Nylah Turner

SASN Student Wins Prestigious Gilman Scholarship to Study Abroad

SASN Junior Nylah Turner has won the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in Seoul, South Korea, next year. She’s one of five Rutgers students to be awarded the competitive scholarship this round, and the only one from Rutgers University–Newark.

Turner, who hails from Trenton, NJ, and is the first in her family to attend college, was awarded $4,000 toward studies she’ll pursue at Ewha Womans University in summer 2021. 

“I’d applied for the Gilman earlier in the year and didn’t get it, then reapplied,” said Turner. “When I got the notification that I’d won, I just started crying tears of joy.”

Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, the Gilman Scholarship helps students with financial need to study abroad, emphasizing countries and regions where fewer Americans traditionally study. 

Turner, who is majoring in Biology and minoring in Art with a focus on photography, has wanted to travel abroad since high school to get out of her comfort zone and explore the world, but funds have been tight for her family. Raised with her younger sister by a single mom, Turner arrived at RU-N in 2017 and lived in campus housing with the help of the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), which provides financial assistance and support services to students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

While focused on her studies with little money as a freshman, Turner nevertheless attended a meeting held by Rutgers Global to learn about study-abroad opportunities and continued to keep an eye on her options while working various jobs: From 2017 til March of this year, she held a campus work-study position building theater sets with the late NJIT/RU-N Theatre Technical Director Dan Drew, and she’s worked for a grocery delivery company over school breaks.

“I was going to apply for scholarships earlier and was hoping to study abroad this year until Covid hit,” Turner said.

The wait paid off. 

When I got the notification that I’d won, I just started crying tears of joy.

Not only did Turner win the Gilman, but this spring she also won a Freeman-ASIA scholarship worth $3,000, which she'll also use to subsidize her studies in Seoul. Offered by the Freeman Foundation, the Freeman-ASIA scholarships provide U.S. undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need a chance to study abroad in East or Southeast Asia.

Turner’s interest in Korean culture, language and music began during her senior year of high school and has grown steadily since. She has begun teaching herself Hangul, the Korean language writing system and hopes to become fluent. 

Turner has also loved animals since she was young and has been focusing some of her Biology coursework on ecology, conservation and zoology. She may end up pursuing graduate studies in zoology and has her sights set on doing biological photography and conservation work one day.

Right now she’s just hoping she’ll be able to study in Seoul. 

The Gilman Program is working with its scholars as the world navigates the pandemic, helping them identify alternative program options, letting them defer  through the end of 2021, or allowing them to participate in a virtual study-abroad program if need be. Turner is taking a wait-and-see approach and will gauge her options as next summer draws near.

After she completes her studies, whether virtually or in-person, Turner hopes to fulfill Gilman’s follow-up requirement not only by sharing her experience with others but by creating a YouTube channel featuring video blogs by other Rutgers students, documenting their study abroad funded by Gilman and other sources.  

“I envision working with Rutgers Global on this and maybe being linked to their social media and Instagram,” said Turner. “Rutgers Global has lots of sit-down interviews on their site, but there are so many vloggers on YouTube documenting their experiences in real time. So I thought, why not use that format to promote the Gilman and RU Study Abroad to more people? I’d build the channel, find the students and provide them video-editing help if need be.”