I am pretty sure than one of things that always stresses college students out is MONEY. From day one into our college experience, we worry about whether or not we can afford things and experiences. Studying abroad is no exception to these worries. But it does NOT have to be! As a 2-time study abroad student and beneficiary of the Gilman Scholarship, I have learned that if you plan your finances carefully (just like how you plan your college courses so you can graduate right away!), the cost of your program can be very minimal (and possibly giving you some extra pocket change).
As you may or may not know, Japan is one of the more expensive countries to live in. And while many factors can determine how good or bad (hopefully not) your study abroad experience can be, many students agree that finances do play a huge role. Thankfully, I had many scholarships and grants, along with the Gilman Scholarship, to make my year abroad an awesome adventure.
For me, the greatest benefit of having the Gilman Scholarship was having extra money and leeway to go on amazing trips to several prefectures in Japan. Although this may sound a bit silly, a small goal of mine was to visit each main island of Japan (Honshu [the big main island], Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa). Thanks to the Gilman Scholarship, I was able to comfortably travel to each island in one year! Some trips were with friends and a couple trips were solo. Those trips were some of the highlights of my year abroad. The best part was stepping out of my comfort zone and forcing myself to rely on others and communicate in Japanese (despite it not being my native language). I can confidently say my Japanese speaking skills have improved drastically.
Personally, I was able to learn more about my heritage and discover more traditional and local customs in different parts of Japan. If I had only stayed in area where most people could speak English like Tokyo, I may have never learned different dialects and unique cultural aspects around Japan. Did you know that Kirishima, Kyushu is known for making vinegar? Or do you know that there are beautiful lavender fields in Furano, Hokkaido? Each subject may seem small but each experience makes me gain a greater understanding and deeper appreciation in international education and studying abroad.
For those who take the opportunity to study abroad in another country, I encourage you to take advantage of the Gilman Scholarship. The extra money you receive can open up doors to new unimaginable opportunities. You never know what you may uncover and what can change your life!