Juniors Mai Kia Thao and Yana Lenta, and senior Miriam Navamanie are Northwestern’s first recipients of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a $3,000 grant allowing them to join 16 other students on Wednesday for a two-month internship tour of Southeast Asia.
Through the Gilman Scholarship Program, the U.S. Dept. of State offers funding "for students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies abroad.” Dr. John Easterling, professor of intercultural studies, leads a group of students on an overseas internship every year, and found that six current students qualified for the scholarship.
Easterling called on Sally Harris, Ph.D., Northwestern’s Fulbright Program Advisor, to help five eligible students through the extensive application last fall. In the spring, only Lenta and Thao were awarded initially, eventually followed by alternate Navamanie, awarded after other recipients declined the scholarship.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Japan…” said Navamanie, “And I’m really excited to spend a whole month in Thailand, just being there for so long and learning the culture.”
Before receiving the scholarship Navamanie was hoping to scrape together funding for the trip, but Thao said that without the funding, a trip overseas wouldn’t have been possible:
”I don’t have that many family members to support me financially, so it would have been really hard to make the trip happen.”
As the internship departure approaches, Thao, holds a quiet eagerness to return to family roots in Thailand, where her parents grew up after the Vietnam War. Lenta expressed anticipation and gratitude similar to her fellow recipients:
“I feel so blessed to have been able to receive the scholarship and I am very excited to see the beauty that exists in other cultures,” she said.
While all three Gilman recipients are Intercultural Studies majors, the trip roster includes students majoring in psychology, studio arts, health science, accounting, ESL and elementary education.
“This (internship) program is open to the entire student body,” said Easterling, “But if a student goes on the trip, the need to declare an Intercultural Studies minor.”
This year, Easterling is co-leading the internship trip with Kai Thoni, a staff member from student development. After touring Asia, the group will end their travels in December with a debrief in England.
Students can apply for the 2013 trip this fall and are required to attend a lab in the spring and completing eight credits of coursework in the fall before going overseas. For more information, contact Professor John Easterling.