By Erin Baker '19
PLU Marketing & Communications
TACOMA, WASH. (Dec. 13, 2016)- Grace Zimmerman ’18 was already thrilled to pursue a study away experience in Namibia. But her excitement compounded after learning she received a competitive scholarship, one of more than 2,800 awarded by the federal government to students such as herself looking to “dream bigger.”
Zimmerman received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a prestigious national scholarship geared toward diversifying the types of students studying away. Zimmerman is the only Pacific Lutheran University student to receive the scholarship this year, and only the second in 10 years.
“I’ve always dreamed of traveling,” Zimmerman said. “It had always been a goal coming to PLU that I would study away. With nursing, it didn’t really seem possible, but then I found out about the Namibia trip.”
Zimmerman received a Pell Grant, which is need-based financial aid. The Gilman Scholarship, which is awarded up to $5,000 to Pell Grant recipients, funds additional study-away costs beyond what’s covered by other financial aid. Those additional costs may include airfare, meals and other out-of-pocket expenses. The scholarship aims to diversify the types of students who study away, as well as the places to which students travel.
Will Taylor, a study away advisor at PLU, introduced the scholarship to Zimmerman after she applied to the Namibia program. Taylor said Zimmerman was the “perfect candidate” for this scholarship who had an advantage as a nursing student.
“(The Gilman Foundation) is looking for students who are studying in non-traditional locations studying non-traditional subjects,” Taylor said. “If you’re going to London, you’re probably not going to be as competitive as if you’re going to Namibia to study nursing for the semester. That’s why Grace was a particularly strong candidate for the award.”
The Gilman Foundation receives more than 10,000 applications per year for the award. The application process includes submitting official transcripts, verifying financial standing, and writing essays regarding a statement of purpose and a so-called “follow-on project.” Students use the follow-on project to spread knowledge of study away and encourage students to participate in programs abroad.
Zimmerman plans to do her project at her alma mater, Naselle High School, in southwestern Washington. She said the school is understaffed and underfunded, but it is the place that encouraged her to look into study away opportunities. She said she hopes to share her experiences with the students at Naselle so they can “dream bigger.”
“I know that dreaming big was definitely a struggle in high school,” she said. “I’m lucky to have made it to PLU, and I think my dreams have gotten a lot bigger and wider.”
At PLU, about 50 percent of students study away at some point during their four years, primarily because studying away is so accessible thanks to transferrable financial aid and deep connections abroad. Zimmerman said funding study away is incredibly important because it helps an individual grow as a person and experience new cultures and ideas.
“Coming from a little town to PLU really broadened my understanding of myself and my understanding of other people. It’s teaching me how to be a better nurse and a better person in general because of that growth,” Zimmerman said. “Global education and travel does that on a larger scale.”
Taylor, the study away advisor, said global education provides students opportunities beyond pursuing their academic interests.
“Beyond just the academics, I think students can gain a lot from study away, like learning more about themselves, gaining independence, adaptability to challenging situations,” he said. “Those are great skills coming back from your study away experience to use for whatever job you are applying for.”
PLU hopes to see more students apply for the Gilman Scholarship, and Zimmerman hopes to raise awareness among students about financial resources available to them.
“I think students are not very aware of the resources that they have,” she said. “I think PLU tries to do a good job of making them aware, but there is still room to grow.”
Visit www.plu.edu/studyaway/funding for more information about study away opportunities and to learn more about the Gilman Scholarship.