2019 Gilman Scholarship Recipient
Stephanie Wong Su
Bachelor of Science: Biology;
Minor in Business Management
College of Natural and Social Sciences
Class of 2019
Name of the scholarship (and its benefits):
The U.S. Department of State and the Institute of International Education (IIE) award the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for students with limited financial means. It provides up to $5,000 in financial support to help students study or intern abroad. For students who study a critical language, they can also apply for a supplemental award of up to $3000. The expenses the award covers include program tuition, room, and board, books, local transportation, insurance, airfare, and passport and visa fees.
With this scholarship, I will be able to study abroad in South Korea for the fall 2019 semester. Because Korean is a critical language, I will also be awarded the supplemental award.
What are your future career goals?
After graduating, I am preparing to look for a position in environmental work. I hope to become an environmental ambassador to connect and educate people from different backgrounds. After exploring several niches of environmental work, I plan to pursue higher education in environmental science. My overall goal is to communicate environmental issues and work on solutions with different countries around the world.
What motivated you to apply and what were some of the challenges?
As a first-generation student from a low-income family, financing a study abroad opportunity was going to be a challenge. I applied to the Gilman Scholarship because it was one of the large scholarships specifically for study abroad students that needed financial help. Although it was competitive, I had to try. One of the biggest challenges while applying was constantly second-guessing myself, and questioning if I was good enough to apply since the scholarship is open to students nationwide. Another challenge I faced, while applying, was really digging into my brain and understanding exactly I wanted to accomplish, verbalize my goals, and making it transparent in my writing.
How has this scholarship affected your career goals and ambitions?
The process of applying to the scholarship and the questions asked made me reflect on exactly what kind of career I wanted, and how I was going to pursue it. South Korea is one of the most technically advanced countries in the world, but also happens to be one of the most polluted developed countries in the world. Traveling to South Korea, and studying abroad with the Gilman Scholarship, will allow me to experience and understand the severity of pollution. I mainly want to learn what solutions South Korea is working on to improve their environment. With the help of the Gilman, I am able to expand my academic perspective and my professional network overseas.
Receiving this scholarship has melted away the doubts I had while applying. I am honored to know that people see potential in me, even when I did not see it myself. This scholarship has made me more certain in my goals and in myself.
What is a cause you are passionate about? Is this cause related to your career goals?
A cause that I really care about is global climate change, and the environmental issues occurring as a result. As a biology major, I have been fortunate enough to visit places with incredible diversity in plants, animals, and habitats. Sadly, the rate of biodiversity is decreasing, this very minute, due to global climate change. I am passionate about the environment, and I am passionate about learning about cultures and languages. In order to become a great scientist, I believe it is important to know the people that you are communicating to and their values. I aim to become an environmental scientist that can help solve issues regarding global warming and habitat loss, but also share and collaborate with people across different countries.
What advice would you give to future applicants of this scholarship or any scholarship?
For any scholarships: The first step to applying for scholarships is to find them. I typically google search scholarships and create a document with all the links to it. I proceed to comb through them to see which one fits me the best. One trick I like to do is to prepare myself and give myself an earlier deadline to complete the applications. Lastly and most importantly, meet with people that have had experience reading scholarship essays, like Jessica Rodriguez from the NISFeP office, to read your writing and assist in applying. Do not be afraid of constructive criticism or else there is no chance to grow.
My advice, for future Gilman applicants, would be to understand your goals, your reasons for studying abroad, and how the country/university aligns with your plans. Lastly, I would suggest thinking about why you want to be there, not just for fun, but also for your future goals.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
People would be surprised to know that I speak three languages: English, Cantonese, and Spanish. I learned Spanish from a combination of Spanish dramas and music. Currently, I am working on my fourth language, which is Korean.
Special Thanks to Dr. Sonja Lind:
I would like to thank the International Office at Cal State LA for helping me as much as possible, especially Dr. Sonja Lind, education abroad coordinator, for answering all my questions and guiding me through the study abroad application process with great patience.
For more information on the Gilman International Scholarship, please contact the Cal State LA representatives for the Gilman Scholarship:
Jessica Rodriguez, NISFeP/Scholarships & Fellowships Coordinator
King Hall D145, Basement Level
Sonja Lind, Education Abroad Coordinator, International Office
Golden Eagle 217