Spotlight: Gilman Scholarship Awardee Naomi Chao

May 4, 2022


University of Arizona students are encouraged to apply to the prestigious U.S. Department of State's Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship! The Gilman Scholarship is administered by the Institute of International Education and the University of Arizona. This scholarship is a highly competitive study abroad grant awarded to approximately 3,000 undergraduate students across the country each year.

The University of Arizona is a Top Producer of Gilman Scholars, ranking in fifth place for large universities per the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In our commitment to support students and their study abroad plans, the University of Arizona's Study Abroad office partners with the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships to host Gilman information sessions and offer application workshop events. Additionally, the Study Abroad team encourages students to utilize helpful university resources like the Writing Center.

One of the University of Arizona’s recent Gilman Scholars, Animal Science major Naomi Chao, answers a few questions on how receiving the Gilman Scholarship impacted her experience.

What was your Study Abroad Experience Like?

“My study abroad program was the Arizona in Alcalá de Henares program based in Spain. I took two Spanish classes through this program, with one focusing on Spanish art and another on Spanish literature. Because I am minoring in Spanish, this helped me gain more credits towards this minor and fulfill certain requirements.

Even though I was excited, I was very nervous. My program went virtual due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions, and because this wasn't a concept I was really familiar with, I didn't know what to expect. I was also a little nervous about having classes that were fully taught in a foreign language, as I wasn't sure how much I would understand.

Fortunately, having international professors and classes helped me develop my language skills a lot. I was able to get used to and learn about different vernacular terms and accents. Additionally, it helped me learn about the different cultures in Spain because the art and literature that my classes covered were explained by individuals who personally experienced their relevance to their culture.”

What was Applying for the Gilman Scholarship Like?

“Receiving the Gilman Scholarship is what allowed me to participate in my study abroad program. Without this scholarship, I doubt I would have been able to afford study abroad. Thankfully, applying for this scholarship was a straightforward process. The instructions and expectations were clearly explained throughout the application, and many of my questions were answered by their FAQs page. Additionally, in my experience, the Gilman staff responded to inquiries fairly quickly. However, the application is still a bit of a long process because it requires quite a bit of writing, and it may be time consuming to think of answers for many of the questions.”

What Advice Would You Give Students Interested in Studying Abroad or Applying to the Gilman Scholarship?

“I would say that if you feel at all interested in studying abroad and qualify for this scholarship, you should apply, as it really helps with the cost. When applying, it will be useful to get a general sense of what you want to do as early as possible, with both the study abroad program and your follow-up project. Try to start early and look through the whole application initially to note sections that will need more attention.

Overall, if you're interested and able to participate in Study Abroad, go for it! You don't get very many opportunities to explore the world as a student, so try to do it if you can.”


Look out for Gilman Scholarship Information Sessions on the Study Abroad Calendar this coming school year so that you can help fund your time abroad!

In the meantime, find out more about scholarships and financial aid on our website, or use our Program Search to start exploring your options abroad.