Ohio University student adds to her travels with the Gilman Scholarship
March 1, 2006
By Jennifer Cochran
Zodiac Maslin-Hahn thought about studying abroad even before she applied to college. For her, it was a question of where to study, not if she would.
Maslin-Hahn inherited her traveling bug from her parents and spent much of her life outside the United States - until she was ten she lived in France and Puerto Rico and a year after high school she explored Europe and Australia. Adding to her travels, the second-year junior spent fall quarter in Senegal, Africa, through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) study abroad program with the support of the prestigious Gilman International Scholarship.
Maslin-Hahn is an African studies major with a minor in French and plans to pursue a minor in world religions. For her study abroad experience, she wanted to experience life in a Muslim country and to learn a third language. The west African nation of Senegal was the perfect destination. In Senegal, she began learning the native language, Wolof, but she conversed daily in French, the official language of the former French colony.
In the suburbs of Senegal's capital Dakar, Maslin-Hahn lived with a host-family of six. During the day she attended classes in French and Wolof and on Senegalese culture. She spent her evenings eating and socializing with her host-family and visitors. The house was always busy because the father was the neighborhood imam, a religious leader, and the mother ran a hair salon in their home.
Unlike simply traveling, Maslin-Hahn says, studying abroad is an opportunity to experience cultural immersion. "You get cultural orientation, language classes and the opportunity to live with a family who expects that you will become part of their family," she said. "I really needed an experience to help me figure out what I wanted to do and how far I'd be able to push myself. The Gilman Scholarship is really the most amazing gift anyone has ever given me." Maslin-Hahn is now considering serving in the Peace Corps and hopes to eventually work in international development.
Living in a country that gained its independence from France as recently as 1960 taught Maslin-Hahn the importance of history. "You have to acknowledge the effect of colonialism," she said. Learning the Wolof language was one important way for her to demonstrate her respect for Senegalese culture. "I was acknowledging that they had a culture separate from France - that they are an independent country."
The Gilman International Scholarship
International study is a valuable experience, preparing American students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world. The Gilman International Scholarship Program offers awards for undergraduate study abroad.
As a special part of the Gilman award, recipients conduct a project that promotes the scholarship at their home institution or community. For her project, Zodiac Maslin-Hahn will give class presentations on studying abroad in Africa and the Sufi brotherhoods in Senegal. Additionally, Maslin-Hahn will promote the Gilman Scholarship in study abroad fairs and during International Week.
Gilman award recipients are chosen through a competitive selection process. Awards of up to $5,000 are offered. The Gilman International Scholarship was established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000 and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Students who are interested in learning more about the Gilman Scholarship may visit www.iie.org/programs/gilman/ or contact Betsy Morley in the Office of Education Abroad at firstname.lastname@example.org or (740) 597-2721. The deadline to apply for the fall 2006 award cycle is April 4.
Most Senegalese people were curious about Maslin-Hahn because they do not interact much with caucasian people. She had to get used to representing the United States to the native people, even though she lived much of her life outside the U.S. and does not identify strongly with American culture. It was important for her to show the Senegalese that Americans are not all the same and live different lifestyles.
Maslin-Hahn enjoyed the laid-back lifestyle she experienced in Senegal. "They don't have such high expectations," she said. "They have fewer hang-ups about things that aren't necessary."
Out of more than 1303 applicants nationwide, Maslin-Hahn was one of 281 recipients of the Gilman International Scholarship. "Zodiac's motivation and intellectual curiosity really came through in her application," said Betsy Morley, assistant director in Ohio University's Office of Education Abroad. "She already had a strong interest in studying Islam and international relations, and a passion for learning about different cultures. And her proposed service project showed a desire to share what she learned with the university and Athens communities, making her an ideal candidate in every way."
The first OHIO student to use the Gilman Scholarship funding to go abroad, Maslin-Hahn encourages other students to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. "It gives you a chance to learn through experience," she said. "It's totally different from learning in the classroom."
Jennifer Cochran is the assistant director for communication and graduate programming with the Center for International Studies.