Financing Study Abroad

 

Last fall I took a semester off from Olin and studied Classical Arabic and North African Migration in Rabat, Morocco. My semester abroad was the culmination of years of decisions and months of planning which all, ultimately, were essential to making it all happen. I faced a variety of hurdles in the winter of 2011, not the least of which was the Arab Spring; however, one hurdle which could very well have de-railed all of my study away plans was financial.  

Like many other Olin students, funding my study away experience was something I had to do on my own. The maze of financial options was confusing and at times I worried that it wouldn't come together in time. Eventually, however, it all worked out and I learned a lot about what it takes to raise the money to go abroad.

 

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(Here I am in the Atlas mountains in southern Morocco)

 

To begin with, I chose to go with a pre-approved program, meaning that none of the costs of my program were covered by my Olin Scholarship. However, many of the other "flavors" of study away at Olin have different financial policies, so my first piece of advice is meet with Carol Kelley and discuss the details of the program you've chosen.

 

Typically, there are three places where funding for your program can come from: you, Olin, and outside sources. "You" is simple, it is your "expected family contribution". This is your money, money you've earned or been loaned or given. Money from Olin comes in the form of grants, given on the basis of financial need. Finally, outside sources of funding are what I'm going to talk about here. For more up-to-date or detailed information on financial aid and the effect of external scholarships, email Jean Ricker

Outside Sources of Funding
Your first stop when looking for funding outside of yourself and Olin is to check out your study away program. If you're applying to a university, this may not apply to you; however, if you're applying to a program such as SIT, CIEE, API or another privately run company, there are often scholarships for which entrants to their programs can apply. 
 
After exhausting the possibilities within your study away program, you're going to need to look for outside scholarships. The Olin Study Away website has an excellent collection here. Of these scholarships, I applied for, and benefited from, the Gilman Scholarship. 
 
The Gilman Scholarhip
The Gilman Scholarship is a congressionally funded program which annually awards roughly 2,300 scholarships of up to $5,000 each. Scholarship allocation favors students who are visiting non-traditional countries, but every location is eligible (excluding those on the travel warning list). Not sure if you can take the time off, but still want to participate in a study abroad program? Summer scholarships are available in addition to scholarships for the academic year. 
 
However, in order to be eligible for the scholarship, you must be receiving a Federal Pell Grant during the period of your study abroad
 
Interested and eligible? The application process is online and fairly painless. The most important part of the application is something called a Follow-on Project Proposal. After returning from your study abroad program, recipients of the scholarship are required to complete a follow-on project, the purpose of which is to increase interest in study abroad and spread awareness of the Gilman Scholarship. 
 
My follow-on project has been focused around written communication, because that's what I enjoy. From writing for Frankly Speaking and the Olin Blog, to my own travel blog, I've been documenting my experience and sharing stories since the first day I landed in Rabat. I met a dozen other Gilman recipients during my study abroad, and the follow-on projects were a diverse bunch, designed as they were by so many different people. They ranged from sending weekly videos to an elementary class in the United States to giving an informational session after returning to their home institution---the possibilities are endless! Want to learn traditional dance while abroad? You could perform at Expo with a question-answer session afterward. Love photography? Put together a photo-book documenting your travel experiences and donate it to the library. Because you can tailor your project to your strengths and interests, the experience can be as enjoyable and as rewarding as you make it. 
 
My goal in this post is to increase awareness of the Gilman scholarship. The information is available and the opportunity is fantastic, yet I am the first Olin student, to my knowledge, who has ever even applied to the program. Why is that? It could be lack of awareness or it could be lack of time. I'd wager that it's a combination. 
 
I'm here to say: do not let this opportunity go by. Not only is the funding generous, but the program itself offers support for students abroad. As of April last year, I wasn't sure I'd be able to study Arabic abroad, as was my goal. I took one look at the price tag of my top-choice program and figured it was a lost cause. The Gilman scholarship, along with SIT's scholarship awards and Olin's fantastic financial aid department, made my study away happen---and I want it to make yours happen too. 
 
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(My Arabic class in Rabat, Morocco)

 

Applying for the Gilman? Thinking about it? Just want to hear more about the program or my experience? Email me!

Check out the Gilman Scholarship. It's definitely worth your time. 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: Class of 2013