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Kiki Spiezio Receives Gilman Scholarship to Study in China

Katrina Spiezio of Taunton, Massachusetts, a sophomore at Washington and Lee University, has been awarded a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Spiezio will be studying abroad in China during W&L’s Spring Term.

The scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the program is administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

Spiezio, who was adopted from China as a baby, said, “I have always known that someday I would go back. Although I returned briefly for two weeks as a 6-year-old, when my family adopted my younger sister, I was too young to remember most things. I can remember bits and pieces of being in China, like the rooms of some of the hotels we stayed in, what it smelled like at the local variety store, and some random street happenings that we walked by—but over time my memories have faded, while my curiosities about the country I was born in have intensified.”

She added, “Traveling to China will inform my perceptions of the world in a way that nothing else can; hearing from others what my birth country is like cannot compare to experiencing it firsthand. I want China to be my first stop in a long series of traveling and studying abroad.” She will spend the first five weeks in Shanghai at the East China Normal University and the last week in Xi’an and Beijing, exploring cultural landmarks with Hongchu Fu, professor of Chinese language and literature at W&L.

Spiezio is working toward a bachelor’s degree in politics, with a possible double major in business administration or studio art at W&L. She is minoring in poverty and human capabilities studies. At W&L, she has been inducted into the Phi Eta Sigma freshman honor society, completed a poverty alleviation internship in New York City and has served over 1,250 hours at local non-profit organizations through W&L’s Bonner Program.

Studying in China will be the first step for Spiezio in earning a Certificate in International Immersion at W&L. ” will help me get to know some of my peers on a much more intimate basis, and will provide a chance for personal development as I grow more independent by learning to survive on my own in a completely different country, in an environment very different than the one in which I have grown up,” she said. “The course that I will be taking introduces students to contemporary China with language study in the form of reading and oral classes as well as focusing on literature, art, history and economics, through various cultural trips and activities.”

Soon after her return, Spiezio will travel to Dominican Republic to work with Haitian refugee children at English camps. “I expect that the juxtaposition of these two trips will definitely change my perspective on the world,” she said.

The Gilman Scholarship Program, named for retired congressman Benjamin A. Gilman, seeks to diversify the kinds of students who study or intern abroad and the countries and regions where they go by offering awards to U.S. undergraduates. Students receiving a Federal Pell Grant from two- and four-year institutions who will be studying abroad or participating in a career-oriented international internship for academic credit are eligible to apply. Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages and economies—making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.