Loop Abroad is proud to have hosted several Gilman scholars on our programs!
The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program offers study abroad grants up to $5,000 to Pell Grant recipients who plan to study abroad for 3 weeks or more. If you meet the criteria for this scholarship, we strongly encourage you to apply. Let us know so we can support you with the application process!
Ashley Tolliver ’19 and Morgan Green ’21 are Gilman Scholars from Prairie View A&M University. Both joined us in South Africa. Ashley also joined us in Thailand.
What motivated you to join your Loop Abroad trip?
Morgan: My Pre-Vet club was very familiar with Loop Abroad. For the first two years of my undergrad, our club meetings often discussed studying abroad and Loop was always a part of that discussion. I had several peers that participated in different programs abroad. Their testimonies were always so positive and encouraging – that’s what drove me to pursue a Loop Abroad trip!
Ashley: It’s always been a dream of mine to work hands-on with wildlife. I love learning different ways to care for wildlife and protect them.
When I first heard about Loop Abroad, I couldn’t wait to be a part of this amazing opportunity.
Being able to be a part of a program that would bring my dream to life as well as allowing me to completely immerse myself in another country to learn about their culture and see life through a different perspective other than my own was something I could not pass up.
How did you find the process of applying for the Gilman scholarship? Any recommendations to future students?
Morgan: The Gilman scholarship was the only way I could afford my trip so I made sure to be thorough with my application.
The process was simple, but I did allow myself to dedicate a lot of time to the application. I watched YouTube videos where other recipients received the scholarship and I sought reviewers to help with my essays. I also used the Gilman website, which helped a lot because of the information from former applicants and recipients, including what they look for and ways to stand out.
Ashley: The process of applying for the Gilman scholarship was challenging and rewarding at the same time. The application process made me dig deep and think about how not only this scholarship could help you but help your community as well.
The one recommendation I have for future students is don’t be afraid to be yourself and think about how you will use your experience to inspire others.
How did your experience compare to your expectations?
Ashley: The Loop Abroad experience was so much more than I expected! Not only did I enhance my knowledge of wildlife and conservation, but I grew as a person. The things I learned and hands-on activities I got to join – I don’t think I could have gotten that anywhere else!
Morgan: I went into the program with no expectations as I had never been abroad before. But afterwards, I realized I learned so much!
Simply put, I learned things that I would have never had the chance to had it not been for going on this trip. The learning opportunities were extensive and once-in-a-lifetime.
I learned from my cohort, the lectures and working hands-on. I learned about myself. I learned about veterinary medicine far beyond the scope of my hometown vet hospitals and what I learn about in my college classes.
What I learned from participating in this program will forever be something I can apply to my everyday life.
What was your favorite part of your experience?
Ashley: My favorite part of the South Africa program was when I got the opportunity to assist the veterinarian with his examination of a cheetah. Being that up-close and personal with a cheetah while receiving knowledge from a vet was truly breathtaking.
My favorite part of my Thailand trip was being able to connect with my homestay family and learning about their culture. They appreciated the little things they had so much. Being able to interact with people from a different country made me never want to stop traveling and experiencing the love and unity that’s shared worldwide.
Morgan: There was no part of the program that I favor over the other, however the part that really stands out was the relationships I made with those around me: the staff, my cohort, and the mentors.
Another favorite part was going to Kruger National park for the weekend. From beginning to end, the experience was amazing and memorable and informative and exciting.
Actually, another favorite part of my program that stood out would be my Adventure Bonus Week. I was extremely lucky to visit Cape Town for a week following the two weeks. (The Gilman scholarship three weeks is a required minimum amount of time abroad.)
Cape Town was an unforgettable experience. The people I spent the week with were great. The activities were fun, engaging, and informative, and I learned so much about the culture of South Africa. From adapting to a different way of life for two weeks to listening to lectures to working hard during the day, every part was very memorable and totally worth it.
Did you use your new skills and knowledge when you returned home?
Ashley: I definitely used the skills I learned when I returned home! I gained a whole new perspective. I now have the advantage of knowing what it’s like to look at things from another cultural point of view. I’m more confident in the way I speak and I’m more eager to take on challenges. I’m a more culturally aware person plus I also gained a bunch of new friends!
It has been about two years since my South Africa trip and one year since my Thailand trip. To this day, I still share my experience and show pictures to people like it happened yesterday. Traveling with Loop Abroad will be an experience I will never stop talking about.
Morgan: I did use my skills and knowledge when I returned home. I applied what I learned to future decisions I had to make regarding my academics and endeavors I would eventually partake in.
I also still talk about my experience to anyone who will listen. I never get tired of talking about it and it’s always a long conversation! It can be a conversation starter because it’s one of the more interesting things I’ve done and places I’ve been.
I also use this experience to encourage students to pursue studying abroad. By no means was I prepared or able to pay out of pocket for my trip. I think there are many students in my position with the desire to travel but lacking resources to do it. I share my experience to prove to them that it is possible and not entirely too challenging!
It does take dedication, but it was something I wanted badly enough, and I impart that to the next group of students: it is possible and more than worth it.
What else would you tell to a student considering traveling with Loop Abroad?
Ashley: Traveling with Loop Abroad has been one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. It was a life-changing experience. It’s incredible when you can take on experiences like this firsthand instead of sitting behind a TV screen. You’ll learn to appreciate life a lot more. Don’t hesitate to travel with Loop Abroad – you won’t regret it!
Morgan: I was told that if the expenses for study abroad are the only thing stopping you from participating in a program then you have nothing to worry about. Upon hearing that statement, I was confused because that was my position, but as you can tell, I overcame that obstacle. It can be hard, but it can also be done.
Something else I would share with a student considering Loop Abroad would be to go with an open mind. I think when expectations are set they can fall short just because the experience was different than what was expected – not worse, just different.
The experience was totally worth it and I would also say if you find a way to make it on the bonus week then absolutely do it. It was so worth it. I have made friends that I am still in contact with from all three weeks, and if I could do it all over again I would not change a single thing.
“This program allowed me to have the experience of a lifetime and build some lifelong friendships! I never could’ve imagined how amazing this adventure would be. I had such an amazing time gaining experience with elephants and building great memories with amazing people!”
Sarah B., Thailand 101 2016 + Elephant Bonus Week