AmbroseZine | June 2021
Tori Andrews believes experiencing diverse cultures is key to gaining perspective and understanding, something that is very important to future social workers.
Studying abroad, however, wasn't something Andrews thought was within reach as a non-traditional adult student and single parent. She knows now that it is – it definitely is.
Andrews was awarded a highly competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study in Greece. She is only the third SAU undergraduate to be named a Gilman Scholar, and the second to be awarded the scholarship in the past 24 months. Faith Boyd '20 was named a Gilman Scholar in 2019 but wasn't able to travel to Costa Rica last year due to pandemic health restrictions. She is completing her study abroad experience virtually this summer.
Andrews will receive up to $5,000 to apply toward the three-week St. Ambrose University winterim study abroad course, "Chiseling God: History, Culture, and Divinity in Ancient Greece." The course will be led by St. Ambrose Professor of Theology Micah Kiel, PhD.
"I want to open my mind, to learn about and experience everything. It will expand my education and my knowledge and I believe will resonate with me in a different way than I'd experience in the classroom," Andrews, a social work major, said.
When she transferred to St. Ambrose and learned she'd have to complete a Theology course, Andrews was a bit nervous. "But Professor Kiel was hilarious and just so personable. He is a great professor and I learned so much. That theology course was much different and more interesting than I thought it would be," she said.
When Kiel mentioned the winterim course in Greece, it sparked her interest. He answered all of her questions, told her about the Gilman Scholarship, and suggested she apply.
The application process was time-consuming because Andrews had to write several essays. But she isn't complaining. "I was a little in disbelief when I got it. Like, wait, what? I couldn't believe it, because it was very grueling to apply for and I didn't think I was going to get it. I've cried tears of joy more than a few times," she said.
Tori was awarded a Gilman International Scholarship to study in Greece. She is only the third SAU undergraduate to be named a Gilman Scholar and will receive up to $5,000 to apply toward study abroad.
Learning she was chosen to be a Gilman Scholar was a boost to her confidence, and it was humbling, too.
"My whole college experience has been nothing but people helping me because they want the best for me. They want to see me succeed," she said. "And I realized it's not just me getting me to Greece, it's the whole campus and community, everyone who has been in on my side and in my corner offering me so much support."
And she relishes that support. Andrews never envisioned she'd be able to transfer from Scott Community College to St. Ambrose, but a $4,000 per year McFarlin Scholarship from the University and a Phi Theta Kappa scholarship made her dream of earning a Bachelor of Social Work degree more affordable.
Gilman Scholars complete a community project after they return to the U.S., and Andrews plans to make two presentations to the TRIO program at Scott Community College, which provides support services to non-traditional students. By sharing her study abroad experience in Greece, she hopes to serve as an example of what is possible – and within reach – for any student.
"I want other people to know that it is doable," she said. "I want students who may be struggling or thinking they can't do it to know that yes, they can do it. Look at me, I'm 39-years old and a single parent, and I'm attending St. Ambrose and I get to study abroad, and everyone has just been great."
Since the Gilman's establishment in 2001, at least 1,300 U.S. institutions have sent more than 33,000 Gilman Scholars of diverse backgrounds to 151 countries around the globe. The program has successfully broadened U.S. participation in study abroad.
The late Congressman Gilman, for whom the scholarship is named, served in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chaired the House Foreign Relations Committee. The Gilman Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
"I want students who may be struggling or thinking they can't do it to know that yes, they can do it."