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Eastern political science student receives Gilman Scholarship to study in Costa Rica

Published on June 08, 2021

Eastern political science student receives Gilman Scholarship to study in Costa Rica

Aicha Ly Eastern Connecticut State University student Aicha Ly has been named a recipient of the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the competitive scholarship will fund Ly’s field studies in Costa Rica in the winter of 2022.  

Ly is a junior political science major who plans to pursue a career in international law, with a focus on human rights and immigration issues. She will use her Gilman award over winter session to study migration, human rights and the Spanish language in Costa Rica while living with a host family. 

“Many people will think that spending three weeks in a tropical country sounds like the perfect getaway,” said Ly. “However, this opportunity is more than a vacation to me. The Winter in Costa Rica program focuses on human rights and migration while emphasizing cultural and linguistic immersion.  

“Human rights and migration are topics I am very passionate about,” continued Ly. “As a member of Generation Z, which is used to having the world at their fingertips and no shortage of human rights issues to explore through the web and social media, I believe it is important to be informed and to act on the behalf of human rights. We are the leaders of the future, and we should create a better future by creating the change we want to see. That starts with awareness and advocacy.” 

While in Costa Rica, Ly hopes to gain new friends to “expand my non-blood related family.” She also hopes to improve her Spanish “so I can grow my connections through the destruction of linguistic barriers.”  

Regarding human rights and migration issues, Ly said, “I want to learn about the opinions of locals in Central America. Perhaps this will allow me to see some patterns regarding human rights issues that are transferable to other countries, allowing me to analyze causes and effects.” 

Ly aspires to become an attorney and is particularly interested in matters concerning refugees and people seeking asylum. “For this reason, I can see myself going into immigration law.”  

More than 1,500 U.S. undergraduate students attending 467 U.S. colleges were selected to receive the Gilman scholarship, according to the U.S. Department of State in its May announcement. The latest group of Gilman Scholars will receive up to $5,000 to study or intern in 96 countries through the end of 2022. 

The late U.S. Rep. Benjamin Gilman, for whom the scholarship is named, served in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chaired the House Foreign Relations Committee. When honored with the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2002, he said, “Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views but adds an enriching social and cultural experience. It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.” 

Written by Michael Rouleau