Five Women Investing in our Future through Study Abroad

Each spring, the U.S. Department of State celebrates the accomplishments of women who are working to solve many of the world’s toughest challenges. Whether addressing public health, empowering women and girls, or increasing access to education, women are agents of change around the world. The American citizens who participate in U.S. Department of State exchange programs leverage their experiences overseas to pursue follow-on projects, careers, and education back in their home communities across the United States.

This month, we highlight alumni of our Critical Language Scholarship Program, Fulbright U.S. Student Program, and Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, who demonstrate that the knowledge and skills learned overseas can empower women and girls and address critical global challenges.

Hannah Tall — Pace University, Gilman Scholar, Peru, 2010, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, Colombia 2012

Hannah is a committed advocate of youth development and empowerment. She taught English abroad, first as a volunteer while studying as a Gilman Scholar in Peru and then as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Colombia, where she launched a service learning partnership between a local university and a non-profit organization dedicated to educating people about issues of hunger and homelessness in Bogotá. As a young professional, she now works as a Program Manager for STOKED, a non-profit organization dedicated to closing the opportunity gap for low-income youth.

Elyse Lee — Emory University, Gilman Scholar, South Korea, 2014

As an advocate for women and children, the plight of “comfort women” (women trafficked for sexual purposes by the Japanese military during World War II) resonated profoundly with Elyse. During her time abroad, she created a digital story discussing the history, movement, and current circumstances of these women to raise awareness. When she returned to campus, she designed a Gilman Follow-on Service Project, partnering with the Feminists in Action organization, at Emory University to hold a general assembly in which they discussed the “comfort women” issue and showed the video she created.

Sharaldine Francisco — Dickinson College, Gilman Scholar, Argentina, 2015

For her Gilman Follow-on Service Project, Sharaldine worked with the Young Women’s Leadership Network in East Harlem, which empowers high school students to break the cycle of poverty through education. As a volunteer, she worked with students in a variety of workshops aimed at easing the transition between high school and college. She shared advice to help students start thinking about decisions they would make as college students that would help them achieve academic and career success. She is also working with the administration of the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem (TYWLS) to offer a study abroad panel composed of TYWLS alumni who have gone abroad to further encourage students to expand their horizons by studying abroad in college.

Caroline Stokes — Indiana University, Bloomington, Critical Language Scholarship Program, Turkey 2014

Caroline is an advocate for LGBTQ rights. Her experience studying abroad in Turkey was important because she spent time in a place where she could not express her identity as she would in the United States. By not being able to talk about her orientation openly, she became aware of just how central to her identity it is. Caroline is determined to keep studying LGBTQ rights in Turkey and learning about changes and developments in Turkish society in this important area for human rights.

Margaret Krause — University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Critical Language Scholarship Program, India 2014

Margaret’s experience learning Hindi in India helped to prepare her for an international career in collaborative research for development and to address India’s agricultural challenges. International collaboration on research is essential to bringing new technologies to those who need them the most, and Margaret recognized that cultural and language literacy would be important for her to be able to connect with other scientists around the world. Her experiences in language learning and studying abroad have opened many doors for her as a scientist. She worked on a research project alongside other scientists, many of whom were from India, and was able to immediately connect with them over their mutual experiences in India. Her knowledge of their country and culture made it easier and more comfortable to work side-by-side. India ranks second in the world in agricultural outputs and will undoubtedly be a key area for agricultural development in the next fifty years.

To learn more about the Gilman, Fulbright U.S. Student, and Critical Language Scholarship Programs, and other opportunities to intern, volunteer, and study overseas, visit

About the Author: Nicole Holler serves as the Communications Manager for the U.S. Study Abroad Branch in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

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