Crispin Kamundala: Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship recipient to study abroad in Lyon France

Crispin Kamundala from the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the 2022 recipients of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The scholarship will help to fund Kamundala’s fall semester abroad at l’Université Catholique de Lyon in Lyon, France.

The Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship Program encourages students from all academic backgrounds to participate in study abroad programs, gain professional skills, and immerse themselves in a new culture. Since the inception of the scholarship in 2001, more than 34,000 scholarships have been awarded to students participating in study abroad programs and internships around the world. Kamundala is one of two UMaine students to be awarded this scholarship in the spring 2022 application cycle. 

“Receiving this scholarship is not only helping me fund my study abroad program; it shows me that I am doing much more,” Kamundala says. “It has shown me that I am worthy of being at the top because five years ago, when I came to this country, I did not know English. I did not envision myself at this level; thus, I consider this to be a success for me.”

Kamundala, a political science major with a minor in legal studies, chose the French study program to expand upon his knowledge of the language. He hopes that studying in Lyon will allow him to develop his French speaking and writing skills as well as gain more knowledge about the history and culture of Europe.

After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Maine, Kamundala intends to pursue a master’s degree in international affairs, with the ultimate goal of working for the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service as a consulars officer, and then return to grad school to get a law degree, and finally return to his home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and either become an immigration lawyer or work as a consular officer for an embassy in his home country. He believes that studying in a foreign country would better equip him to understand how other societies function and the rules that control them. Kamaundala has expressed his excitement at the possibility of working on issues related to human rights and meeting with people from a variety of locations and cultural backgrounds.

Kamundala says that the support of Nives Dal Bo-Wheeler and the Office of Major Scholarships helped him to receive the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship. He says that Dal Bo-Wheeler has been incredibly helpful throughout his career and he is very grateful to her for taking the time to assist him with his application.

How will studying abroad assist you with your academic or professional goals
Through studying in another country, I will be able to enrich my experience of living in a different culture, learning how to speak a different language, and figuring out how to thrive in a different environment. In addition, in order to work as a consular officer and provide assistance to people, I need to have a strong command of the French language. Knowing that I am fluent in both French and English gives me a solid set of linguistic abilities that I can put to good use and assist others with. I was selected to represent the U.S. on the fall 2022 Gilman Scholars Brussels Belgium Study Tour. This study tour will provide me with an understanding of the EU’s political and administrative structures, which will be useful in working on U.S.-EU relations.

How do you feel UMaine has prepared you for this opportunity? 
I am thankful to UMaine for every resource they have provided me for my academic success. A lot of professors have invested their time in helping me through everything I do. I like it here. It’s home for me. It has been a long journey getting to where I am today and UMaine has played a big role in my life.

Have you worked with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your time at UMaine better, and if so, how?
I worked with professor Mark Brewer and Nives Dal Bo-Wheeler throughout my entire application process for the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship as well as for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship. They have devoted their time to helping me and being there for me if I need anything. They have made me feel very comfortable and I am very happy I have gotten to know them. At this point in my life, I see them as being more than simply professors; to me, they are more like parents, to whom I can turn for personal guidance and support. TRIO Student Support Services’ Matthew Biddle and Cassandra Belka have been helpful to me since I arrived at UMaine. They have looked over my essays, proofread my work, and just helped me with my schoolwork. Being a part of the TRIO program was really beneficial to my education because English is my second language, so having them read my work and provide feedback was invaluable. Lastly UMaine’s Writing Center also has been helpful for me. Paul England from the Writing Center always had a lot of useful feedback for my essays and I really appreciate working with him.

What are your plans for after you graduate? How has UMaine prepared you for them?
I want to go to graduate school and get my master’s degree in foreign affairs.

Right now I am interested in the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program, which is a U.S. Department of State-funded program operated by Howard University that recruits and develops excellent young people for foreign service jobs in the U.S. Department of State. I am interested in this program because working in foreign services is very purposeful as well as working on behalf of the American people and on behalf of my new country, a country which gave me a home. Relocating to three different countries, starting my life over again from scratch, and adapting to a new culture has become an integral part of who I am and one that I appreciate and cherish. For me, working as a foreign service officer would be the culmination of my personal experience, educational background, and passion.

The fall deadline for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is Oct. 6 for studying abroad spring 2023 and later. 

For a complete list of scholarships and fellowships available to UMaine undergraduate and graduate students, visit UMaine’s Office of Major Scholarships website. Students interested in learning more about the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship and other major merit scholarships also can reach out to the director of the Office of Major Scholarships, Nives Dal Bo-Wheeler

Contact: Margaret Nagle,