Student earns International Scholarship, recognized by U.S. Department of State

April 10, 2024
Caitlin Herz ’26

Paisleigh Atwood ’25 was recognized recently by the U.S. Department of State for receiving a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Atwood will travel to Indonesia in the fall to embark on her research. She is a Public Health major with a minor in Anthropology at Saint Michael’s. She has a deep passion for travel and learning about other cultures. In a recent interview with Saint Michael’s, Atwood shared how she got involved with study abroad and how Saint Michael’s sculpted her global-focused mindset.

Paisleigh Atwood ’25

How did you come across the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship? How did you apply?

I am studying abroad in the fall, and I was looking for ways to fund study abroad. I came across this scholarship on the fellowship website, and I applied for it. It’s through the U.S. Department of State, so it funds undergraduate students to study abroad who are in financial need.

Where are you studying abroad and what research will you be completing?

I will be studying abroad in Indonesia through a field studies program called SIT. I am studying arts, religion, and social change. During the last month of the program, I will be conducting an independent research project. At the end of the program, I’ll present my research along with the other students in the program.

I know you are a semifinalist for a national critical language scholarship. Can you tell me some more about that?

I actually ended up getting it, so now I’m a finalist. It’s called a Critical Language Scholarship and it’s also through the U.S. Department of State, through a different bureau. This program offers students the opportunity to study a language over the summer that is of critical need to the government. They have in-person programs, and they have free virtual programs for students who don’t have any language experience. Russian, Mandarin, and Arabic are the virtual ones. I applied to study Arabic, and I don’t have any experience, so I applied for the virtual one. I’ll be doing that over the summer.

Paisleigh Atwood ’25

What skills have you gained from your time at Saint Michael’s?

I don’t think I would’ve gotten either scholarship had it not been for Saint Michael’s—especially my Anthropology classes. I have always been a person who’s wanted to travel, but when I was younger, I didn’t really know what that meant. I just wanted to see other parts of the world. I had no idea what other cultures could offer, and what other languages could offer. I started taking Anthropology classes and my mindset sort of shifted from just wanting to travel to wanting to make a difference while traveling. I think Saint Michael’s does a fantastic job of getting students in that global mindset with intercultural learning. They really set me up on the right path.

What clubs and extracurriculars were you involved with at Saint Michael’s?

I’ve been a climbing instructor and coordinator at the Adventure Sports Center since my freshman year. I took the mountain leader course, which is a prerequisite for becoming an instructor, and then I went through the instructor training program. Since then, I have advanced to the coordinator position, where I’ve served as a student role model for the other instructors in my climbing discipline. I am also involved in the Peace Corp Prep program.

Did your interest in the Peace Corp begin at Saint Michael’s? Or has it always been something that you’ve wanted to pursue?

It’s always been on my radar. I learned about it in high school. I had a friend recommend it to me. He said you don’t have to go into the Peace Corp, but if you want to go into any Global field, it is nice to have the certificate. It helps strengthen your global mindset. I have always had an interest in it, but Saint Michael’s helped solidify that. I don’t know right now if it’s a path I want to go down, but I’m glad that I have the certificate because I do know I want to work in some sort of international field.

Paisleigh Atwood ’25

Did you have a favorite class at Saint Michael’s?

I think my favorite class is the one I’m taking now. It’s called Anthropology of Refugee Health and Healing. It’s similar to other anthropology courses I’ve taken, but we read a specific book about the conflict between Western medicine and culture and that book was so eye-opening. I have loved the class so much.

Do you have any advice that you’d give students who want to get involved with these international scholarships and study abroad?

During your application, I would really take some time to think about your experiences because everyone has unique experiences. It’s just a matter of pinpointing them to use in a way that highlights why you would be good for the specific scholarship, fellowship, or study abroad program. Professor Patricia Siplon was a huge help for my experience. I sent her my essays and she sent back amazing feedback. It helped me highlight my uniqueness and unique experiences. They don’t want to read the same essay over and over again. They want to know about you and what makes you good for the scholarship.

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