By Tonian Williams ’23 | Gilman Scholarship Awardee
I was 11 years old when I decided to journal out my top 10 places to travel if I could go anywhere in the world. I am now 21 years old and that dream of traveling somewhere in the world came true this past fall in the historic country of Italy. I would never have imagined reflecting on my experience, let alone having the opportunity to live in Rome for 4 months of my undergraduate year.
Dreaming was all I could do while growing up, which discouraged me from taking the necessary steps to make my dreams a reality. I needed a push to take action in making my dreams come true and that transpired while I was in my junior year of studying architecture. As my skillsets in architecture grew, I knew that exposure to a foundational architectural design culture would not only benefit me but would unlock a new viewpoint in approaching my design skills.
Temple Rome offered me my dream of living in a different country with so many more life skills that I didn’t know I was lacking. Studying abroad is a great opportunity but also one that not everyone is financially or mentally or emotionally equipped to tackle. In my case, I believed that I was mentally and emotionally prepared and would only need some financial help to reach my goal of living abroad for a semester. I went looking for scholarships online and through the study abroad office in the Tuttle man learning center. While I was there, I received many resources for scholarships that I was able to apply for. The one that seemed very out of reach for me was the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship due to the close deadline and the national level at that I would have to compete. I was encouraged by my advisors to still put my best foot forward with only 2 weeks left to apply.
Attending the information sessions and writing workshops helped me tremendously to organize my thoughts and draft my 4 essays by the deadline. I do not recommend waiting too close to the deadline but giving yourself enough time before the deadline to do as many revisions that is necessary to bring your essays to the level of winning the scholarship. My advisor was a big help in answering questions and providing insights into how to elevate my essays. I was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship with the maximum amount and was able to fund my entire semester abroad with just that resource.
This scholarship made my dream possible financially and I wouldn’t be able to study abroad without this opportunity. Gilman also offered many resources while I was abroad and safety measures to ensure that I was adjusting while in the country I was living in.
Living abroad in Italy was a life-changing experience that I can now carry proudly with me in all aspects of my life. While abroad I navigated complex relationships through linguistic experiences, my identity within the world as a whole, and learning to be present within a completely different way of living. I have learned so many life lessons from living in Italy and also having the opportunity to travel to other European countries while I was living there. I appreciated many of the hard moments that had me calling home crying about leaving this experience behind because I can now look back on them as aligning my new perspective as I transitioned into young adulthood.
Here are some images and a video diary of my time living abroad which are forever engrained in my memory. If you have any questions about my journey to studying abroad or just some tips on getting prepared, I would love for you to reach out to me via email: Vanturkw@gmail.com.