Study Abroad Helps Clarify Career Objectives

January 24, 2020

Max Hill ’20 studied how cities work on 4 continents, thanks to the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship he received to study abroad during the 2019 spring semester.

"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 helped me mitigate the amount of student debt I have and gave me the opportunity to travel outside the states for the first time without cost being a factor.”

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. Since 2015, low-income students have studied abroad at essentially the same rate (54.7%) as students from other income groups (55.3%).

Max Hill in the historical district in Republica Square near a building called Banespa, San Paolo, Brazil
Max Hill in the historical district in Republica Square near a building called Banespa, Sao Paolo, Brazil

Hill, a resident of Tarzana, California, originally planned to study international development in Botswana, but his plans changed when the program didn’t run. He researched other options and came across the School for International Training’s urban studies program.

“The opportunity to learn on 4 different continents was one I could not pass up,” Hill says. He explored 4 continents in the program “Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning, and Politics.”

He lived and studied in major cities undergoing rapid change and facing unique challenges: New York City; Sao Paolo, Brazil; Barcelona, Spain; and Cape Town, South Africa.

One thing he hoped to gain from the experience was help in further defining his career objectives.

“Studying abroad really informed the type of work that I think I would like to do,” Hill says. In each country he saw active efforts by governments or social movements “to prioritize citizens over blatant economic development.”

As a result of his international study, he sought an internship with the Grinnell city manager during spring 2020. “The internship with the city manager will help me become familiar with the different facets of what goes into the city.”

He also applied for a Watson Fellowship. “I applied for Watson because the ability to travel to multiple places in one overall trip is unique. You have the ability to compare and contrast experiences in different cultural and geographical places, which I find helps my reflection process.”


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