Jared Brickman, author of The World in a Suitcase, among other books, and staff at Washington State University, emailed a few questions to me after I’d been selected as a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship. I wrote back to him and decided to post my answers here.
My name is Jared Brickman, and I am a communications assistant with the University College at WSU. I write several stories for the WSU website, including those that feature our distinguished scholarship recipients. I heard about your Gilman award – congratulations – and would like to feature a little about you in a story for the website.
Below are a few questions about your coming experiences and so forth. If you have a few free minutes to fill them out this week, it would be much appreciated. I really do want to get plenty of information about you for the story.
- A little background about yourself (where you are from, major, why you chose WSU, etc.)
- Why did you decide to apply for the Gilman and how did you hear about it?
- Where will you be going and what will you are doing abroad?
- What are you most excited about to experience while in the program?
- Why do you think going abroad is important to your or anyone else’s education?
- Brag about yourself a little. I love to add information about awards, scholarships, leadership positions, achievements, etc. about distinguished scholarship winners to really highlight their excellence. Things that tie directly to where you are going are particularly great for the story.
Thanks so much for your time. Again, congratulations on your award and enjoy your summer!
Distinguished Scholarships at WSU
I’m happy to share. Perhaps you could mail me a copy of “The World in a Suitecase,” as a thank you? I’d love to read about your adventures abroad!
My address is 10801 NW 30th Court, Vancouver, WA 98685
1. A little background about yourself (where you are from, major, why you chose WSU, etc.)
Born in Vancouver, WA, I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest all my life. I’m dual-majoring in English Literature and Chinese Language and Culture at WSU. I chose WSU for the sake of convenience, to be honest. As a transfer student from Clark College, WSU’s Vancouver campus was just too easy to pass up, and I heard that WSU had an excellent English program. Despite convenience, I’m consistently impressed by WSU’s academics and services. I’m so glad I chose WSU over other local universities.
2. 2. Why did you decide to apply for the Gilman and how did you hear about it?
I decided to study abroad about a week before the Gilman application deadline; Jenna Kirchgasler, my study abroad advisor, told me about the Gilman Scholarship during our first meeting. I had a week to get many things in place before even being capable of applying, and even now I am amazed to be a recipient. I wrote two essays that comprised a huge part of the Gilman Scholarship Application, and I wrote them literally the day of the application deadline. Slamming two essays together on that kind of deadline is one thing, and I’ve written many essays hours before due date, but at that point I really didn’t understand the gravity of those essays.
3. Where will you be going and what will you are doing abroad?
I’m going to Beijing Language and Culture University to study Chinese for one year. Besides studying the language, I hope to engage with other international students and the locals and immerse myself in modern Chinese culture. Outside of class, I plan to start and facilitate a small fiction writing workshop in Beijing to keep myself active in writing fiction and foster talent among others who are passionate about literature and writing, while also helping those who are struggling to learn English as a second language.
4. What are you most excited about to experience while in the program?
Obviously, I’m looking forward to near-total immersion in the Chinese language. I’ve studied Chinese here at WSU for one year, and now I need to spend a year being forced to use the language to survive. I’m excited about being frustrated, surprised, pissed off, culture-shocked, irritated, overjoyed, depressed, anxious, scared, hungry and completely mesmerized. I’m excited about meeting new people, struggling to communicate with new friends, making mistakes and crossing lines unexpectedly, pushing the boundaries of cultural norms by accident and on purpose, making a fool out of myself, living among strangers and relying on them.
5. Why do you think going abroad is important to your or anyone else’s education?
Study Abroad should be required. Period. As someone who’s traveled quite a bit, I know that there is absolutely no substitute for the experience. As a writer, I struggle to even put my experiences abroad into words. It must be something about pushing comfort levels emotionally while discovering new people and new ideas. A global experience is mandatory to understand your own culture, your own perceptions, your own self.
Life in another culture accelerates an understanding of our own culture, and stifles ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is rampant here, and it’s a damn shame — if you go to a third grade classroom today, or even an 11th grade classroom for that matter, and ask all the students to raise their hands if they think that America is the greatest country on the planet, I guarantee that almost all (if not all) hands will fly enthusiastically into the air.
I suspect that a lot of students feel that a study abroad experience is simply out of their financial capabilities. And I’m always happy to stamp that destructive idea out! Going abroad does not require a lot of money; going abroad simply requires the will to do it. I’m speaking from experience. I gave up driving for one month and rode a bicycle to work and in one month I’d saved enough money to buy a round-trip ticket to anywhere I wanted to go. I gave up drinking beer at the bar and instead bought cheep beer to drink at home and saved enough “spending money” to sustain myself in Asia for several months. I’m not impressed by the excuse that traveling is expensive. “Never take a trip you can afford.” (a brilliant tidbit from the CL travel forums.)
6. Brag about yourself a little. I love to add information about awards, scholarships, leadership positions, achievements, etc. about distinguished scholarship winners to really highlight their excellence. Things that tie directly to where you are going are particularly great for the story.
I don’t have anything to brag about. I’m an average student at WSU — that alone is my bragging right, because I’ve found most of my classmates and faculty at WSU to be above average. I haven’t won any distinguished awards, and the only scholarship I’ve gotten so far is the Gilman Scholarship (perhaps because the Gilman is the only scholarship I’ve ever applied for). I’d like for you to appreciate that an average student can get a scholarship…
I hope this helps… Let me know if you have any followup questions.