Patty Andersen: Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship recipient to study abroad in Quebec City

Patty Andersen of Durham, New Hampshire is one of the 2022 recipients of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The scholarship will help fund Andersen’s study abroad experience this fall semester at the Laval University in Quebec City. 

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.

“I applied to the Benjamin A. Gilman scholarship because Nives Dal Bo-Wheeler, the director of the Office of Major Scholarships on campus, recommended it to me,” Andersen says. “I honestly didn’t think I would get it because it’s pretty prestigious, but I was lucky enough to get an email one day saying that they had chosen me, it was a huge confidence boost.”

Andersen is participating in the Killam fellowship, part of the Fulbright Canada organization, which allows for a direct exchange between a university in the U.S. and a university in Canada. 

Andersen is majoring in secondary education and French, with a minor in Spanish. She says studying abroad will help improve her proficiency in French. She also hopes to gain the knowledge and skills to navigate an unfamiliar place, culture and language.

“It’s been a really interesting, difficult, fun first couple weeks. At the end of each day, my brain is exhausted from speaking in French all day, but I’ve been having a wonderful time sightseeing and navigating a new city. In fact, I can already tell that my French has improved, as well as my cultural awareness. This is the first time that I’ve been so out of my element, and it’s really given me some insight into how immigrants feel. I don’t think I fully understood how hard it was before,” Andersen says.

How will studying abroad assist you with your academic or professional goals?
It will help improve my French, and I do believe that putting myself into this challenging position will force me to learn a lot about myself and a lot about respecting other cultures. This is really important to me because, as a future educator, I want to respect my students as much as humanly possible.

Why did you choose to come to UMaine?
I came to UMaine because it was one of my cheaper options, because of the location (I love that it’s rural and there are so many opportunities to get outside) and because of the friendly atmosphere.

How do you feel UMaine has prepared you for this opportunity?
There were several people that were, and still are invaluable in the process of applying to study abroad programs and in figuring out everything that I have to do before I go. Some of them being Nives Dal Bo-Wheeler, Betsy Arntzen, Frédéric Rondeau and Erika Clement.

Have you worked with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your time at UMaine better, and if so, how?
Frédéric Rondeau and Dominic Varney are two of my advisors and they are truly wonderful people as well as being incredibly helpful in dealing with the nitty gritty of paperwork and whatnot as well as helping me get through my time at UMaine by playing a general support role. 

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has shaped or changed how you see the world? 
Simply being at UMaine, surrounded by people that are in pursuit of something, like their major or some calling unrelated to school has been really cool. It’s just exciting to be part of a community that is working toward bettering the world.

What are your plans for after you graduate? How has UMaine prepared you for them?
After I graduate I plan on teaching English abroad for a few years before I return to the States to become a French and Spanish teacher. UMaine is providing me with the credentials required and the space to grow up a little bit in an environment that keeps me busy and passionate about changing the world.

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,