Ever since she was a middle schooler participating in state writing competitions, Terri Draper knew that language would play an important role in her life.
Now she will have the chance to travel abroad for the first time and immerse herself in the language and culture of Spain as a 2020 recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
Named in honor of late New York congressman Benjamin A. Gilman, the scholarship provides students the opportunity to study abroad and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Since its inception in 2001, more than 31,000 students have received the Gilman scholarship to study in 151 countries.
“Without this scholarship, this experience wouldn’t be possible,” said Draper, who is pursuing both a UToledo bachelor of education degree specializing in adolescent and young adult education, as well as a bachelor of arts degree in English. She also is a student in the Jesup Scott Honors College. “I would have to work for years to afford it, all without the education, programs and support I’m receiving at UToledo.”
Draper expects to receive her teaching degree next year, followed by her English degree in 2022. After receiving her diplomas, she envisions herself teaching high school English and writing in an urban, public school setting, where she can use her study abroad experience to bring unique perspectives to the classroom.
The Toledo native attended high school at Toledo School for the Arts (TSA), where she became acquainted with UToledo from a very early stage. TSA focuses on providing its students a college-preparatory academic curriculum and an intense visual and performing arts environment. As an eighth-grader, she was able to explore the UToledo campus and meet students and faculty.
Originally, Draper was scheduled to study abroad in summer 2020. However, due to travel restrictions and other complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, her trip is now planned for summer 2021. She will study at Universidad de Granada in Grenada, Spain, and will live with a local family for the entire four to six weeks.
“I knew from the moment I met Terri that she was a very determined individual with a lot to offer the world,” said Chessica Oetjens, program coordinator in UToledo’s Office of Competitive Fellowships. “We are very proud of her accomplishment and hope we can encourage more UToledo students to apply in the future.”
Draper suggests she was successful in being awarded the scholarship because she took an unconventional approach in her application — focusing on what she will do here at home, rather than during her travels.
“I want to bring Spanish language and literature to classes I teach in the future, so my students are exposed to other cultures and perspectives,” Draper said. “I remember learning so much about American and white European literature in school. I think it would be better for students to hear about Latin American, African and other cultures earlier in their education.”