Hanna Connett '11 at the Fort of Good Hope near Accra, Ghana, where she is studying this fall.
Jillian Schneeman '12, who is studying in Ukraine this fall, visits the Vorontsov Palace in Alypka along the coast of the Black Sea.
Willamette students earn national scholarships to study abroad
Jillian Schneeman '12, an international studies and Russian major, and Hanna Connett '11, a politics major, were both recently named Benjamin Gilman International Scholars — an honor that will allow them to study abroad and broaden their global knowledge.
Schneeman is studying in Simferopol, Ukraine, this fall and Ifrane, Morocco, in the spring. Connett is studying in Accra, Ghana, this semester.
The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a branch of the Institute for International Education, the same agency that distributes Fulbright Grants. The program offers funding for study abroad to undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grants to two- or four-year universities.
New international perspectives
"In the U.S., we seem to learn the least about Africa while we are growing up," Connett says. "As a politics major and sociology minor, I desire to gain a new perspective. I thought Ghana would give me the perfect opportunity."
Connett will soon gain that perspective as she learns alongside Ghanaian students at the University of Ghana and immerses herself in daily life in Accra.
Schneeman's studies similarly emphasize the importance of international communication and understanding foreign customs — a critical step, she says, in the direction of her ideal career as an interpreter for the CIA, FBI or United Nations.
"In Ukraine I get to focus primarily on language and take classes with one other student in the program from Willamette. Then I'll head to Morocco to study Arabic, French and politics," she says. "Learning languages and being immersed in cultures will directly benefit my career as an interpreter. The more I can learn and the closer I can get to fluency, the better."
Living the Willamette motto
Both students consider their passion for engaging in the community to be a critical part of their international education experience — a common attribute of students in the Willamette community.
Schneeman, who plans to apply for the Peace Corps after graduation, hopes to connect with and learn from Peace Corps volunteers in both Ukraine and Morocco.
Schneeman and Connett also plan to work at preschools during their time abroad.
"I have a desire to be a positive change in the world," Connett says. "Going to Ghana will give me an opportunity to observe other ways that communities are successfully or unsuccessfully addressing issues in the community. I hope to come back to the U.S. more well-rounded, with my eyes open to more ways of doing and thinking about things."