Gilman Scholarship Winner Thrilled at Opportunity to Study Abroad 

March 15, 2024

Muhanad Osman is the first in his family to attend college in the United States. A recent Gilman Scholarship winner, he has wanted to study abroad since he was a child. He looked for study abroad opportunities in high school but figured there would be more flexibility in college. But when he arrived at NOVA and saw the cost of studying overseas, he thought it would be financially impossible. 

Portrait of Muhanad Osman

Then Muhanad received an email that changed everything — and his dream of studying abroad has become reality! In September 2024, he will head to Japan to study the language for five months.  

Tell us a little about your background.  
This is my first year at NOVA. I graduated from Herndon High School in June 2023 and started at NOVA that fall. Even when I was younger, I had an interest in international studies and exploring different regions of the world. 

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I lived most of my life there and was always surrounded by different cultures. I lived in the Shaw neighborhood —only a few blocks from Chinatown and other neighborhoods with different cultures. My mother was raised in Saudi Arabia, and my parents immigrated from Sudan. We frequently traveled to the Middle East in the summer. 

I attended D.C. Public Schools, which has an Embassy Adoption Program (EAP). Through the program, fifth and sixth grade classes partner with an embassy to learn about the embassy and the language and culture of the home country. The EAP is what got me interested in having an international career where I can travel the world and explore different cultures. 

I moved to Virginia in eighth grade. That’s when I took a basic programming class. I thought it was an excellent skill set to have, and there’s a big job market for it. 

Knowing how to program is a practical skill that can be applied to many things in life, and I can also make a good career of it. So I decided to combine my two passions, technology and learning about other cultures, to explore an international career in a tech-related capacity. 

Tell us about winning the Gilman Scholarship.  
I was surprised and obviously really excited. And I was definitely nervous, too. But at the same time, while writing my essay, I felt like, “I got it.” That’s because of a piece of advice from Ms. Leeza Fernand, NOVA’s former associate director of International Education & Sponsored Programs, who said, “Tell a story.” She made that point during a Zoom info session on the Gilman Scholarship, and her advice helped me tremendously when I was deciding what to write about in my essay. 

Where will you be going?  
I will be leaving on September 4, 2024, to study Japanese at Tokyo’s Toyo University for five months. Studying in Japan, which is so culturally different from the United States, will allow me to grow academically and personally. I’ve moved twice in my life, and each time, even though it wasn’t far, the perspective I gained was invaluable and shaped who I am. 

Knowing a foreign language, especially Japanese, and a different culture will be helpful since I want to go into tech. Our world is becoming increasingly connected, and many American tech companies are now global.  

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA? 
Don’t underestimate yourself. With any opportunity, you just have to seize it. It’s there for a reason! Many students know about opportunities like the Gilman Scholarship, but they think, “That’s not possible for me.” I used to think that way, too; but it is possible! 

Where do you see yourself after NOVA, or what career pursuits are you exploring? 
I'll probably get a bachelor’s in computer science, but I'm conflicted about where. I have friends at Virginia Tech, which has a good computer science program; so there’s a 70% chance that I'll transfer there. Mason is a possibility, too. 

About the Gilman Scholarship: 
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 that helps fund a study or internship abroad experience. 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 10 students receive this highly competitive scholarship. Five students received the scholarship in Fall 2022, and four were awarded the prize in Spring 2023. A total of 12 NOVA students have received the scholarship since the program’s inception in 2001. 

Undergraduate children and spouses of active-duty military families have an additional scholarship opportunity of up to $5,000 in the Gilman-McCain Scholarship, which can be used for credit-bearing study abroad programs or internships. In addition to being part of an active-duty military family, eligible students must also be recipients of Title IV federal student aid administered by the U.S. Department of Education, which includes federal loans, grants and work-study programs. 

For more on the Gilman or Gilman-McCain scholarships, contact Abbey Jones, associate director of the Office of International Education & Sponsored Programs, at 

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