KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The death of Queen Elizabeth II sent ripples around the globe, including for Abbie Lindblade, a political science student at Western Michigan University.
"I've been interested in the British monarchy for a long time. I read a lot of books about the different houses of the royals when I was in high school, and I'm a huge fan of 'The Crown,'" she says.
It's one thing to read about the world and foreign affairs; it's another thing to experience them firsthand.
"I toured Windsor Castle in June while (the Queen) was in residence, and just the day before she'd been out on horseback," says Lindblade. "I definitely feel a little bit more of a personal connection now that I've seen where the monarchy resides."
Lindblade was able to immerse herself in British culture and travel throughout the United Kingdom over the summer while interning at an international organization through a study abroad experience supported by the Gilman Scholarship. The competitive scholarship program provides up to $5,000 to students who receive federal Pell Grants—many of whom might not otherwise have the means to explore the world—to intern or take classes abroad.
"Study abroad is one of the most impactful and transformative learning experiences in the academic journey of a college student," says Dr. Paulo Zagalo-Melo, associate provost for global education at Western. "There is extensive research from several U.S. higher education institutions evidencing study abroad positively impacts retention, time to graduation and GPA progression rate. Additionally, global and cross-cultural competence are skills increasingly valued by employers."
The most impactful part of Lindblade's study abroad experience, she says, was her internship. She worked at The PIE News, a resource for international education professionals.
"The internship was just amazing. I feel like I got so much really cool experience and really built up my portfolio," she says. "It really opened my eyes to what a journalistic environment would look like and feel like; I really strengthened my writing skills."
Lindblade had more than a dozen articles published and was even offered a chance to freelance for the company in the future. She also helped launch a TikTok channel and advised company executives on expanding its digital footprint.
"I really realized that writing is one of my best skills—writing, reading and analyzing," says Lindblade, who expects to graduate in spring 2023 and is beginning to think about potential career opportunities. "Now I'm really trying to find jobs where I can focus on writing."
She also took the opportunity to explore London and the rest of the U.K. while she was there, making memories she'll carry with her forever and catching the travel bug that already has her planning future adventures.
"I saw Buckingham Palace and Baker Street. I took a day trip and saw Bath, Stonehenge and Windsor Castle. I'm a history nerd, so that was really awesome," she says. "My last week overseas, I made a couple-day trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, and we stayed at a really cool hostel right by Edinburgh Castle and hiked up a volcano caldera and walked all down the Royal Mile. And it was amazing."
BECOMING AN ADVOCATE
All Gilman Scholars complete a Follow-on Service Project when they return home. Lindblade plans to focus hers on promoting the possibilities of study abroad to students in Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS), the district she attended.
"A lot of the kids in KPS are low income like my family is. So it was really cool to see that there are scholarships specifically for us to study abroad or intern abroad," she says, acknowledging the gift of the Kalamazoo Promise, which alleviates the burden of tuition. "I want them to know they still have opportunities. They don't have to just give up experiences because they think they can't have them. They just have to put a little bit of effort into doing those scholarship applications and putting themselves out there."
Exploring ways to globally engage students is a key priority at Western, and the Haenicke Institute for Global Education is continually working to ensure there are equitable opportunities for all Broncos. Several years ago, study abroad scholarships transitioned from exclusively based on merit to financial need.
"We also opened the first year of the Global Engagement Program to all students, free of charge," adds Zagalo-Melo. "Equity in global engagement is aligned with the University's vision and mission and with the concept of 'global learning for all.'"
"I received a lot of support from Western," Lindblade says. "Without the Haenicke Institute, I don't think I would've been able to make this trip and gain this experience. They've definitely been one of the biggest supporters for me."
Now Lindblade is taking the opportunity to pay that support forward.
"I just want KPS students to realize that, yes, the thought of college can be scary—it's a big thing. You have to put a lot of work in. But it's also where you learn to be yourself and grow," she says. "It's an amazing experience."
Applications for the Gilman Scholarship are being accepted through Thursday, Oct. 6.
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.