UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Jade Gray-Davis is a senior labor and employment relations major from Philadelphia. In spring 2020, she received a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. Although her experience in Seoul, South Korea was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gray-Davis said she still benefited from receiving the scholarship.
In her words:
Studying abroad was one of my major goals when going to college, so I wanted to go somewhere that would be truly memorable for me. My study abroad program was an independent program meaning that I didn’t go with an institution. It allowed me to have a lot of agency on what I got to do during my program, which appealed to me.
The Gilman scholarship has supported me in achieving my dream of studying abroad in South Korea at Sungkyunkwan University. This funding was essential for me to book my flight and secure my dorm room in South Korea. In addition to the scholarship, the Gilman alumni network hosts different workshops, networking events, and other professional events that have given me the opportunity to connect with other peers and professionals.
While I was awarded the scholarship and I did fly to my host country, I didn’t get to attend classes as my program was canceled shortly after arriving due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although it was a brief experience, I still gained skills and learned a lot through the application process.
I first heard about the Gilman scholarship from Penn State’s Office of Global Programs. This office is focused on finding abroad programs, applying for funding, and preparing workshops for students. Since I planned to study abroad in South Korea, I contacted the advisor for programs based in Asia.
I went to a Gilman scholarship presentation hosted by the Office of Global Programs, and they discussed application deadlines and ways students can prepare for the application process. It was a great opportunity to ask questions. That office also hosted a personal statement and budget workshop for students. The personal statement workshop was extremely helpful in writing my personal statement and elements that I best wanted to illustrate my reasoning for going abroad.
After being accepted to the program, I arrived in South Korea and began getting settled in my dorm and meeting other exchange students. Unfortunately, I was informed the following day that Penn State was canceling all study abroad programs for the spring semester, so students were to return to the United States within a twenty-four-hour period. This news was heartbreaking, and I didn’t get the chance to start any of my classes or get to know more of my classmates.
However, I am extremely grateful for this experience. Coordinating the process of applying for scholarships, visas, and spring classes helped me practice time management skills. Budgeting for the abroad costs also helped me practice project management. Working around Sungkyunkwan University’s time zone and the whole application process helped me practice my communication skills.
All in all, applying to this scholarship was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made. I would advise you to pace yourself with the application process, get someone to look over your application before you send it, and stay aware of the Gilman application email alerts. Your abroad experience will be something that you never forget, so make the most of it!
Gray-Davis will be graduating at the end of the fall 2021 semester and is also completing a minor in World Literature. On campus, she is the membership engagement chair for the National Association of Black Accountants.
Labor and human resources students who are interested in studying abroad can visit ler.la.psu.edu/undergraduate/study-abroad for additional resources.