With Big Dreams, Another Group of Gilman Scholars Sets Sail

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A group of students standing in front of a bookshelf.
The six 2023 Gilman Scholars celebrated their accomplishments with faculty and staff in December 2022.

Last month, six Lehman students prepared to voyage overseas for study abroad programs in regions stretching from Japan to Spain, each supported by a prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The highly competitive award program provides up to $5,000 for foreign study, and has created transformative educational opportunities for dozens of Lehman students in the past five years alone.

The program, which grants over 3,000 scholarships a year, was established in 2001 to make international study accessible to outstanding American undergraduate students who might otherwise be shut out of such opportunities by financial constraints. It operates under the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and is administered by the Institute of International Education.

Every Lehman applicant who applied in the fall of 2022 was successful this time around. The College has a great track record; prior to the pandemic, Lehman was twice named a “top producer” of Gilman Scholars.

In fact, between 2020 and 2022—in spite of pandemic-related travel restrictions—students continued to apply. Seventeen were awarded scholarships, including this most recent cohort. Last summer three Gilman Scholars attended summer programs in South Korea, Costa Rica, and Italy.

“Lehman students are resourceful, aware of opportunities, and committed to getting the most out of their time at the College. This extends to opportunities for study abroad,” said Teresita Levy, who was director of international programs and global partnerships during the 2022 application cycle. The personalized support students receive—together with their commitment to their education—is what makes us successful.”

The Gilman Scholarship has a rigorous application process. “I think what makes Gilman stand out from the other scholarships I have applied to is the level of commitment that is required to craft a competitive application,” said Alexander Quezada, a junior majoring in computer science. “The most difficult thing about the application was writing the essays, and in particular, the personal statement.” 

Fortunately, applicants for the Gilman and other study abroad programs are supported every step of the way by Lehman’s Office of Prestigious Awards (OPA) and the Office of International Programs and Community Engagement, which both encourage students dream big and mentor them throughout the application cycle.

Quezada is now immersing himself in Japanese language and culture. His semester at Tenri University in Nara, Japan, is part of a long-term plan, which includes returning to the country for graduate school. On this first visit, however, he said he wants to explore as much of the country as he can. “I think this experience will change my life in more ways than I can anticipate,” he said.

Quezada is joined at Tenri University by juniors Carlos Pintado, a linguistics major, and Natalie Cruz Caba, who is majoring in art and graphics. Seniors Kathelyn Vasquez, a computer science major, is at Vrije University in Amsterdam, and Antanisha Vargas, a sociology major, is studying at the International College of Seville. Kelly Lopez, a junior majoring in business administration, will visit Costa Rica for a summer session based at Universidad Veritas in San Jose.

Lehman students interested in applying for the Gilman Scholarship or other study abroad programs may contact the Office of International Programs and Community Engagement to learn more.