The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program supports undergraduates with a strong academic record and community impact who have been historically underrepresented in study abroad programs. Nearly half of all Gilman Scholars are first-generation college students; about 70% identify as racial or ethnic minority students. The Gilman Scholarship is a key program of the U.S. Department of State, intended to increase the diversity, equity, and inclusion of U.S. foreign policy.
Thirty-two Fordham students have been awarded the scholarship over the past decade, with this year being the highest number yet.
Among this year’s Gilman Scholars is Karen Watanabe, a rising senior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, who earned a scholarship this January and is studying at Sophia University in Tokyo from March to August.
“I wanted to rekindle my relationship with my culture,” said Watanabe, a Japanese American who grew up in Sunnyside, Queens. “Over the years, my Japanese has become more like Japanglish. I took more Japanese classes at Fordham and realized that my Japanese has improved, but it can become even better.”
Watanabe, a political science major and peace and justice studies minor, has taken courses in Japan that are difficult to find back home, including Japanese government and politics and modern Japanese history. “As a political science major, I think it’s important to learn about different systems of government,” said Watanabe, who aspires to be a diplomat or translator.
While living in a dorm in Tokyo, she has visited the biggest shrine in the city, participated in popular festivals like Kanda Matsuri, and spent time with her family members who live in Japan.
Watanabe—a first-generation college student and member of the Higher Education Opportunity Program at Fordham—said she is thankful to Fordham for helping her achieve a dream she’s had since high school: to study abroad.
An ‘Amazing Opportunity’
Devin Moreno, an incoming junior at the Gabelli School of Business, will study at Fordham London next spring. Moreno, an applied accounting and finance double major, said Fordham’s London campus had all the classes he wanted to take—and a bonus backdrop.
“It’s an amazing opportunity, especially for lower-income students. … [T]he Gilman Scholarship makes it a little less expensive and attainable for me and my mom,” said Moreno, the son of a single mother in the Bronx who wants to someday start his own accounting firm, primarily to help low-income families with their finances. “I’m so thankful that I’m at a school where I can study while traveling around the world.”
In addition to the Gilman scholarship, there are new changes in study abroad financing at Fordham, expanding access to study abroad.
Watanabe and Moreno are joined by five other Fordham students in receiving a Gilman Scholarship during the 2022-2023 academic school year:
- Rumsha Aqil, FCRH ’25, an economics major from New Jersey, will study at Oxford University in the United Kingdom in Spring 2024.
- Jillian Klostermann, FCRH ’25, an international studies major from Massachusetts, will study at Freie Universitat in Berlin, Germany, in Fall 2023 and Spring 2024.
- Emily Lai, FCLC ’23, a political science major from New York, is studying at Fordham London in Spring 2023.
- Sabrin Sultana, FCLC ’24, an economics major from New York, will study at the American University in Dubai in Fall 2023.
- Hannah Yang, GABELLI ’25, an applied accounting and finance major from New York, will study at Fordham London in Spring 2024.