Nearly $1 million in study abroad scholarships given to UC students

Benjamin Lee/Courtesy
Benjamin Lee recieved a scholarship to study abroad in South Korea.

The U.S. Department of State awarded nearly $1 million to University of California students participating in study abroad programs this academic year.

The money was awarded to winners of the Congressionally-funded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which is designed for federal Pell Grant recipients who will be participating in a study abroad program lasting more than four weeks. The UC Education Abroad Program received $806,500 in scholarship money from the state department, but the total award amount comes to $910,000, including other programs.

Overall, 215 UC students received scholarships this year. Of that number, 86 are UC Berkeley students, who received a total of $306,000 in awards, said Jean-Xavier Guinard, the program’s associate vice provost and executive director, in an email.

“Our overall participation numbers have been steadily increasing,” said program outreach manager Anthony Yuen. “Berkeley has a student body that matches up very well with the focus of the Gilman award and its criteria. Around 70 percent receive some type of financial aid and a large amount of those receive Pell Grants.”

According to Yuen, the scholarship focuses on students “who have been traditionally unrepresented,” such as community college students, those with financial aid needs, disabilities and those in underrepresented fields such as the sciences and engineering. The program also encourages undergraduate students to choose nontraditional locations.

“They prefer students who are going to countries outside of western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, but we have students receive scholarships who are going to those areas,” Yuen said.

Scholarship recipients can be awarded a maximum of $5,000. This year, students received an average of $3,750 each, according to Yuen.

UC Berkeley senior Bertha Romo was awarded $3,000 and spent last semester in Italy. “I did have to take out a small loan as well, but every penny of it is worth it,” Romo said. “I consider it the best experience in my college career.”

In addition to the Gilman Scholarship, students can apply their existing state and federal aid toward a study abroad program, as well as seek out independent scholarships. Students can also receive funding through the study abroad program itself.

“This year, UCEAP has committed $500,000 in new scholarships for each of the next three years to expand opportunities for UC students from all backgrounds and academic disciplines to study abroad with UCEAP,” Guinard said in the email.

After completing the program, scholarship recipients are required to outline how they will “give back by inspiring others to pursue their own experiences abroad,” according to the scholarship website. This can be done on campus or in the student’s community and can include working with children, serving as a mentor or working in the EAP office.

UC Berkeley senior Benjamin Lee — who received $5,000 through the Gilman Scholarship and spent last semester in South Korea — decided to become involved in the student ambassador program on campus as his way of spreading the word about the scholarship.

“(The scholarship) eased my anxiety about how much I was spending,” he said. “I could afford to go out with my friend and explore Seoul. It was such an eye-opening experience. It exceeded my expectations.”