Scholarship Allows Student to Study Abroad in the Middle East

By Jordan Unger

A political science student at Youngstown State University was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad this semester.

Bryce Saunders, the recipient of the Critical Need Language Award, will be traveling to Jordan this month to study Arabic. Saunders said he chose to learn Arabic because he wants to pursue political affairs after graduation and always took an interest in the Middle East.

The Gilman Scholarship is offered by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs to students with limited financial means to study abroad. Madeleine Clendenin, Modern Standard Arabic instructor at YSU, said Saunders was very deserving of the scholarship.

“I knew early on in the semester that he would succeed,” Clendenin said.  “He was serious about learning the language and the culture of the Arab world, and by applying for the Gilman Scholarship [he] shows how resourceful and motivated he is.”

Saunders is the 19th student from YSU to win the Gilman Scholarship since 2012. Ann Gardner, the associate director of the International Programs Office, said this shines a positive light on the university.

“YSU has an excellent track record with scholarships,” Gardner said.

The Gilman Scholarship awards students $5,000 to study abroad. In addition, Saunders was granted $3,000 for studying a language deemed critical for U.S. national security and opportunities in economics. Saunders said he was surprised to win the award.

“It’s very competitive,” Saunders said. “For the critical need [award], they received about 5000 applications and they only give 70 out for the whole year.”

Three programs are available to students who study abroad to Jordan through the Council on International Educational Exchange. Saunders said he will be participating in the Language and Culture program.

“Nine of my classes will be strictly Arabic classes and the other nine will be regional and politics classes,” Saunders said.

Clendenin said studying Arabic in an Arabic-speaking country will be a great learning experience for Saunders.

“Students should learn at least one other language because in the real world, they are competing with candidates who speak two, three or more languages,” Clendenin said. “To become proficient, learning any language abroad where students can completely immerse themselves in everyday living situations is a must.”

Opportunities such as this also help to eliminate stigmas and stereotypes of cultures, Saunders said. He said there is a disconnect between the cultures of the Middle East and the West.

“The West has their opinions of the Middle East and the Middle East has theirs of the West, especially America. I feel like more students going there and seeing what the culture’s all about and taking an opportunity to learn a language will really help [change] those views.”

After returning in May, Gilman Scholarship recipients must host an event to promote the scholarship. Saunders said he will be showing videos of his trip to Jordan and discuss the scholarship, which he believes any student should look into.

“Even if you don’t have the financial means to study abroad, there’s always opportunities out there,” Saunders said. “A lot of students think it’s out of reach and it’s really not.”

YSU sends about 150 students to other countries through study abroad programs yearly. Gardner said all students should consider these programs while in college.

“It will help them grow in ways that they might not even realize,” Gardner said. “If they have any interest at all, they should come to a study abroad information session.”

Sessions are held Fridays at noon in Tod Hall for students interested in the study abroad programs offered at YSU.