Jasmine Alford, a freshman accounting major at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, is among more than 1,000 American students to receive the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

A resident of Memphis, Tennessee, Alford earned a $3,000 scholarship to study abroad. American undergraduates from 363 colleges and universities across the U.S. were selected for the program that provides scholarships to students from diverse backgrounds to study or intern abroad.

Alford’s scholarship afforded her participation in UAPB’s inaugural study abroad program in South Africa, according to a news release.

“The program focused on South Africa’s history of youth empowerment. Alford, along with four other UAPB student participants, learned about the role of students and young people in the anti-apartheid movement that started in the early 1960s. Cultural tours included the Apartheid Museum and the Nelson Mandela House Museum in the Soweto township of Johannesburg,” according to the release.

Pamela Moore is associate dean for global engagement at the UAPB Office of International Programs.

“It’s a great achievement for Jasmine to receive a Gilman Scholarship,” Moore said. “It enabled her to extend her travel abroad by an additional week to incorporate an internship component. She worked with an organization that provides career services to at-risk youth.”

Alford said the scholarship made possible a unique educational, professional and spiritual experience.

“The Gilman Scholarship helped pay for most of my expenses to study abroad in South Africa,” she said. “After exploring the different cultures and ongoing movements in South Africa, I feel I expanded my knowledge on where my heritage came from while gaining the experience of a lifetime.”

The trip also opened doors for her professionally, she said. During the internship portion of the program, she had a chance to become familiar with different aspects of the business sector in South Africa and she shadowed professionals who work in the business side of non-government organizations.

“While studying abroad, I was able to make very important connections with the people there,” she said. “During the service learning component of our program, I worked for a non-profit organization and helped prepare individuals for job interviews.”

Learning new concepts in another country was an engaging and transformative experience, she said.

Alford learned about the Gilford Scholarship from Annette Fields, UAPB instructor/counselor for the Office of Basic Academic Services and the organizer of the program in South Africa. She received guidance from Moore on the application process.

After returning from the study abroad program, Alford plans to promote the Gilman Scholarship and education abroad opportunities in general by hosting informational sessions with low-income students from UAPB and Southeast Arkansas College.

“The study abroad trip turned out to be the experience of a lifetime thanks to all the knowledge I gained,” she said. “I believe this experience is something that will impact my life and my career in a major way for decades to come.”

— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.