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  • Writer's pictureTitan Shout

Scholarship Lets Titans Study Abroad for Free

Neil Sharma
Gilman scholarship recipient and GTCC alum Neil Sharma shares his study abroad experiences.

By Zac Goldstein

Faculty Advisor

As a 28-year-old first-generation low-income college student, Neil Sharma thought that studying abroad would be financially impossible. Now, the GTCC alum has a new message for his fellow Titans: it is more possible than you realize.

“All Pell Grant Titans can travel the world for free,” Sharma said.

Sharma, a Japanese language major at the University of North Carolina who previously served as Titan Shout’s first editor, returned to GTCC’s Jamestown campus on Thursday, September 28 to share his study abroad experiences and promote the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

A U.S. Department of State Initiative, the Gilman Scholarship was created to diversify study abroad experiences by making them more accessible to first-generation students, minority students, community college students, and students with great financial need.

The scholarship has sent students to study in places as far-ranging as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Belgium. Tremaine Cousar, a GTCC student, studied in South Africa where the people and stories he encountered provided him with “rewards beyond measure.”

For his part, Sharma spent this past summer in Japan. Staying with the Hayashi family, he took in the sights of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara (including Nara Park, the Inari Shrine, and Golden Pavilion Temple), watched kabuki theatre, and tried his hand at calligraphy and sushi making.

Sharma also commuted an hour by rail (“Trains are the lifeline of Japan,” he noted) to take Japanese-only classes at Kanda International University, an experience he described as rigorous but rewarding. He was able to put his newly bolstered Japanese language skills to use when he interviewed Japanese salarymen about the effects of a 2018 law aimed at curbing overworking.

The Gilman Scholarship program has rolling application deadlines, and the next one is this Thursday, October 5. It is open to undergraduate U.S. citizens or nationals who receive federal Pell Grants. Those interested in applying should contact Tiffany Overby or Lindley Swift, chairs of the GTCC Global Education and Literacy Committee.

While the program accepts a quarter of applicants nationally, acceptance rates for GTCC students have been much higher. “We’ve had an almost one hundred percent success rate for students who applied,” said Swift.

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