Among Ohio’s public universities, Youngstown State University boasts the second largest amount of students who recently received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
Within the state, Ohio University has the largest number of recipients — six — while the University of Cincinnati and Miami University of Ohio each have three recipients.
YSU students Ryan Meditz, Meysha Harville, Haileh Ahmed and Solita Wilson all received the scholarship grant, which will help to finance their study abroad programs.
“[The Gilman Scholarship Program] is extremely competitive,” said Annette El- Hayek, assistant director of study abroad and international exchange programs at YSU. “I worked with students to help polish their essays.”
Because an interview was not a component of the application process, El-Hayek said she told applicants to spend enough time on the essays in order to get as much of themselves down on paper as possible.
Meditz, a senior who is studying international marketing and Spanish, was awarded $3,000. He is spending five months in Granada, Spain, and another month traveling through Europe.
Wilson, a senior who is majoring in chemistry, is spending the spring semester in Winchester, England. She received $4,000 after applying for the scholarship in October.
“Receiving the scholarship was a total shock,” Wilson said. “I see the scholarship as being very prestigious, and being selected for it said a lot to me about myself.”
Wilson has been in Winchester for only a few days, but she said her program is going well so far. It’s a life-changing experience, she said.
“You will discover who you are and where you want to end up,” Wilson said. “You will become more cultured, and this is a very good trait for not only the U.S., but the entire world.”
Ahmed was awarded $4,000 and will be studying at Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Turkey. She said the award has a special meaning to her.
“Without being awarded the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to travel,” Ahmed said. “I am very passionate about studying abroad. It is something I hope to continuously pursue, and being able to pursue now is beyond rewarding and gratifying to me.”
Ahmed said she thinks other YSU students should be encouraged to study abroad because it helps broaden their horizons.
“It also helps them grow, [it] helps them later in life for grad school, and they can experience a new culture and land, and, most importantly, they would learn a language,” Ahmed said.
Lindsay Calvert, assistant director of the Gilman Scholarship Program, said she expects additional applications for the 2012-2013 academic year and anticipates the awarding of more than 2,800 scholarships.
For the 2011-2012 academic year, 8,413 applications were received, and 2,331 awards were granted. The scholarship program is open to undergraduate students across the U.S.
Calvert said the Gilman Scholarship Program has received an increasing number of applications each year, but has also been fortunate to receive more funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the program’s sponsor.
“It is a competitive scholarship, but it is also an attainable scholarship, especially for the students that put forth a strong and conscientious effort [and] work with their study abroad adviser,” Calvert said.