The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs awarded 37 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to UCSB Education Abroad Program participants for the 2011-2012 academic year.

The scholarship – established under the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000 – is awarded to undergraduates enrolled in study abroad programs that promote increased competition in the globalizing economic and business climate. The UCSB EAP received the most Gilman Scholarships of any university nationwide for assisting financially constrained students seeking educational opportunities.

According to UCSB EAP Campus Director Juan Campo, advisors encourage undergraduates to apply for the scholarship because it provides low-income students an opportunity otherwise unavailable to them.

It is really important to us to keep the program accessible to as many students as possible, which is why we really targeted Gilman and recommended that students apply,” Campo said. “It’s become part of the package of scholarships and aid that is available to students.”

According to Gilman Scholarship recipient Melia Thompson-Dudiak, a third-year Spanish and global studies major who will spend a year at the University of Barcelona in Spain, the award provides important financial resources eliminated in alternative scholarships due to funding reductions.

“They’ve just cut two of the grants I had this year, the [Academic Competitiveness Grant] and [National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant],” Thompson-Dudiak said. “Luckily I was able to get the Gilman Scholarship so I’m going to use that to subsidize the money I’m no longer getting.”

Fourth-year global studies and business economics major Kara Alexander, a Gilman Scholarship recipient who will be studying abroad at Fudan University and East China Normal University in China, said cultural knowledge and language proficiency are major considerations of the selection process.

“They really like to see language experience and a lot of background study that is relevant to the place you are going,” Alexander said. “I’ve been taking Chinese classes at UCSB, and while I’m over there, my program has a focus on culturally diverse perspectives on business and economics.”

Despite the economic downturn, Campo said the university has increased the variety of its international programs to maintain the number of students going abroad each year.

“We thought we’d be hit by the recession, but we really haven’t been,” Campo said. “Over the years we have also offered more semester and summer study abroad options, which are more affordable than the year-long programs.”

The EAP does not expect reduced enrollment due to its fiscal viability for UC students, Campo said.

“When you look at a cost comparison of EAP versus other programs, initially it may seem like EAP is much more, but we include academic fees, housing, costs of living, and transportation cost into the price,” Campo said. “Many other programs don’t include those things in the initial price they show which is why they seem more affordable. It’s also very easy to transfer the units from classes you’ve taken abroad to a UC through EAP.”

For more information on how to apply for a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, visit