Persaud ’24 Earns Gilman Scholarship

February 07, 2024

By Jessica Firpi ’11

Rollins student Andrew Persaud '24 in Africa

Andrew Persaud ’24 has earned a Gilman Scholarship and is pursuing his passion for studying languages and exploring different cultures in Morocco.

Andrew Persaud ’24 earned a highly esteemed U.S. Department of State Gilman Scholarship to study Tamazight and Arab languages at the Al Akhawayn University in Morocco for the spring semester.

Each year more than 7,000 students apply for coveted spots in the Gilman Program, the goal of which is to support undergraduates to study abroad who might not otherwise participate due to financial constraints.

More than 3,000 scholarships of up to $5,000 are awarded each academic year for U.S. citizen undergraduates to study languages important to national security and conduct research as part of their study abroad or international internship program.

Award recipients are chosen by a competitive selection process, which includes submitting one statement-of-purpose essay and two community impact essays. Applications are considered holistically, taking into account the impact of the program and destination on the student’s academic and career trajectory, the community impact abroad and upon the student’s return home, academic preparedness and performance, and diversity of background and experience.

Persaud’s path to Africa started when he met political science professors Mike Gunter and Dexter Boniface.

“I took Dr. Gunter’s Intro to International Relations class on a whim,” shares Persaud, “but it was so intriguing, and it made me interested in politics. Dr. Boniface enhanced my interest with his comparative politics class in which we looked at different countries’ political systems throughout history as case studies, which made me interested in the international side of it.”

As Persaud forged closer connections with these professors, who continued to share their passion for international politics and open his mind to new ideas, Persaud decided to change his major from business to international relations. Then came a two-week Immersion experience in Tunisia in his final year at Rollins during which his true passion emerged.

“Going to Tunisia was undoubtedly one of the most transformative trips of my life,” says Persaud. “I was shaky about a future in international relations despite my admiration for it; however, experiencing the culture, talking to local journalists about the problematic democratic regression within the region, and falling in love with the North African generosity and hospitality pushed me toward wanting to be a foreign service officer. I fell in love with experiencing new cultures and learning new languages.”

Persaud also credits history and political science departments staff member Alison Reeve, who encouraged him to explore different cultures and countries, as well as fellowships advisor Kimberly Dennis who “pushed me to believe in myself despite my many doubts and reservations,” which included everything from helping polish his essays to steering him toward the Gilman Scholarship opportunity.

“When I came back from Tunisia, I knew instantly I needed to get back to North Africa,” says Persaud. “I had a strong passion for it but no direction—I felt lost. I did not know how to get back. I met with Dr. Dennis for the first time, and she helped channel my passion into a direction.”

Persaud plans to pursue a career in diplomacy within the North African region in a position at the U.S. Embassy or consulate.

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