Esfir Pievskaya, a double major in English and illustration, has earned a competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for an opportunity this fall in Italy.

“The biggest experience I can gain from studying abroad, specifically, in Italy, is the opportunity to see real-life art masterpieces,” Pievskaya said. “As an art major, I have to learn about various techniques and achievements, but you cannot fully understand any of them until you experience them.”

Pievskaya, who previously traveled for a SUNY Oswego summer 2023 program in Norway, described studying abroad as “one of the best ways to work on your networking skills and put yourself out of your comfort zone,” which goes beyond what you can get in a traditional classroom: “I believe that putting yourself in a new environment is not only inspiring but teaches you to adjust quickly.”

The Gilman Scholarship was suggested as an opportunity by advisers as Pievskaya explored options for a semester-long study abroad experience. “I have quite a big family and most of us are in college currently,” Pievskaya explained. “I knew my parents would support my decision to study abroad, but I didn’t want my wish to affect them and our finances.”

The scholarship also required creating a project, which Pievskaya noted leaves a lot of room for something creative and compelling. 

“I am pretty excited to work on my on-site project, which is a requirement for getting the scholarship,” Pievskaya said. “You need to come up with a project that would promote studying abroad on your campus. My project is art-based, therefore, I can’t wait to start developing it.”  

Specifically, the follow-on service project will be "an art book showcasing my Italian experience through sketches and notes," Pievskaya explained.

"I believe this project will inspire art students at SUNY Oswego to see the value of real-life experiences for artists," Pievskaya said. "I'm planning to collect memorable things during my trip like tickets ... and include them in a book I will make myself. I will also include notes I will be making during my time in Florence, something like a journal. Instead of putting a lot of photos in the book I will use illustrations/sketches." 

The opportunities for travel and exploration are another big draw. 

“I am looking forward to traveling outside of the city I will live in,” Pievskaya noted. “If you go to Europe you need to travel, explore, go to various museums, art galleries, etc. With this scholarship, I can finally do that.”

The right choice

The opportunity feels a long way from when Pievskaya started looking at colleges when the COVID-19 pandemic made doing so more difficult.

“I was a junior in high school when the pandemic started, so it was impossible for me to visit any colleges in person,” Pievskaya recalled. “I had to base my decision on some videos of multiple campuses and the way all those places communicated with me. Oswego was the only university that reached out to me right after I applied there, they treated me as if I was already their student.”

The friendliness and helpfulness of Oswego’s art faculty played a factor in the decision, and in the years since have supported Pievskaya’s growth.

“One of my art professors emailed me saying that he could answer any of my questions, and he did,” Pievskaya said. “He even took extra pictures of art studios for me. Most universities looked the same to me ... But Oswego’s friendliness was the final factor to me.”

Pievskaya’s time since has confirmed that Oswego was the right choice.

“Since I got here I met amazing people, students and professors, that helped me to grow as a person and a professional,” Pievskaya said. “It is easy to find interesting opportunities on campus if you are looking for them, like I had a chance to participate in art exhibitions, TV shows and so much more. I believe that the people at Oswego are still one of the best parts of it.”

About the Gilman Scholarship

The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, providing them with skills critical to our national security and economic prosperity. 

A Gilman Scholarship enables American students to gain proficiency in diverse languages and cultures, skills that are critically important to their academic and career development.

To be eligible for the Gilman Program, applicants must be receiving a Federal Pell Grant during the time of application or provide proof that they will be receiving a Pell Grant during the term of their study abroad program or internship. The Institute of International Education has administered the program since its inception in 2001.

For more information about applying for the next round of Gilman Scholarships, contact history faculty member Lyn Blanchfield (, who coordinates the university’s Gilman applications or Lizette Alvarado (, the associate director of international education and programs for SUNY Oswego.