Off She Goes

Sharaldine Francisco at the UN

Sharaldine Francisco '16, on a recent trip to the United Nations.

Sharaldine Francisco ’16 wins a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship

by Tony Moore

Sharaldine Francisco ’16 recently was named a 2014 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar, and how she felt when she got the news is pretty clear: “I literally screamed, shouted and cried my eyes out, because I did not think that it was possible.”

For the history and Latin American, Latino and Caribbean studies double major and first-generation college student, the timing of the news was as uncanny as the news itself was overwhelming.

“Earlier that day, I had a conversation with my parents about how bad things were at home financially,” Francisco says, noting that stress was mounting as a semester in South America seemed less and less likely. “And studying abroad has always been one of my dreams and was one of the reasons I chose to attend Dickinson.”

Way outside the classroom

The Gilman Scholarship, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, offers grants for study-abroad opportunities to undergraduate students who might not otherwise be able to afford such opportunities. In 2014 the program awarded over 2,300 scholarships with an average grant of $4,000.

So now, with her Gilman in hand and through Dickinson's Argentina and Ecuador program, in spring 2015 Francisco is going to Cuenca, Ecuador, and Mendoza, Argentina, where she’ll use her background, both cultural and academic, as a springboard for exploration.

“I plan to incorporate what I learn about Ecuadorian and Argentine culture and heritage into my own Dominican culture and heritage,” says Francisco, who lives and breathes that heritage as a member of Dickinson’s Latin American and Caribbean Club’s executive board and Sigma Lambda Gamma, a national multicultural sorority. “This cross-cultural experience will enable me to create a personal definition of Latina identity in the Americas and is the perfect opportunity to take what I’ve learned inside the classroom and apply it to the fields I’m interested in, globally.”

Paying it forward

When she returns at the end of the spring semester, Francisco will embark on the second prong of the Gilman award: a required follow-on project through which she’ll connect with students in her home community of East Harlem, N.Y. Francisco will focus her efforts on the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, where she attended middle and high school.

“My goal is to reach out to these students and expand to other schools in New York City,” she says. “I want to motivate these students not only to seek a higher education but also to take advantage of the many resources that could provide them with access to higher education abroad.”

Clearly, making her path an example to others is a priority, and it’s an example that she’ll bring home to her family as well.

“My hope is that my experience abroad demonstrates to my younger cousins that anything is possible despite our financial situation,” she says, “as long as you use the resources that are presented to you and seek out new opportunities.” 

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Published January 27, 2015