Washington & Jefferson College Students Earn International Scholarships

WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 19, 2012)—An international scholarship designed to help support undergraduate students in their efforts to study abroad is providing funds to a trio of Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) students.

Juniors Julia Pacilio, Courtney Conner, and Brittany Strelnik have all been awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which provides grants for undergraduate students to pursue academic studies abroad. Such international study is intended to better prepare U.S. students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world.

Pacilio, who is from Pittsburgh, is studying this fall at Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands. In January, Courtney Conner heads to Lyon, France. The Gambia is Brittany Strelnik’s destination next semester. 

A chemistry major, Pacilio says another of the scholarship’s goals is supporting undergraduate students majoring in areas that have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad, including the sciences.

Pacilio said she is enjoying her classes, taking coordination chemistry, environmental chemistry and toxicology, Dutch history, politics and culture, and anthropology of law. She is taking the last two, she added, purely to learn something new about a subject she has never studied.

“I have learned a lot and have met some unforgettable people from around the world. The program is amazing and it is probably one of the most life-changing experiences I have had thus far,” Pacilio said. “I would encourage everyone to go abroad and experience what it is like living and adapting to another culture and learning a new language. It puts your life and your culture into perspective and you realize how big the world really is.”

Strelnik, of Johnstown, Pa., is an international studies major and gender and women studies minor from Johnstown, Pa. She will spend the semester studying the politics of developing countries at the University of The Gambia.

Strelnik said she has been “obsessed” with Africa for a long time.

“It is a country on the edge of development and I want to be there, to empower women there and bridge the language gap,” said Strelnik, who is thinking about becoming a foreign service officer or perhaps joining the Peace Corp. following graduation.

Conner is an accounting and French double major from Center Barnstead, N.H. She will attend the University of IDRAC in Lyon. She hopes to sit for the Certified Public Accountant test following graduation, and says the scholarship is an opportunity to study abroad and complete her French major. She will be studying business and accounting in France and hopes to start her career with one of the Big Four accounting firms.

“This is an opportunity at a renowned business university that also fits well with my accounting major,” Conner said. “I am excited and honored to have been selected.”

Although close friends and sorority sisters, neither Strelnik nor Conner knew the other had applied for the scholarship and both learned on the same day they were selected. They have limited experience traveling abroad.

Washington & Jefferson College has a 68.2 percent study-abroad participation rate, and ranks in the “top 40 baccalaureate institutions (for study abroad) by undergraduate participation,” according to the Institute of International Education. 

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Julia Pacilio