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Gilman Scholarship Offers International Opportunities 

Gilman Scholarship Recipients

Clockwise: Jane Lai, Lauryn Woodruff, Ronak Patel, Kevin Yang, Kevin Felisme, and Erin Wuebbens. (Photo by Jeff Watts)

Kevin Felisme, SPA/BA '14, initially attended college in New Hampshire with plans to play football. Next May, nearly 500 miles away, he will graduate with a degree in justice and law from American University. Felisme never imagined the twists and turns his college years would take—or that one would lead him to South Africa. But thanks to a grant from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, Felisme will be leaving for Cape Town this spring.

“While I’m abroad, even the basic necessities of getting groceries, I don’t have to worry about that now, thanks to the grant,” Felisme says. “I don’t have to be stressed out about asking my mom or dad for money, and I’ll be able to engage in South Africa.”

The Gilman Program awards outstanding scholars the financial assistance they need to have a successful study abroad experience. Applications, which consist of two personal essays, are accepted twice a year, and grants of up to $5,000 can be used to cover program tuition, room and board, books, local transportation, insurance, and international airfare.

AU’s nine Gilman scholars will study from January to June in diverse countries including China, the Czech Republic, England, France, Jordan, Senegal, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey. During those months, students will enroll in local universities and take classes that complement their fields of study.

For Felisme, an interest in law and working in the criminal justice system came after his initial plan to play football was irreversibly altered. Injured during camp his freshman year, Felisme realized he didn’t want to rely on football—“It was a short little thing,” he says of his playing experience—and refocused his energy on academics, transferring to AU for its educational diversity and student population.

Moving to Washington, D.C., was ideal for Felisme’s interests. Since transferring, he’s interned at a number of different advocacy organizations, including the Vera Institute of Justice and the Center for American Progress. He is also a member of a two-year summer program with the Institute for Responsible Citizenship, a program in which 13 young African American men from across the U.S. come together in D.C. to give back to the community. After graduating from AU, Felisme hopes to work within the criminal justice system and on prison reform.

“I never really thought of doing all that kind of stuff until I got to AU,” Felisme says. “Everyone is like, ‘Oh, I interned at the House, I interned on the Hill,’ and it motivated me to do big things.”

Kevin Yang, SIS/BA '15, has equally meaningful ambitions. As an ROTC scholar, Yang hopes to have a successful career in the U.S. Army and Department of Defense and will study in South Korea. Although his parents are from South Korea and he visited the country as a child, the opportunity to study abroad there, thanks to the Gilman Scholarship and additional funding from the accompanying Critical Need Language Supplement program, will be his first real introduction to the nation.

“I visited Korea when I was very young, so I have no recollection of my experiences there,” Yang says. “It will be as if I’m going to Korea for the first time.”

While Felisme and Yang differ in where they’re going and what they’ll be studying, both aspiring globetrotters share an appreciation for the opportunities presented by the Gilman Scholarship Program. Both credit the Office of Merit Awards and AU’s diversity and rigorous academics for their initiative to apply.

“AU is just a crazy place,” says Felisme with a laugh. “Being at AU in general, it made me believe I can do whatever I want, whatever I put my mind to.”

Congratulations to all of AU’s spring 2013 Gilman Scholarship recipients: Kevin Borow, SOC/KSB/BA '14, Victoria Cayard, SIS/BA '14, Julia Bellotti, SIS/BA '14, Kevin Felisme, SPA/BA '14, Jane Lai, SIS/BA '14, Ronak Patel, KSB/BA '14, Lauryn Woodruff, SIS/BA '14, Erin Wuebbens, SIS/BA '14, and Kevin Yang, SIS/BA '15.