Winning a Gilman Scholarship Becomes Morale Booster for NOVA Nighthawk

July 13, 2023

Limar Aryan is pursuing his dream after winning a Gilman Scholarship! Winning the scholarship gave him a sense of worth. It helped change his perspective and allowed him to see his potential. It showed him that he was not different from others. He, too, can do fun things, like go to Italy to study abroad, which is exactly what he is doing right now! He calls it transformative.


Limar said that both NOVA and the Gilman Scholarship have given him a chance to see what he’s capable of accomplishing in life. This past year, Limar turned things around after he got serious about his schoolwork at NOVA. Now he has been accepted to George Mason University. 

Limar is grateful to NOVA for giving him the time and space to get himself together. He calls NOVA a stepping stone that has really helped him. Now he’s moving forward in life with plans to pursue a bachelor’s in IT and then to enter the military as an officer in the Air Force or the Marines.

Limar started taking classes at NOVA after graduating from Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge. But he eventually fell into a rut as work became a bigger and bigger part of his life, and school took a back seat.  Hear from him how he turned things around.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:
I live in Woodbridge and went to elementary, middle and high school there. I grew up in a very international community. I've known people that are Ghanaian, Jewish, Indian, Honduran, Ethiopian, Korean and Pakistani. Living in Northern Virginia, you see a lot of different people.

Some of us at Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge established our own international night after finding out that George Mason University had one. It was one of the happiest things I've done. I was not the main architect, but I was a part of it.

It started with food. Everybody would bring in their foods, like Jollof rice or kebobs, and everybody else tasted it. Then we started wearing our clothes too—like  our international clothes and we shared information about our cultural backgrounds. 

After high school, I had to work for a while to save money for various expenses, including education. I had been working hard for several years, whether working at a job or doing computer programming work. But all the hard work, coding, logic, and math made me feel like something was missing. I became a little down. I just used to love learning and then lost that for a bit. But now, I feel like I finally got it back.

What brought you to NOVA?
I grew up in Northern Virginia, and NOVA was an amazing and affordable option for me. Since I was working, I took advantage of NOVA’s flexibility. Also, my time at NOVA allowed me to figure things out for myself, while at the same time, I was working toward a degree. 

What are you studying at NOVA?
At NOVA, I was taking classes to get an AAS in information systems technology but transferred my credits to GMU. Now I will be pursuing my bachelor of science degree in information technology.

I was taking classes at NOVA on programming, web development, database management and network infrastructure. The professors were amazing and made the coursework very interesting. 

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA, i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met.
Aside from my main coursework, I really enjoyed my art and psychology classes. Professor Jennilyn Smith was my art professor. She talked about the history of art throughout Europe and ancient Rome.

Also, she showed us pictures of her time in Italy, the amazing statues and church architecture. This inspired me to apply for the Gilman scholarship and to study abroad in Italy, which I am doing this summer! I think it was either fate or destiny because I got a random email one day about studying abroad on the Gilman scholarship. I’m like, let me try my hand at this.

My psychology Professor Katrina Guins was amazing. She was just a ball of energy and was passionate about the subject matter, which inspired me to do well in her class. She was enthusiastic, listened to all the students in her class and really brought us together.

Finally, I want to give a special shoutout to Professor Gail Drake in my web development class. She was patient and kind throughout the semester. She reviewed the code for problems and allowed us to code during class to make sure we understood the technical aspects. If we had any errors, we could ask her right then and there.

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA?
I would tell a student to keep tabs on their Student Information System (SIS) account for everything: GPA, signing up for classes, any announcements or holds on their account. If they have questions they should ask the counselors and support staff because that's what they are there for. They want to see you succeed.

Other than that, get more involved because we are a community that helps support one another. Try to get involved on campus in at least one activity per semester. Whether that is a virtual event, on-campus activity or scholarship opportunity. Putting yourself out there is always good, because you never know what could happen when you are willing to try.

NOVA is amazing. There are so many programs. There's Career Connection, where you could try to find a job or internship. There's Man Up. NOVA has so many opportunities for everybody. To be honest, I love that.

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?
I'll leave NOVA this semester and go to George Mason University (GMU) to finish my Bachelor of Science degree in IT with a concentration in cybersecurity. Afterward, I would love and be honored to join the military--hopefully, the Marines--and then continue my education toward a master's degree.

I will be forever grateful to NOVA for being a stepping stone in my journey toward higher education. I will always support this institution's faculty, staff and students! 

The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship is an undergraduate scholarship program for U.S. citizens or nationals of limited financial means to enable them to study or intern abroad. The program provides awards of up to $5,000 for students who are U.S. citizens, Federal Pell Grant recipients and studying at the undergraduate level at a two- or four-year institution. In the past three years alone, NOVA has had an impressive 14 students receive this highly competitive scholarship for a total of 16 students since program inception in 2001! In fall 2022, of the eight who applied, five received the scholarship. For spring 2023, four have been awarded the prestigious scholarship. We are here to help NOVA students be the next recipient!

For more on the Gilman Scholarship, contact Leeza Fernand, associate director of the Office of International Education & Sponsored Programs,

Topics: international connections, featured article, scholarship and research, student success