by Daria Purdy ’19
As this semester ends, most Providence College seniors will be searching for jobs or preparing for graduate school. But for Michael Gilmor ’17, the coming year will be very different from the experience of his peers. Gilmor is the recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship, and will be spending the next year teaching in Poland.
The Fulbright Scholarship was created at the end of World War II by Senator J. William Fulbright. Fulbright passed legislation for the scholarship in 1946, and the first Fulbright scholars went abroad in 1948.
Dr. John Margenot, the program campus advisor for the Fulbright Scholarship since 2002, described the creation of the scholarship as “a program with student ambassadors that was meant to teach American values abroad and enhance understanding between countries.”
Today, around 8,000 Fulbright grants are given to select applicants each year to travel to their choice of 160 countries to either conduct research or fulfill a teaching position. Gilmor, a biochemistry major and business studies minor, chose to apply for the Poland program for two reasons: math and science are heavily emphasized in the country and his own family is from there.
Gilmor will be an English teaching assistant in Poland, but he also hopes “there will be a possibility for teaching science.”
In addition to his academic pursuits, Gilmor is heavily involved with Habitat for Humanity and hopes to bring this interest with him, especially since the first European chapter of Habitat was created in Poland. He hopes to be able to bring students with him to sites.
Gilmor also desires to get involved in Lean-In STEM Poland, a networking and motivational organization for girls and women interested in a career in the fields of science or technology. In this way, he plans to make an impact both inside and outside the classroom.
Gilmor recognizes that he will encounter several challenges in Europe. He never studied abroad, and subsequently realizes that he will be facing the challenges of living abroad for an extended period of time for the first time. Gilmor says, “I am hoping to learn some Polish this summer in order to help me with the adjustment.”
Yet, Gilmor has already faced great challenges in the rigorous application process for the program. Each applicant is allowed to write a one page personal statement, a statement of grand purpose, and has a 15 minute interview.
“It was very hard to sell myself in such a short period of time,” he stated.
Despite the challenges, Gilmor is excited for what the next year will bring and how it will affect his future career. Gilmor says that he originally wanted to go to medical school, but now has a year to experience new things and figure out what he would like to do after his year abroad.
PC has a good record with the Fulbright program, with one or two students being chosen in the last six years. Yet, the application process is not easy; each application must go through three levels of screening—on the campus level, the national level, and through a committee in the proposed country of travel.
Discussing the application process, Margenot stated, “The application is best suited for highly motivated students, as it is very rigorous and difficult. Work on an application typically begins in mid-March, yet it is not completed until October.”
However, there are support systems on campus for those students interested in applying for a Fulbright Scholarship. Margenot and his colleagues formed an advisory committee that helps guide students in their application process.
Additionally, past Fulbright scholars have come back to campus to speak about their experiences and to give advice to Fulbright hopefuls.
Vincent Whalen ’16, recipient of the Fulbright for the 2015-2016 academic year, came back to campus this year to speak to students about his experiences.
Whalen was awarded a teaching assistant scholarship to University in Madrid, Spain, where he taught English to an international student body.
His talk, says Margenot, was meant to “generate interest in the program,” as well as give an idea of what the Fulbright application process and experience is like for those that are interested. For prospective scholars, Margenot implores that they must “get started early!”
Looking forward to his upcoming adventures, Gilmor stated, “I am very excited to engage with the community in Poland, for a change of scenery, and a chance to immerse myself in the culture.”