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WTAMU Student Wins Gilman Scholarship for Summer Study in China

May 14, 2012

COPY BY:    Rana McDonald, 806-651-2129, rmcdonald@wtamu.edu

WTAMU Student Wins Gilman Scholarship for Summer Study in China

CANYON, Texas—Little did this West Texas A&M University student know that playing Dynasty Warriors as a youngster would one day help him win a scholarship to study abroad in the very country depicted in his favorite video game.

Seth Blackwell, a junior history major from Plainview, will travel to Beijing, China, May 30 as the recipient of a $4,000 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The trip will mark Blackwell’s first trip overseas and his first trip by air, but he’s most excited about spending eight weeks in China.Seth Blackwell

“My interest in China started with the video game Dynasty Warriors when I was just a kid,” Blackwell said. “It’s a weapon-based fighting game that follows a story with dialogue between the battles. It just sparked an interest. I zoned in on it and fell in love with it.”

That interest in China was later fueled by a WTAMU course in Eastern Civilizations to fulfill a humanities requirement. The course, taught by Dr. Paul Clark, struck a chord in Blackwell. He decided to change his major from graphic design to history, and this summer’s study abroad trip will only cement his interest and love for the country he first discovered through a video game.
Getting a coveted Gilman Scholarship wasn’t as easy as winning a game of Dynasty Warriors, though. It’s a very competitive process, and Blackwell spent many weeks preparing his application.

“It’s a long, hard process—really frightful,” Blackwell said. “I worked with Elly Mons (coordinator of nationally competitive scholarships), and she was really a big help throughout the whole process.”

The Gilman scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the Institute of International Education. The program is designed for undergrads receiving Federal Pell Grant funds to help broaden their education through study abroad experiences. To date, the 10-year-old program has approximately 10,000 alumni members representing 950 academic institutions, who have studied in 125 countries.

The application process requires two essays—one on the student’s “Statement of Purpose” and a second on a “Follow-On Service Project.” The program received more than 2,600 applications for summer study, and Blackwell is one of 500 students from across the United States named as a recipient.

“The writing process for the essays can be arduous and frustrating at times,” Mons said. “The Gilman Scholarship doesn’t have an interview component, so the essays, approximately one page each, must be concise, compelling and leave no room for doubt or questions for the application reviewers who evaluate them. I’m proud of Seth for the work he did.”

Blackwell will spend eight weeks in China, taking part in an intense, rigorous language program through Chicago’s Loyola University called China Voice. He will take classes at the Beijing Center, which is located at Beijing University International Business and Economics. His classroom study will include four hours in the morning followed by an afternoon of tutoring and study to earn him six hours of college credit.

Living in a dorm with a Chinese roommate will help Blackwell absorb more of the language, and he also will have the opportunity for group travel on weekends to help reinforce his language skills while learning more about the Chinese people and their culture. The course requires Blackwell to take an independent excursion at the end of the eight-week program. He plans to take the train to the city of Luoyang, where he will use his language skills to get around and communicate with the local people.

When Blackwell returns home, he will begin work on the “Follow-On Service Project” he proposed in one of his application essays. He plans to collect a plethora of information as well as mementos and souvenirs while in China for a project he calls “China In A Box.” Blackwell will take that ‘box’ to area elementary schools to share his study abroad experience while teaching the young students about China.

“I’m very excited—this is an opportunity of a lifetime for me,” Blackwell said. 

Definitely an experience of a lifetime, all thanks to a video game that sparked a youngster’s interest to learn more.


For more information about nationally competitive scholarships, contact Mons at 806-651-2587 or visit wtamu.edu/ncs.aspx. For information about the University’s study abroad opportunities, visit wtamu.edu/academics/study-abroad.aspx.



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Matthew M. Day
on 5.20.2012

Congratulations, Seth. Represent us (WT and the Panhandle/South Plains) well in China.

Haley Blackwell
on 5.14.2012

I am so excited for your future, you are absoluetly right about the opptunity of a lifetime. Who knew all that video gaming was a spark to the rest of your life. You are truely blessed! Have fun, explore the culture and leave all your worries behind you. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!! Congrats Brother!!