Jackson (Japan), Japanese senior Jason Maltezo (Japan), international economics senior Michael Norton (China), international business senior Chris Russell (Chile) and computer science senior Kyle Sablan (Japan). Each student will receive awards ranging from $2,000 to $5,000.

"The Gilman Scholarship is an amazing opportunity for SDSU,” said Ryan McLemore, study abroad advisor at the International Student Center. “We have so many students receiving financial aid, in particular the federal Pell Grant, and we also have such an incredibly diverse campus. That's something that the Gilman likes to see.”

Non-traditional destinations

The Gilman Scholarship’s emphasis on encouraging non-traditional destinations is certainly evident in SDSU’s Gilman cohort.

Three of the recipients are either Japanese majors or minors who will study abroad as part of SDSU exchange programs with partner universities in Japan. Professor Yoshiko Higurashi, director of the SDSU Japanese language program, credits her exchange programs’ rigorous student evaluation process and robust scholarship outreach efforts for the Gilman success.

"It's highly competitive and everyone recognizes the Gilman Scholarship, so it's wonderful for our students,” Higurashi said. “They can include this scholarship in their list of honors and awards. It's good for the program and for the university, but it's good for the students first.

“Once they come back from Japan, they'll be different people. They gain confidence in themselves and they'll learn how to stand on their own feet no matter what environment they face," she added.

Meanwhile, two students are part of an international business exchange with Universidad de Valparaiso in Chile.

“We are quite proud of the international business students who received the Gilman Scholarship this year,” said John Putman, director of the International Business Program. “I think it reflects the quality of the program and the students who choose to major in international business. It also is a result of the excellent advising and application assistance the IB students receive from Maribel Franco, the IB study abroad advisor, and Marisela LaPlante, the IB internship advisor.”

Eye on the future

With his financial stress alleviated, Garcia is now free to spend an entire year pursuing a goal  he identified in high school – becoming fluent in Mandarin Chinese with the aim of working in the Foreign Service or in the international business arena.

Living in Taiwan will surely be a perspective-altering experience; born and raised in Los Angeles, Garcia said he has not spent much time out of California. Upon returning to SDSU, he  plans to fulfill the service project required by the Gilman by speaking to underserved students at San Diego’s Hoover High School about his travels.

“I want to let them know that study abroad is available to everyone,” he said, “and that scholarships are available.”

Visit for more details on study abroad and available scholarships. For more stories and information about international opportunities at SDSU, visit Be International.