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25 May, 2012

Gilman Scholarship - What's wrong with me?


First, this post is how I'm going to deal with it. So expect so irrational behavior, some ranting and raving... there is no why, it just is! No sore losing... just working through the value of my life online (that's normal right?).

So I need to write something, I've got to get it off my chest. It's not that I feel anything is owed to me, it's that I'd like to know what the heck is wrong with me? Seriously? 

I suppose I should back-up. The Gilman Scholarship is a grant given to "non-traditional" students (check), who receive the Pell Grant (thus are poor [check]). While there is a preference for non-European student exchanges, many students do get awards for the heart of Europe. Oddly, Belgium, the heart of Europe Government- only had two students awarded. Considering the scope of European politics and crisis, and its effect on the U.S., you would feel someone intending to go to Brussels would be as valuable to U.S. human capital as those in China. It's also way more expensive to go to Brussels than China. Perhaps I'm just justifying myself? So what if I am? Shouldn't these scholarships have some logic to them?

The first time I applied for the Gilman Scholarship was last year at a community college (something they claim increases your chances of getting one). At the time, it was the only way I could have afforded to go to summer school abroad. I was denied, rejected, despite a 4.0 average, and being a non-traditional student (another plus in their book I'm told). Unknown to me at the time, there was a wait list to be an alternate if someone bailed from going, but I was never offered that opportunity either. This meant no study abroad. I sent the college a letter thanking them for their invitation, and graceful pretended like it didn't bother me as I withdrew due to lack of funding. As the awards were announced I followed on Twitter as GhettoGirl (that was her handle) and several other award receivers exclaimed their exuberance. Finding Ghetto Girl's blog and discovering the use of ebonics and racists remarks made me wonder how Ghetto Girl was deserving of the money, while I was left out cold. I felt useless, less than human- a complete failure as a human being. If I couldn't write well enough to convince someone to let me go abroad, but Ghetto Girl could- then I must be absolutely useless as a person (or so says my melodramatic inner voice). Of course after a bit of whine, and wine, and several weeks of convincing myself that I was worth something, (in addition to my spouse and children threatening to move out,) I eventually crawled out of bed and back into the world. I got back up, found my center and started again.

Fast forward to my first semester at UNCG: silly me figured, I'm going abroad- I'll try Gilman again. (Well that, and a little poking and prodding by our International Program Center.) Yes I was hesitant. I just assumed I was going to fail. However Tom, at the IPC instilled confidence in me, suggesting my situation (a non-traditional student [who the hell is less traditional than me?]) would prove to provide a better chance at getting the Scholarship. So I went home, looked at the website, and discovered 2 out of 3 people who apply do get the scholarship (it's actually closer to 1 in 2 this semester). Perhaps last semester was just a fluke? Right? I figured, what the heck, I'll pound out an application, an essay, and cross my fingers. Several days later I had a breathtaking essay. I even impressed myself; it was a moment of genius! I even developed a return-home-service project called "Homeless around the World" which would connect students to homelessness, both here in N.C., and in Brussels. The core of the project was filming a night of being homeless in Belgium and compelling college students to put themselves in the shoes of others, while cross-promoting cultural diversity and the Gilman Foundation. The professors I shared the project with were impressed, and felt such a compelling endeavor was worthy of special consideration, and may, perhaps give me an advantage. I put everything on the line, and I was willing to risk far more than most would for a scholarship. I thought I had a good chance.

Patiently I waited. Then word came the other day via email:
Dear Gilman Scholarship Applicant:
All applications have been reviewed. Unfortunately, you were not selected to receive a Gilman Scholarship.

The blood drained from my face. I turned to Shannon and told her of my defeat. Like a shamed warrior, I had been defeated twice now. Not even $50, nothing. No chance for being an alternate- nothing. "Thanks for playing, GAME OVER!"

Too worn out to cry, I just went to bed. Woke up sobbing for four hours this morning. 

Finally, I called forth the gumption to shoot them an email casually asking to be placed on the waiting list. I doubt I'll get any positive response, but I had to try. I debated on writing anything online, but ultimately, since I have nothing to lose at this point, I felt there was a lack of voices about losers out there. Hopefully I'll convey my emotions and thoughts as rationally as possible. The bottom line is, I just want to know what the hell is wrong with me? 

Am I too old? Too fat? Too stupid? Too much of a lesbian? Too black? Is being a 30-something impoverished lesbian mother not "non-traditional" enough for you?

Of course it's doubtful I'll ever know.

I'm still planning on going abroad of course. Money will be insanely tight, (not to mention indentured slavery for the student loans, once I get back), and I likely won't be able to travel much once there- but at this point I'm still pushing forward. A student visa stands in the way, as does that ever growing feeling I'm going to be thwarted at the last minute.

Hopefully those whom receive the Gilman Scholarship will use it wisely. In the immortal words of the 2012 Gilman Recipient: thehigherbeing, I leave you with these words of wisdom on the matter:
I got the Gilman Scholarship. That's 8 G's right there. WOOH! RICK FLAIR NIGGA!
Wooh! Rick Flair indeed. I bow to your awesomeness.

I realize anything I say will seem biased, but since I'm viewing all this from hein-sight, I think I can safely say that the problem with the Gilman Scholarship is that the recipients are judged subjectively on their perceived need, and their perceived minority status, something which is often, as in my case, not always "broadcasted". America's confusion with diversity, is that "our" concept of it is a black man selling Tex-Mex while driving a Honda, but not an atheist, lesbian, older female with two Hispanic children who would bleed the colors of the Belgian flag if she could, (in fact it's still taboo) and this deeply disturbs me. 

It's this disturbing trend in American thought that you must purposely disclose all your failures (or minority status(es)) to receive pity, or fairness, (disclosing is a form of astonishment) rather than being judged equally and on merit that will make my this cultural lesson bitter sweet. 

If Gilman was objective, even based on financial data and social-diversity status, or skill, I have a feeling you'd find very alternative recipients.


On the other hand, I could be completely wrong, in which case, none of this matters.