Dream to Reality

Landscape of Florence, Italy, taken from the Piazzale Michelangelo steps

I always knew I wanted to study abroad since hearing it was an option at universities. When I started at San Diego State University (SDSU) as a transfer student in the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), not only did I want to study abroad, but it was a requirement for my graduation. As a Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences major, there was an amazing opportunity to study abroad for a whole semester in Glasgow, Scotland. I applied, got extremely excited, prepared for the experience… and was rejected.

I started to freak out, thinking that was my only opportunity to study abroad and complete my graduation requirement. Luckily, I live with two roommates who are a part of CHHS, and they told me about the Global Seminar Connecting Art and Anatomy in Italy for the summer of 2022. At first, I was hesitant. Why would I go abroad for a program that doesn’t have anything to do with my major? Nevertheless, I decided to just go for it and apply because, as a transfer student, I didn’t have much time to think of other options as graduation was nearing.

After a few weeks, I received the email that I was accepted into the program – I get to spend my summer in Italy! However, even with this deep desire to go, I didn’t have the financial means to because this was a summer program, and there was little to no financial aid available. I knew that if I wanted to experience something like this, I would have to find the money on my own.

After a couple of days of talking to my parents and trying to figure out a way, I stumbled upon an email about the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. I clicked on their website and saw that I had the opportunity to have my entire trip covered! As intimidating as the application process and how competitive this program was, it honestly helped me prepare for graduate school applications. I, very impatiently, sat through two whole months of waiting until I received a reply from them.

During those two months, I started worrying that I wouldn’t receive the scholarship and would have to drop out of this program. Once I received their email, I immediately clicked the link and hoped for the best. I instantly felt relieved and called my parents to tell them the good news – I had been awarded a scholarship that covered my entire trip! This scholarship gave me the opportunity to experience something that other students don’t have to think twice about. With the experience and opportunity this scholarship gave me, I wanted to let others know about this amazing program and give them a chance to live out their dream of studying abroad. 

Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

Once I was in Italy, I immediately felt consumed by their culture. From their amazing food – pizzas, pasta, gelato, and so much more – to their beautiful art, everything felt out of this world. This specific Global Seminar, Connecting Art and Anatomy in Italy with Dr. Kevin Petti, focused on how medicine and art intertwined during the Renaissance and investigated how and why anatomical parts were discovered in the earliest hospitals. This trip truly gave me a new perspective and appreciation of both art and medicine, and I was able to connect it to my field of speech pathology when we visited some of the first hospitals that were built.

I realized there were so many students on this trip from different majors and even different colleges within SDSU. There was a student in the journalism major and even one in accounting. This really showed me that studying abroad doesn’t necessarily have to involve your field of study. The main point of it is to expose you to different cultures and help you become more culturally aware. Not only was my time abroad one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but I also met so many amazing people through it. I made new friends and connections with professors, one of which offered to write me a letter of recommendation for graduate school. 

Dr. Kevin Petti talking to our class in the Anatomy Theater at the University of Bologna (one of the first universities in the Western world)
Me taking advantage of the bus rides between cities so that I can take on another day filled with activities

While the trip lasted only two weeks, there were still a handful of good and bad times. On the bad end of the scale, the summer of 2022 had the most intense heat wave I’ve ever experienced. Imagine walking up hundreds of stairs in over 100-degree weather. Many people suffered from heat exhaustion and had to sit out from activities because it was so hot.

But honestly, none of that outweighed the good parts, which was everything we did and experienced on that trip. I ate some of the best food in the world, talked to people from all different walks of life, and saw the most beautiful architecture. None of that would have happened if it weren’t for the Gilman Scholarship.

I want every person who feels like they can’t apply for a study abroad program and reads this article to know it is possible. Your dreams of studying abroad can become a reality if you find the right resources to help you.

My friends and I in Venice, Italy

About the Author

Yarden Gandelman is a senior at SDSU majoring in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. She is from Agoura Hills, California, and loves to read, go to the beach, and spend quality time with her family and friends. Yarden plans to graduate in May 2023 and will continue her education in graduate school to become a speech-language pathologist.

