Nine Wright State University students have been awarded State Department scholarships to study abroad in 2021, a dramatic increase from previous years.
“Of course, travel will not resume until it is safe to do so. However, this speaks to the future of life after the peak of the pandemic,” said Michelle Streeter-Ferrari, director of the University Center for International Education. “Generation Z is looking for immersive, experiential travel that lets them experience life as a local. They are the wanderlust generation.”
Typically, only about two Wright State students receive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships per funding cycle. The nine scholarships awarded this year, which totaled $35,200, followed numerous Gilman Scholarship workshops held by UCIE as well as working with the Office Financial Aid to identify students who qualified.
“The increase in student participation in the Gilman scholarship is a testament to our Wright State students’ desire to augment their global learning through education abroad,” said Joy Wanderi, associate director and director of Education Abroad and Exchange Programs. “Our students are willing to work through many hurdles to realize the potential of study abroad.”
UCIE is promoting virtual study abroad and internships through its study abroad providers and exchange partners.
“We are using different platforms and looking to the day when borders open back up and we move beyond COVID-19,” said Streeter-Ferrari. “We have a committee looking at our protocols to be ready for that time. Most in the industry believe virtual opportunities will continue beyond the pandemic as another alternative that is less expensive and appealing to students who may not be able to travel.”
Wanderi said virtual study abroad programs are a flexible option for students to become global citizens.
“The options provide the students a chance to earn international credits from the safety of their homes,” she said. “The programs are structured to include virtual live meetings, online discussions and virtual tours. Technology is allowing us to bring the world to our homes.”
In 2019, Wright State was named among the institutions showing the greatest growth in sending students overseas by the State Department’s Gilman program, which is designed to make international study more accessible and inclusive.
The scholarships enable American students to gain proficiency in diverse languages and cultures, skills that are critically important to their academic and career development.
The Gilman program broadens the U.S. student population studying and interning abroad by providing scholarships to outstanding undergraduates who due to financial constraints might not otherwise participate. Since the program’s establishment in 2001, over 1,300 U.S. institutions have sent more than 28,000 Gilman scholars to nearly 150 countries around the globe.
Among the 2017–18 Gilman Scholars, 256 identified as having a disability, 75% said they would not have been able to study abroad without the scholarship, 47% were first-generation college students and 21% had never traveled outside the United States before studying abroad.