The Gilman scholarships enables excursions to the Duomo in Milan. Scholarships and Pell Grants make studying abroad affordable.

I studied abroad in Milan, Italy last year, utilizing the UR’s sponsorship of the IES Program located right in the heart of the city. As an interdepartmental studies major with a concentration in Italian studies, choosing to study in Italy was a very natural decision. I supplemented my concentration by studying the Italian language and culture in its natural environment, away from my American university.

However, I have to admit I had serious doubts as to whether or not I was truly capable of financially supporting myself abroad, especially since I wanted to study in one of the most expensive cities in Europe and planned to spend a whole year there.

So why Milan? Milan is an authentic Italian city, practically untouched by tourism. On top of that, Milan contains a large metropolitan area with an abundance of easily accessible academic resources, providing a rich and genuine cultural backdrop for students.

Why an entire year? I wanted a full and prolonged linguistic immersion, essential to both my personal and professional goals. To a senior applying to Italian graduate programs which demand a mother-tongue knowledge of the language, a year-long immersion is invaluable.

Rather disheartened by my predicament, I sought help at the Center for Study Abroad during the spring semester of my sophomore year. There, I was presented with a myriad of scholarship opportunities and discovered the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship –– open to all American university students who receive a Federal Pell Grant and are in need of financial assistance to study abroad. I was amazed by the easily accessible online application and the simple process of compiling the required documents. In the summer prior to my year abroad, I was notified that I had been chosen for an award of $5,000.

Gilman funds are intended for the costs of program tuition, room and board, books, local airfare and, in particular, the costs of local transportation. With the Gilman funds, I was able to make frequent daily trips within the city, gaining professional experience by giving English lessons to a family on one side of Milan and teaching in an elementary school on the other.

Because of the scholarship’s help, I could personally finance many cultural experiences of my own. I attended an opera at La Scala (one of the most famous opera houses in the world) and took numerous trips throughout the Italian peninsula –– from an excursion to Monte Bianco on the border of Italy and France, to my Calabrian journey at the “toe” of the country to experience a completely different kind of Italian lifestyle.

All of these unique opportunities would not have been realized if it were not for the financial support I received from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. It wiped away all my worries, allowing me to study abroad without preoccupations and gave me a truly incredible experience.

I am ecstatic to say I reached my goal of complete proficiency in Italian. I am a true bilingual, a priceless skill that will definitely lead me to success after I graduate. My satisfaction increases as I think of the great rarity of what I accomplished: the number of young, proficient bilingual Americans is extremely small and a problem which must be resolved in the future.

I also grew greatly as an individual. I have a much stronger sense of self now than I ever had.

The scholarships are boundless; there is one for every kind of student, so financial difficulties must not dissuade anyone from fulfilling his or her dreams of going abroad. If you have a true passion, all the rest will fall into place.



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