A Message to Students From a Gilman Scholar

News | December 22, 2015 | by Trina Penuliar

Trina Penuliar in Viterbo, Italy.

My name is Trina Penuliar and this past semester I lived and studied abroad in Viterbo, Italy with UNLV’s USAC program. It was truly a dream. I had the opportunity to travel around Europe with those who would become excellent friends and travel-mates, and gained educational experience about art and European culture that I could never have gotten anywhere else. I also learned how to travel smart, and have made travelling a permanent part of my life. I got to try extraordinary food, and saw sights that struck me so deeply that I often found myself a part of silent groups of students staring in reverent awe.

It was everything I could have truly wanted. When I finally confirmed my trip, I knew the biggest thing I wanted people to know about my experience was how much support UNLV and outside donors gave me to set me on my way.

A lot of students may not fully realize the magnitude of real opportunity out there for those that do not have any financial support at home. My mom is a single parent with many kids, and my dad is taking care of his parent’s and his own family. There was no room to ask my parents, or anyone else, for financial assistance. I know my situation is not unique among our student population, but a lot of students in similar situations may think that this limits them; almost to the point that they take their financial constraint as an inflexible obstacle that they have to work under.

After I applied to the International Studies Program, I received such an influx of step-by-step assistance and information that it made my trip very financially possible. My counselors connected me with all the resources I could possibly need. The TRIO Program at UNLV has a lot of scholarships and financial counseling to give, and the USAC/International Studies Department has the most helpful counselors I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Rebels’ RISE has a specific scholarship for students wanting to study abroad, and I applied to that and received it. UNLV is full of groups that want to give you every resource they have; they are really fighting for you to have an excellent chance to pursue your ambitions.

Even if the scholarship does not seem reasonably easy to get, go for it. It is worth the chance that you will receive it, and every hundred that you can get will make it easier. Apply to everything, even the ones you do not think you will get a positive return on. UNLV has the Writing Center if you do not feel your writing has a fighting chance at the international level, and that really gives the edge you need. I was exceptionally fortunate to be one of the two UNLV students to win the Gilman International Scholarship during the spring 2015 semester, and that was a true surprise, because it is an extremely competitive program. Options like this, where the statistics are against you, are still worth the chance that you will be awarded for your extra effort.

I was able to study abroad without paying anything out of pocket or taking out loans. Everything was paid in full before I landed. The extra I received went into broadening my trip; travelling to other countries aside from my host country, and experiencing the local cuisine.

The UNLV campus has a surplus of help to give, and there are a lot of sincere donors out there that simply want to give you the financial help you need. If you start looking and put in the effort, you will find that the extra effort could possibly go quite a long way.

This is not an extraordinary account of a student who got extremely lucky or is one in a million. This is an account and the advice of an ordinary student who, although under significant financial constraint, found the help to achieve an extraordinary experience.

Everyone could use help, and there are many organizations waiting for you to ask them to help you succeed.

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