Gilman Scholarships Enable Two Students to Study Abroad

January 02, 2019

Stefanie Ochoa ’20 will study in Shanghai, China, and Max Hill ’20 will study how cities work on four continents, thanks to the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships they recently received to study abroad during the 2019 spring semester.

The Gilman Scholarship program, based in the U.S. Department of State, provides awards for U.S. undergraduate students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding to participate in study abroad programs worldwide. Students are selected for Gilman Scholarships on the basis of their academic performance, financial need, and the impact their experiences are expected to have on their academic and career objectives.

Grinnell College, which offers extensive opportunities for study abroad and global learning, has had 36 students selected for Gilman Scholarships since 2012. Over the last five years, low-income students have studied abroad at essentially the same rate (54.7 percent) as students from other income groups (55.3 percent).

While in Shanghai, Ochoa will strive to enhance her Mandarin skills and learn how China’s public health policy is shaped by social, economic, and political currents. A computer science major from Berwyn, Illinois, Ochoa first explored China and Russia through the college’s Global Learning Program.

“I was finishing my first year of Chinese language courses and seriously considering never taking another one,” Ochoa recalls. “However, by visiting Hangzhou, Suzhou, Shanghai, and Nanjing, I fell in love with the country and realized I wanted to study abroad in China. I am beyond excited for spring semester because it will force me out of my comfort zone culturally, emotionally, and intellectually.”

Ochoa, who is fluent in Spanish and has completed five Mandarin courses at Grinnell, appreciates the financial benefits of her scholarship. “The Gilman Scholarship has allowed me to avoid taking out loans for next semester,” she says. “That is amazing because I am a first-generation student who is funding the majority of my way through college alone.”

Hill, a resident of Tarzana, California, will explore four continents as part of the School for International Training’s urban studies program focused on “Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning, and Politics.”

"Being awarded the Gilman Scholarship is a great honor as well as a financial blessing,” says Hill, a political science major with a concentration in statistics. “I am a first-generation student and pay for tuition myself. This scholarship will help me mitigate the amount of student debt I have and give me the opportunity to travel outside of the States for the first time without cost being a factor.”

Hill will live and study in major cities undergoing rapid change and facing unique challenges: New York City; San Paolo, Brazil; Barcelona, Spain; and Cape Town, South Africa.

 “I look forward to spending time in each of the cities to better understand the interconnected social, physical, economic, environmental, and political systems affecting urban environments,” Hill says. “Because the program is immersive, hands-on, and taught by a variety of individuals, I am confident I will learn a great deal about urban studies, which will help me further define my career objectives.”