Lee ’21 Uses Gilman Scholarship to Encourage Students of Color to Study Abroad

By Caitlin Burns | November 19, 2020

By Nik Kachuyevski ’21

For Criminal Justice major Aquilla Lee ’21, studying abroad had been a goal ever since she was young. However, due to financial difficulties it didn’t seem like this goal would be achievable until Study Away Advisor Ashley Knueppel ’12 told Lee about the opportunities available through the Gilman Scholarship. 

Founded in 2001, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program aims to enable students with limited finances to study abroad. The Gilman Scholarship Program, which also includes the Gilman-McCain Scholarship for dependents of active duty service members, is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide. The next Gilman International Scholarship application deadline is Tuesday, March 2, 2021 for programs starting between May 1 to April 30, 2021.

Because of her father’s service in the army and National Guard, Lee received the Gilman-McCain Scholarship which she used to study abroad in New Zealand during the spring 2020 semester. 

Recipients of the scholarship must conduct a research or service project. Lee’s project centers around the lack of diversity with studying abroad, something she saw firsthand during her orientation. 

“I remember going to orientation and I was one of the only people of color—everyone else was white,” Lee said. “I felt really isolated and sad not seeing people like me studying abroad.”  

With that in mind, Lee wanted to create something that could both inform people of color about opportunities available to them with studying abroad, as well as encourage it. 

As a mentor with Arcadia’s Study Abroad Mentor Program (STAMP), Lee was able to partner her project with the program. She is developing a website with STAMP, called Voices of Diversity, that highlights students’ experiences studying abroad that will also include resources and information for students of color to figure out how to make their dreams of exploring the world a reality. While the website hasn’t launched yet, Lee hopes to have it up soon.

Voices of Diversity encourages students of color (Black/African American, LatinX/Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, Asian-American/Asian, etc.) to submit stories detailing their experiences abroad.