Crispin Kamundala from the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the 2022 recipients of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Fellowship. The scholarship will help fund Kamundala’s fall semester abroad at the Université Catholique de Lyon in Lyon, France.

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 scholarship’s inception in 2001, more than 34,000 scholarships have been awarded to students participating in study abroad programs and internships around the world. Kamundala is one of two UMaine students to receive this scholarship in the Spring 2022 application cycle.

“Receiving this scholarship not only helps me fund my study abroad program; it shows me that I am doing a lot more,” says Kamundala. “It showed me that I deserved to be at the top because five years ago, when I arrived in this country, I did not know English. I did not see myself at this level; therefore, I consider it a success for me.

Kamundala, a major in political science with a minor in legal studies, chose the French study program to deepen his knowledge of the language. He hopes that his studies in Lyon will allow him to develop his French and writing skills as well as to acquire more knowledge about the history and culture of Europe.

After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Maine, Kamundala intends to pursue a master’s degree in international affairs, with the ultimate goal of working for the US Department of State Foreign Service as a consular officer. , then go back to graduate school to get a law degree, and finally return to his home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and either become an immigration lawyer or work as a consular officer for an embassy in his country of origin. He thinks that studying in a foreign country would allow him to better understand how other societies work and the rules that govern them. Kamaundala expressed his enthusiasm for working on human rights issues and meeting people from diverse places and cultural backgrounds.

Kamundala says support from Nives Dal Bo-Wheeler and the Office of Major Fellowships helped him receive the Benjamin A. Gilman Fellowship. He says Dal Bo-Wheeler has been incredibly helpful throughout his career and is very grateful to him for taking the time to help him with his application.

How will studying abroad help you with your academic or professional goals
By studying in another country, I will be able to enrich my experience of living in a different culture, learn to speak a different language and discover how to thrive in a different environment. In addition, to work as a consular officer and provide assistance to people, I must have a good command of the French language. Knowing that I am fluent in both French and English gives me a strong set of language skills that I can put to good use and help others. I have been selected to represent the United States during the Gilman Scholars Brussels Belgium study tour in the fall of 2022. This study tour will allow me to understand the political and administrative structures of the EU, which will be useful for working on US-EU relations.

How do you think UMaine prepared you for this opportunity?
I am grateful to UMaine for all the resources they have provided me for my academic success. Many teachers have invested their time to help me in everything I do. I like being here. It’s at my house. It’s been a long journey to get to where I am today and UMaine has played a big role in my life.

Did you work with a mentor, teacher or role model who enhanced your time at UMaine, and if so, how?
I worked with Professor Mark Brewer and Nives Dal Bo-Wheeler throughout my application process for the Benjamin A. Gilman Fellowship as well as the Harry S. Truman Fellowship. They dedicated their time to helping me and being there for me if I needed anything. They made me feel very comfortable and I’m very happy to have gotten to know them. At this point in my life, I consider them to be more than just teachers; to me, they are more like parents, whom I can turn to for personal advice and support. Matthew Biddle and Cassandra Belka from TRIO Student Support Services have been helpful to me since I arrived at UMaine. They reviewed my essays, proofread my work and just helped me with my school work. Being part of the TRIO program has been really beneficial for my education because English is my second language, so having them read my work and provide feedback has been invaluable. Finally, UMaine’s writing center was also useful to me. Paul England from the Writing Center has always had lots of helpful feedback for my essays and I really enjoy working with him.

What are your plans after graduation? How did UMaine prepare you for them?
I want to go to graduate school and get my masters degree in foreign affairs.

At this time, I am interested in the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship Program for Foreign Affairs, which is a program funded by the US Department of State and operated by Howard University that recruits and develops excellent young people for foreign service jobs at the US State Department. I am interested in this program because working in the foreign service is very useful as well as working on behalf of the American people and on behalf of my new country, a country that has given me a home. Moving to three different countries, starting my life over and adapting to a new culture has become an integral part of who I am and one that I appreciate and cherish. For me, working as a foreign service officer would be the culmination of my personal experience, my training and my passion.

The fall deadline for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is October 6 to study abroad in spring 2023 and later.

For a full list of scholarships and bursaries available for UMaine undergraduate and graduate students, visit UMaine Major Scholarship Office website. Students interested in learning more about the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship and other major merit scholarships may also contact the Director of the Office of Major Scholarships, Nives Dal Bo-Wheeler. [email protected].

Contact: Margaret Nagle, [email protected]