Shenley Ross, a student at Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria Campus, spent some of her summer studying abroad in Ireland for three weeks after receiving the 2017 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
The Gilman Scholarship targets students who have been historically underrepresented in education abroad, including but not limited to first-generation college students, students in STEM fields, ethnic minority students, students with disabilities, students attending HBCUs or other minority-serving institutions and students attending community colleges.
When she made up her mind that she wanted to study abroad, Shenley actively sought out different ways to make this happen, working with her adviser and the International Students and Sponsored Programs Office. The Gilman Scholarship is a grant opportunity for international studies and is run by the U.S. Department of State.
With the help of her adviser, Shenley completed the necessary applications and paperwork. She said the International Students and Sponsored Programs Office was instrumental in helping her to navigate both the academic and financial components of studying abroad. Shenley advises every student to look into different opportunities to study abroad while they earn their degree.
“It is important for students at NOVA to know that they too have the ability to study abroad and to gain international academic experience, and that NOVA has an International Education office dedicated to helping them to achieve this. It may seem like an out of the box idea, but that is all the more reason to do it,” Shenley said. “I think a lot of NOVA students believe that they have to take an entire semester for a study abroad experience, but there are shorter programs such as the University of Limerick, which is where I attended, in their three-week program.
“One bit of information I can offer is that it is much less expensive if you apply for the academic program that you are interested in directly with the university. My program fees were about half of those of students who used an international studies placement program.”
While studying at the University of Limerick, Shenley took courses about Irish history such as “Irish Myth and Legends.” She said she was initially interested in studying and traveling abroad in Ireland because of her heritage.
“Ireland seemed like an obvious choice for me for several reasons. I am of Irish heritage and liked the opportunity to learn more about my family background. The program they offered was for three weeks and that fit better with my schedule,” she said. “Lastly, some of the classes offered fell into my area of study. I also have limited experience with international travel and cultures, and Ireland felt like something that would be more familiar and manageable as a first live-abroad experience.”
Shenley said she enjoyed studying Irish history and learning more about the culture and their traditions. Seeing how the culture of Ireland differs from the U.S. was also an experience she said she’ll never forget.
“I learned about the history and culture of the Irish people and the differences between our cultures here in the United States and that of Ireland,” she explained. “I also learned that the stories we tell are what help form the minds of people. The fact that I’m an English major showed me how powerful and impactful words can be, not only to a single person but to an entire people and that will always stay with me. Having the opportunity to actually visit in person some of the historic and geographical landmarks was truly remarkable and I will never forget how it felt to actually stand in the places I had only seen on television or in magazines.”
Shenley is currently pursuing an associate degree in liberal arts and plans to graduate in Spring 2018. Shenley juggles classes at NOVA, working full time and parenting. Even with her full schedule, Shenley still managed to get inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. For more on Shenley’s study abroad trip in Ireland, visit her YouTube Channel.
For additional information about studying abroad opportunities, view NOVA’s Global Studies & Programs website.
Media Contact: Raytevia Evans | 703.425.5839 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.