NOVA Students Experience Life-Changing Study Abroad thru U.S. State Department Gilman Scholarship

February 27, 2023

Happy Study Abroad Day! NOVA’s Office of International Education and Sponsored Programs (OIESP) is dedicated to guiding students in their study abroad experiences. OIESP seeks to foster an inclusive campus community that infuses all aspects of college life with a global perspective by providing services to incoming international students, outgoing study abroad students and faculty who seek international opportunities including internationalizing their curriculum through professional development opportunities. By hosting exchange visitors and delegations and providing virtual engagement and exchange opportunities, OIESP goes beyond student mobility, by creating global learning communities on campus, using technology and through pedagogical innovation.

In the fall of 2022, OIESP was proud to announce that five out of eight NOVA Nighthawks who had applied, won the prestigious Gilman Scholarship to either study or intern abroad. Throughout the first half of 2023, these students will be embarking on this life-altering experience. NOVA is proud to have had 12 Gilman winners since Gilman’s inception twenty years ago, of which 10 were awarded in only the past two years.

“Study abroad opportunities develop lifelong bonds that help break down barriers,” said Leeza Fernand, associate director of international education and sponsored programs. “This is diplomacy through education, weaving common threads as we unite through our shared experiences and move beyond our differences. Irrespective of background, economic status or individual challenges, study abroad is a transformative opportunity that can unite our students. We are so proud of our Nighthawks that continue to apply to these prestigious programs and paving the way for community college students to gain a competitive edge.”

The Most Recent Gilman Recipients (Fall 2022 Application Cycle):

Christopher Aviles-Sanchez is a first-generation college math student. His mother, who is from El Salvador, raised him as a single parent. He is grateful to her for helping him have a better future. Also, Christopher wants to show his little sister what is possible so she can have a brighter future, too. His goal is to work for the Department of Defense. As a Gilman recipient, he will intern in Seville, Spain, at a company where he hopes to gain insights into business operations and data management. “It’s still surprising and shocking to me,” he said. “It truly means a lot to me!”  Read more about Christopher’s story here.

Kimberly Mitchell is a 29-year-old, a full-time single parent of an autistic child, full-time travel agent and full-time NOVA student. Her lifelong dream is to become an anesthesiologist, and at NOVA, she’s studying applied science. As a Gilman recipient, Kimberly will leave in July 2023 and head to Malaysia and Bali for about five weeks to study marine life. “I’ll be honest with you; I did not think I was going to win,” she said. “To be a Gilman scholar, I am completely honored and proud. I am honored to be a part of a community of people that want to travel abroad and step out of their comfort zones.” Read more about Kimberly’s story here.

Farah Mohamed is 18-, born in the United States and graduated from Fairfax High School. At NOVA, she’s studying cybersecurity. Farah never thought she would win the Gilman International Scholarship. When I got the email, I just freaked out! I freaked out, and I sent it to my mom, and she was like, oh my god, you got it! I am very grateful for this opportunity,” Farah said. This summer, this Gilman recipient will be heading to South Korea for a program called, Summer in Seoul — Korean Culture & Language Immersion. “I have goals of working in South Korea in the future because of their big tech industry.” Read more about Farah’s story here.

Jannatul Ferdaus is a first-generation college student from South Asia. She graduated from Colgan High School in Manassas. Jannatal is passionate about a career in advocacy work. “But I need to get the knowledge. I need to have the experience to be that person,” she said. Jannatul is using her Gilman Scholarship this summer for a month-long program in the Philippines that focuses on human trafficking and community engagement. “This experience will bring a lot of perspective,” she said. Read more about Jannatul’s story here.

Nicolas Rodriguez was flying to Japan the day after his 32nd birthday. He graduated from Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge in 2009 and intended to study at NOVA in 2010, but then life happened. Now he’s here and studying visual arts, working toward a career in illustration and animation. He’s using his Gilman scholarship for an internship in Tokyo, Japan at a graphics company. He said, “I wish I could convey in words how excited I am to receive this scholarship! I really feel that it’s going to be life-changing!” Read more about Nicolas’ story here.

Past Gilman Scholars:

To learn more about the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, and other international opportunities, contact Leeza Fernand, associate director, Office of International Education and Sponsored Programs at The next Gilman Scholarship application deadline is Thursday, March 9, 2023.

The U.S. Department of State’s Gilman Scholarship is an undergraduate scholarship program for U.S. citizens or U.S. 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 two years alone, NOVA has had an impressive ten students receive this highly competitive scholarship! In fall 2022, eight applied and five received the scholarship! We are here to help NOVA students be the next recipient!

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