Gilman Scholarship, Chancellor’s Award aids TROY student studying abroad in South Korea

Dakota Tomes is now one of 10 TROY students to receive the Gilman Scholarship.

Dakota Tomes is now one of 10 TROY students to receive the Gilman Scholarship.

Troy University sophomore Dakota Tomes is preparing to spend his spring semester studying abroad at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, South Korea, thanks to TROY’s Chancellor’s Award for Global Competitiveness (CAGC) and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. 

Tomes, an anthropology major from Scottsburg, Indiana, will take flight at the end of February to further his studies at one of the top-ranked private research universities in South Korea. His course selection covers a range of subjects, including cultural courses aligned with his major, a Korean language course and various other subjects that will “hopefully contribute to a well-rounded educational and cultural experience,” he said. 

The usual process of studying abroad—having the desire to go, then finding assistance—worked in reverse for Tomes. He first learned about financial aid for study abroad from a classmate while completing his Archaeology Field School, and months later remembered the conversation and decided to find out more.

“I didn’t have any real intention of studying abroad, but I was curious,” he said. “That was when I got in contact with Study Abroad Director Sarah McKenzie. I learned there was no FAFSA aid, but I also learned about the Gilman Scholarship and just how accessible studying abroad actually was. Before meeting with her, studying abroad felt like a pipe dream. But after leaving just one meeting I was on the phone with my mom talking about which country I wanted to go to.”

McKenzie worked with Tomes throughout the application process, and now he is one of 10 TROY students since 2012 to be selected as a recipient. 

“Even before the results were announced, I was confident thanks to her help. When I read the results and realized I won, I felt like my heart skipped a beat,” he said. “The first thing I did was message Mrs. McKenzie telling her about it and thanking her for all her help. Even though I was working, I stepped outside and called my mom and grandparents to tell them the news.

“When I finally got off the phone, I went around telling all my coworkers because I was so stoked. It’s the first time I’ve ever won anything so big. It was one of the most surreal moments I’ve had in my life—a milestone achievement.”

Tomes also received the Chancellor’s Award, a $1,250 scholarship open to all TROY students wanting to study abroad who meet the academic requirements. 

“It’s part of the reason studying abroad is much more accessible than most people think,” he said. “If you’re considering studying abroad, take the leap. Have a conversation with someone like Mrs. McKenzie and you’ll likely find that it’s much more feasible than you ever thought. While it might seem complex or intimidating, rest assured that there are people ready to assist you every step of the way. If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to simply go for it!”

For the next four months, Tomes will live in a dorm, attend a foreign university where he doesn’t speak the language and will completely immerse himself in a new culture. He hopes to come back a new person.

“As an anthropology major, being able to immerse myself in an entirely different culture for so long will make for many great learning opportunities,” he said. “It’ll layout the groundwork for expanding my world perspective, foster personal growth and let me build new connections on an international level. Whenever I return, I aim to return a new me.”

McKenzie said this experience will change his worldview and benefit him for a lifetime.

“Dakota is a wonderful example of a deserving student who will gain so much from his semester abroad,” she said. “Not only will he have achieved global and cultural competency to further his graduate school or employment aspirations, he will have a better understanding of himself and people in general.”

For more information on TROY’s study abroad programs, contact McKenzie at or call 334-808-6128.

About the Chancellor’s Award for Global Competitiveness

The CAGC is open to all TROY students, both undergraduate, graduate and online, who have successfully completed one full semester at TROY, are registered full time, are in good academic standing, possess a minimum overall GPA of 2.5 and have completed the TroyAbroad application, which includes the CAGC forms.

About the Gilman Scholarship

The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, providing them with skills critical to national security and economic prosperity. To be eligible for the Gilman Program, applicants must be receiving a Federal Pell Grant during the time of application or provide proof that they will be receiving a Pell Grant during the term of their study abroad program or internship. The Institute of International Education has administered the program since its inception in 2001.

The mission of the Gilman Program is to develop a generation of future American leaders who represent the rich diversity of the nation and have the international networks and skills to advance U.S. national
security and economic prosperity; expand the U.S. student population that studies and interns abroad, helping more young Americans to gain the professional skills, language abilities, and knowledge of
the world needed for successful careers; and broaden the destinations where U.S. students study and intern abroad, in order to build relationships, foster mutual understanding, and represent American culture and values, including in developing countries and countries critical to U.S. national