Gilman Scholarship Awards Support Students in Study Abroad

Breanna Newman Spends Second-to-Last Semester in New Zealand Thanks to Donor Generosity

Breanna Newman, Aeronautics Class of Fall 2019 and current Aviation Safety M.S. student, spent six months on the trip of a lifetime in New Zealand thanks to a generous contribution from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

The program awarded Newman $5,000 to be used towards her study abroad experience, which she used to cover the cost of her housing for the duration of the trip. This award is dispersed by direct deposit for the recipient’s use for travel expenses, tuition, housing, or other qualified costs. For Newman, this award made the study abroad experience virtually free. “My tuition was already paid for,” she said.

The Benjamin A. Gilman scholarship program is a “grant program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness,” according to the program website. The awards are available nationally, and Newman is the only one from Embry-Riddle Prescott to receive one this term. In exchange for the financial aid, she’s completing several phases of a service project, which was part of the basis for her receipt of the award.

“So far, I hosted a booth at the Study Abroad fair. I gave a presentation for International Education Week,” says Newman. She’s also visited a local high school and presented for the students about the availability of financial aid for study abroad. “It’s so great that [the Gilman program] can fund this, because I’m sure a lot of students probably won’t be able to study abroad without financial assistance,” says Newman.

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Study Abroad Experience: Massey University (New Zealand)

By Vee Glessner, Chief Copy Editor

In her travels to, from, and around New Zealand, Breann Newman dove the Great Barrier Reef, hugged a koala bear, rode horseback, visited countless historical sites, toured multiple questionable zoos, ate tons of local street food, and much more. Oh, and she also saw Australia and Thailand along the way.

“We wanted to go on an adventure before we got to New Zealand, but we didn’t want to pay a ton of money,” Newman recalls of her and her boyfriend Chris Awes’ efforts to maximize the bang for their buck in their travels. As it turns out, the most cost-effective airline tickets took Newman and Awes through Thailand – and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence for why they were so cheap on Newman’s blog, [nzstudyabroadadventurebn.blogspot.com].

To kick off their trip, Newman and her boyfriend Chris Awes boarded their first flight from Seattle, Wash. to San Francisco, Calif. Their next trip by Southern China Airlines took them to Wuhan, China, and a final leg landed them in Bangkok, Thailand, which would become their home for two weeks before the official New Zealand program began.

The highlight of this leg of the trip was the amazing diving scene. “Once I got a little more used to moving under water, it was amazing to watch all the sea life and swim through colorful schools of fish,” according to Newman. From enormous sea turtles to rainbow fish and delicate coral, the underwater shots from the dive are phenomenal.

Finding Bangkok full of bustling but efficient public transit, busy shopping centers, culture-rich monuments, and great food, the pair set off to their next destination – but not before Newman spent “full day hurling my guts out,” according to her blog, a symptom typical for foreigners drinking non-bottled water. 

Luckily, she recovered in time for their Thai Lion flight to Pattaya, Thailand, where the pair spent a couple days resting up for the next country in the itinerary. The last Thai destination, Ayutthaya, boasted some excellent sightseeing, including historic temples and a great Chinese New Year night market.

The pair embarked on yet another flight, this time with JetStar airlines, that took them nine hours south to Melbourne, Australia. After a twelve-hour layover that mostly consisted of a Melbourne zoo trip, their flight set off for New Zealand with Qantas airlines. A merciful three hours later, Newman was introduced to the country that would become home for six months.

The town of Palmerston North where Newman spent the bulk of her time is the seventh-largest city in New Zealand and, more importantly, home to Massey University, where classes took place for the term. “The great thing about Massey University in Palmerston North is it offers precisely the classes I need.  Especially as a junior, I need to be careful about taking classes that will count towards my graduation,” says Newman in a blog post just before departing on her trip.

With her tuition paid for by academic scholarships and housing covered by the Gilman grant, Newman was in the clear for what most people find to be the biggest barrier to travel. The scholarship aims to make it possible for anybody to see the world. “A big burden of study abroad is money. Gilman paid for all of my housing, the whole time I was gone for 6 months,” Newman says.

While she was there, Newman embarked on countless travels across New Zealand, taking advantage of her holidays and weekends with camping excursions, day trips, and lots of hiking. Hiking in the area was very free-form, with little in the way of trails and guidance. “Despite the cold and wet, we were stoked to get the chance to get out of town and into the wilderness,” reads Newman’s blog.

As far as classes, the experience was very different from an American secondary education. According to Newman, “Each class has either one or two essays and one exam that make up your whole grade.  It’s a bit daunting, but then again, 50% is a passing C. It’s weird not having any homework or quizzes to let you know if you’re falling behind.”

The “kiwi” kids, as native New Zealanders are known, spent much less time attending class than international students, mostly showing up for exams. The completely different learning culture can be shocking at first, but Newman sees this as a critical life experience. “It makes it easier to understand people,” she said of the immersive cultural trip.

On the way back from New Zealand, the pair went back through Australia, this time linking up with Newman’s mom, Cindy Mesz, and aunt, Linda Smith. On this exciting leg of the trip, they spent several days diving the Great Barrier Reef! Accumulating 10 dives in three days, this intensive excursion was quite the highlight. “Chris and I think we’ll have to come back and do it again some day,” says Newman.

It’s obvious that the study abroad experience, in addition to being academically educational, was a cultural and interpersonal learning experience. The fun, surprise, and growth of spending 6 months in a foreign country adds a lot of context to classroom education, and it wouldn’t have been possible for Newman without the support of the Gilman scholarship. “ I really appreciate this scholarship because it really lightened the burden for me,” she reflects.

The deadline to apply for the Gilman scholarship for programs in Summer 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021 is Tuesday, March 3. Interested students can apply for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship at [gilmanscholarship.org]. 

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