Studying and Volunteering in Ho Chi Minh City: My Semester in Vietnam as a Gilman Scholar

Sep 28, 2018
Trevaughn, a 2018 Gilman Scholar, meets a Tiger in Vietnam!

A program of the U.S. Department of State, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship provides scholarships to students to study or intern abroad. Open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant Funding, the grant program aims for students to participate in and contribute to communities all over the world. Gilman Scholars return to the U.S. with skills that will promote national security as well as encourage economic competitiveness. The program has a strong emphasis on language learning, and Gilman scholars have studied in over 145 countries since its inception in 2001. The award amounts vary based on student need and the length of his or her program.

We talked to Trevaughn Latimer, a 2018 Gilman Scholar who studied in Vietnam, to learn more about the fellowship and get some tips for preparing an application!

Trevaugn takes in the natural beauty of Vietnam

1. What inspired you to apply for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship?

I applied for the Gilman scholarship because I was accepted to study in Vietnam at the Loyola University Chicago Vietnam Center and knew that it was a scholarship specifically for students of color and underrepresented students. I was born and raised in St. Louis, MO, and I had many struggles that stemmed from being low-income and black. It was very important for me to go college to experience new things that those in my home community would not be able to. When I returned from studying abroad, I wanted to share my new experiences and lift up those who feel left behind and neglected in society. The Gilman scholarship was an opportunity that would allow me to do this!

2. What are the benefits of the fellowship?

The Gilman scholarship awards scholarships of up to $5,000 to students of color and underrepresented students who will be studying at an institution abroad. While at the Loyola Vietnam Center, I took 13 credit hours of classes and interned at a nonprofit shelter that houses 15 homeless boys in Ho Chi Minh City. Because I had the money from the scholarship, I didn’t have to worry about living expenses while in Vietnam. I got to enjoy myself more and see more of the country and Southeast Asia! I was able to travel throughout Vietnam and to Thailand and Cambodia. I learned so much about the culture and the struggles of the people who live there. As a result of being a Gilman Scholar in Vietnam, I am now highly interested in international development and affairs.

Trevaugn at his intership in Ho Chi Minh City

3. What was your most eye-opening experience in Vietnam?

The most eye-opening experience in Vietnam was when a friend of mine and I went up to Vietnam’s most northern province, called Ha Giang. There, we rode motorbikes through the very large and vast amount of mountains. I have never seen anything more beautiful. Throughout our two-day journey, we self-navigated through mountain passes, cliffs, and small mountain villages and towns. Many of Vietnam’s ethnic minority groups live in these mountains and we were able to get a glimpse into their life as farmers sticking close to their own traditions. Some of them did not even speak Vietnamese! We also received even more curious looks than what we would get in Vietnamese cities. I will never forget this experience.

Trevaugn enjoying the sites of Vietnam

4. What tips would you give others applying to the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship?

Start on your essays early! Have multiple faculty and staff review your essays, not only your friends or peers. Seek out the fellowship office at your educational institution. They will often have services to help you with your essays.

Also, I believe Gilman is looking for authentic individuals with unique stories. So be you in your essays! Don’t worry if you don’t think you are unique enough — I can guarantee you that everyone else applying are thinking the same things. I think I was awarded a scholarship because I was true to myself and my story.

Trevaughn Latimer was born and raised near St. Louis, in the city of Ferguson, Missouri. He studies at Loyola University Chicago, majoring in Economics while minoring in Psychology and Mathematics. He studied abroad in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam during the Spring 2018 semester. He is now a Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellow at the at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Interested in applying? Bookmark the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship your ProFellow account.

© Victoria Johnson 2018, all rights reserved