A Glimpse of Life in Spain

This was the beach a short distance from my apartment, where I would go to watch the sunset and swim. The Mediterranean Sea was beautiful and warm, even at night. You could also find people hanging out on the beach with family and friends at all hours of the night.

This is the view from a rooftop restaurant where I would eat with my friends. The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona was my favorite part of the city because of the narrow cobblestone streets and cathedrals on every corner. Samsung’s choice of advertisement placement was also very interesting.

My friend and I enjoy the view from a popular hill in the city. This was the perfect spot for picnics and sunsets where you could see the whole city of Barcelona.

This is a “Castell,” or human tower, in a town near Barcelona. This is a Catalan tradition in which different teams compete or simply perform their different towers. People of all ages participate in this tradition, even young children who are the ones who climb to the very top.

My Experience

Ever since I was young, I knew that I wanted to study abroad while in college. I always thought it would be an amazing opportunity to live in a foreign country and experience a new culture. I made the decision to apply for a Spanish language program in Barcelona, Spain, for the summer of 2022, despite having no way to pay for the trip. I was too excited about living out my dream of studying abroad, and I did not think much about the price. When I got accepted into the program, I was ecstatic. However, the realization of not being able to afford the trip cast a shadow on my enthusiasm. Determined to go on this trip, I began applying for any study abroad scholarship I could find. During this time, I stumbled upon an email promoting the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, and I hesitantly sent in my application. It was clear that the Gilman Scholarship was competitive, and I did not have much expectation of receiving it. After weeks of rejection letters from different scholarship committees, I began to lose hope, and my dream of studying abroad seemed to be slipping away. One afternoon, I felt exceptionally hopeless about the whole situation when I saw an email pop up from the Gilman organization. I held my breath as I logged into my account to see the status. An instant wave of relief and joy ran through me. I immediately called my mother and excitedly told her I had been awarded the Gilman scholarship, which covered nearly all of my study abroad trip! I will never forget the feeling of that day. I am forever grateful to the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program and its dedication to students who want to study abroad but do not have the financial resources. This award has inspired me to share with every student that traveling and learning are possible for everyone, no matter what your bank account looks like. Thanks to the support of the Gilman organization and their faith in me, I was able to have the best experience of my life in Spain!

Of course, I was nervous as I packed for my five weeks abroad, even more so as I boarded the plane. Doubts and fears rushed through me. Will I hate it there? Will I be alone? Will I even meet anyone? I was not very confident in my Spanish, and I was extremely afraid of living in a foreign country without my friends or family. I had heard of other people studying abroad, but you often only hear the good parts. I had no idea if other students felt the same way as me. However, the second I met the other people in my program, my nerves began to subside. Having a group of only ten other students there, we all instantly became best friends. Despite our extreme differences and being from all over the United States, we all loved being together because we knew that everyone was out of their comfort zone. My friends and I explored the city together, tried new foods, traveled to different towns, and stumbled through our Spanish together. I had never felt so close to a group of people so quickly, but we bonded so much because everything we did, we did together.

There were ups and downs of attending a school where none of my professors spoke English or the culture shock of an urban city in Europe. Yet, I fell in love with Barcelona. I loved their transportation system, how safe the city was, the cobblestone alleys, and endless tapas bars. I tried the best food of my life and swam in the warm Mediterranean Sea almost every day. I even became friends with my professors and classmates, which added to the difficulty of saying goodbye to Barcelona. Even though I came to Spain reassuring myself that it was only five weeks, I left Barcelona devastated that I couldn’t stay for the rest of the year. I made amazing relationships and memories in such a short amount of time, and I am so grateful for this opportunity. I want to encourage anyone and everyone to step outside of their comfort zone, even if it is scary sometimes. For me, this whole experience was possible because of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Therefore, I want to share with others about this resource and show students that this incredible trip can become a reality for them too. 

