In less than a week, I will heading off to Sydney, Australia!
However, that doesn’t mean I’ve had an anxiety-free winter break. I have been stressing out about everything from my medication, my visa, and getting my disability accommodations in order.
Now, I knew this wouldn’t be a cheap trip, but I didn’t realize there were loads of hidden fees everywhere. From buying two different sets of insurances that is required by both California AND Australia, to paying out of pocket to see a doctor approved by the Australian government, as per my visa requirements.
However, I didn’t stress out too much about the money, because I have the Gilman Scholarship to thank for helping me cover these hidden cost.
The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is an undergrad grant rewarded to students studying abroad who need the funds the most. Although most of application process is just the basics like your transcripts and general information about yourself, the real challenge students have is filling out the essay portion.
There are TWO essays you must complete: one is how you will help promote Gilman if accepted, which is fairly easy because you’re just stating what method of promotion you will choose (I’ve chosen the blog route because I will graduated after this semester).
While the other one is a longer essay that is a bit more personal and requires more attention. The second one is where students have the most difficulty.
Here are some tips on how I wrote my long essay:
- The first and most important thing to remember about Gilman is that it’s all about diversity. If you pick a non-Western country such as China, you will have an easier time defending why you need to travel to that country—because it is different than the Western culture you’re used too in America and outside of most people’s comfort zones.But if you pick a Western country, you would need to explain more extensively why you would benefit from their program than a non-Western country.
- Example: I need to go to Australia because I see a future for myself in Australia and going to one of their schools will better prepare me understand their film industry.Although a lot of films seem to follow Hollywood standards, each country is different on how they work on set/post production and learning about various methods are important to know if I am able to work in an international market.
- Secondly, you have to stand out of the crowd and show how you are different than other students. Even if you think you’re not diverse enough, there is always a unique part of you that is diverse.This can be whether you have had a troubled past, you were adopted, you are a veteran, your family has had financial trouble, you are a male, you are a minority, you’re traveling for a year instead of just a semester, etc.
- Example: Although I am a white female and most study abroad students are white females, I was able to show how I was diverse by informing Gilman about my mental disability. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was nine years old and had a hard time in school and certain social settings.My story was one where I was flunking out of classes at one point in my life with no friends to one where I was getting accepted into SFSU and not completely freaking out when a total stranger talked to me. I persevere despite my challenges early in life.
- Third, you have to explain not only why you want to go to your country, but how the school you picked out will help you in the long run.This involves researching potential classes of the school of your choice and stating why such-and-such class will help you with your education path. You may also think about adding a unique class specific to your country of choice that is not offered at SFSU (or America).
- Example: I am going to UTS because their production classes offer the best continuation of what SFSU has taught me in cinema so far, but with an Australian perspective. I will also be taking an Aboriginal class as well, something not offered at SFSU, but only in Australia.
Although there are plenty of other things you need to have in your essay, such as what will you do with the money if you’re accepted, those three main tips are the starting point.
The first two, you must keep sprinkling throughout your essay on why the country you pick is great for you and your education, and also why you are diverse. I had kept on inserting that I would like to work in Australia one day and that I have Asperger’s at various points in the essay.
The third is not as important as the first two, but if you don’t really make a great case on why you should attend such-and-such school, Gilman may question your educational plan and suggest studying somewhere else.
You need to sell them not only the country, but the school too.
I hope this helps, but the Study Abroad office has plenty of workshops listed on their website that will help students complete their Gilman Scholarship if you’re stuck: