Junior global and international studies major Lethe White has always been interested in traveling to Asia. As a self described e-sports fanatic -- and director of school development at the National Esports Collegiate Conference -- and as someone who grew up with foreign exchange students, White will now get to experience traveling and studying abroad thanks to the education abroad team at SUNY Oswego and the Gilman Scholarship.

White will travel to Japan in August for the fall 2022 semester which is perfect timing, as her current roommate, who is also from Japan, will be back in the country then. 

“Japan ended up being my choice because my roommate right now is from Japan, so I learned a lot about the culture and country from her," White said. "I was also really lucky to take a Japanese course through the university this semester, so that influenced my decision and it all came together really well.”

White worked with Kelsey Gillett in SUNY Oswego's Education Abroad Office to get her experience in motion. White credits Gillett in helping to make the process less intimidating, as traveling out of the country is a huge step.

“I would not have survived the process without Kelsey,” White said. “She has been a total rock star and has been super proud of me and all the things I’ve accomplished because I’m a first-generation student all the way from Missouri.” 

Education abroad scholarships

The Gilman Scholarship has two deadlines depending on your date of travel -- October and March -- and is open to students who receive Pell Grants.

Lyn Blanchfield, who is one of the Gilman Scholarship advisors on campus, wants students who are looking to study abroad to not only take advantage of funding opportunities like this, but wants them to jump on these opportunities as soon as possible. 

“Students should consider scholarships for study abroad, like the Gilman, as soon as they know they wish to study abroad," Blanchfield said. "The sooner students can speak with me and get some assistance, the better! There's more time to write and revise the application and the essays.”

Blanchfield helps ensure student success by guiding them through the process of the application, as well as hosting writing workshops. “I give two Write Ways workshops on how to write these scholarship essays -- one before the October deadline and one before the March deadline. I can also help students individually by explaining what the Gilman is asking for in the essays and reading and critiquing student essays,” Blanchfield said. 

White worked with Blanchfield on thes application, which White credits is one of the factors enabling her to travel and have this experience. 

“It’s great that this scholarship is giving underrepresented students a chance to take advantage of these opportunities,” White said. 

Gillett notes that many students believe that finances will keep them from studying abroad, but scholarships like the Gilman Scholarship and the almost $100,000 in campus and alumni endowed scholarships will ensure that money will not be a barrier to keeping them from this great experience.

“We often associate travel with jet-setting and something you do with your “extra” money,” Gillett said, “But studying abroad is an academic experience -- it is also costing you to be here at SUNY Oswego to get an education. When we host informational sessions, we talk about finances and we start to reframe education abroad and the experience as a whole.”

Education abroad at SUNY Oswego

Like many programs, Education Abroad has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. White will be one of the first students to take advantage of the scholarship and travel since 2020.

Gillett notes that the Paris program that left on Jan. 2 included one student from SUNY Oswego, the first to go since the pandemic broke out. 

Generally, according to the Education Abroad website, the SUNY Oswego Education abroad program sends over 400 students per year on more than 100 overseas academic programs to over 30 countries. Roughly 20 percent of SUNY Oswego students participate in an Education Abroad program at some point during their college studies, making SUNY Oswego one of the leading campuses for study abroad in the SUNY system. 

If you are interested in education abroad, reach out to the office at intled@oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2118.