About the Author

Kristan Krull is a senior at SDSU majoring in Psychology with a minor in Spanish. She is from San Luis Obispo, California, and loves to hike, swim, and travel. Kristan plans to graduate in December 2022 and begin graduate school in Fall 2023 to pursue a career as a Therapist. 

A Letter to Remember

Dear Ghana,

I cannot thank you enough for making this one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself. You’ve welcomed me with open arms and an open heart. You’ve allowed me to explore who I am and what I want in life.

You’ve taught me that I’m stronger than I think (physically, mentally and emotionally) by putting me to the test hiking Mt. Afajato, challenging me with unexpected blackouts or rainstorms and even bargaining in the markets or with taxi drivers.

You’ve taught me to live in the moment and appreciate every given day, which should be lived to its fullest.

Continue reading “A Letter to Remember”

Agur, Adios, Goodbye

[Agur: The equivalent of goodbye in Euskara]

Growing up isn’t easy. There’s never a right time to do it, it just kind of happens, whether you want it to or not. These past three months studying abroad have taught me so much. I’ve felt the growth within me and there were even times where I felt growing pains in my heart — if that’s even a real thing.

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A Quick Jaunt to the Tombs

When studying abroad, it is nice that there is time given to explore other locations and sites. While participating in the study abroad program at the University of Haifa in Israel, students are encouraged to do a little bit of exploring, and given time to do so. Classes are held Monday through Thursday so my weekends last from Thursday evening until Sunday evening. Recently I decided to take this opportunity to, as many friends here suggested, go on a quick jaunt to the island of Cyprus.

Continue reading “A Quick Jaunt to the Tombs”

My Italian Thanksgiving

One drawback of studying abroad is not being able to be with family during the holiday season, which makes it a little more difficult not to miss home this time of year. Unfortunately I was not able to go home and celebrate with any of my family this year. It honestly made me sad to think that my family was all together (one of the two holidays where this is the case) and I missed out on the occasion.

But, luckily, something happened the weekend before that made up for it every single bit.

Continue reading “My Italian Thanksgiving”

Remembering The Sabbath (Shabbat) With University of Haifa International School

A recent experience was shared with the students of the University of Haifa International School: We were all welcomed with open arms to participate in the observance of Sabbath. The day is recognized as a Jewish holiday and is set aside for rest and worship.

The tradition comes from the Bible (Exodus 20:8) where God commands “the Sabbath day is considered the day of rest on the seventh day, and is to be kept as a holy day of rest, as God rested on the seventh day from His works of Creation.”

According to the Jewish religious laws, Sabbath begins slightly before sunset on Friday and ends upon the appearance of three stars as they begin to shine on Saturday evening. Sabbath is ushered in by the lighting of candles, resting from labor and issuing prayers and blessings to the Creator. The day is called Shabbat and comes from the word Sabbath, which comes from the Hebrew word meaning “rest.”

Continue reading “Remembering The Sabbath (Shabbat) With University of Haifa International School”

Feelin’ 22

Ever wonder what it’s like to spend your birthday in another country on a different continent?

This past weekend I celebrated my 22nd birthday in Barcelona, Spain and it was absolutely amazing. There’s something about traveling to different places that makes you a little bit more whole. This weekend I’ve realized many things but, most importantly, I think I grew up a little more.

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Berlin: A Capital and More

Last weekend, the California State University students who are in Germany took a trip from our cozy region of Baden-Württemberg to the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, Berlin. Berlin is quite different from the wooded southwest that I am studying in. The city motto “Poor, but sexy” is well deserved. The city is still rebuilding after the unification of Germany, thus old and new are juxtaposed.

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A Gilman Scholar in Phuket, Thailand!

Apologies for my late continuation of my last blog! Midterms were happening here at Nanyang Technological University and I had to work on them.

First and foremost I want to thank the Gilman Scholarship for helping me fund my Study Abroad adventure. They have also invited me to events here in Singapore. One of them was in the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. I was invited to a dinner and was able to chat with other Gilman scholars and government workers.

Continue reading “A Gilman Scholar in Phuket, Thailand!”

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