Advancing disability rights and leadership globally®

Adding India to the Geography of Life Experiences

Celebrating Diwali - colorful flowers and sand with candles on the ground for this festival of lights
Celebrating Diwali - colorful flowers and sand with candles on the ground for this festival of lights

A true Gilman scholar, Christena Weatherspoon represented multiple kinds of American diversity while studying in India.

I have always considered India to be one of the most vibrant and fascinating areas of the world. The idea that I could study in Bangalore seemed like a remote dream to me until I received the Gilman Scholarship. In India, I observed how people deal with poverty and adversity and am attempting to incorporate my findings into conquering my own personal struggles.

I have an inquisitive mind, and my thirst for knowledge has not been compromised despite facing life’s hardships at a very young age.  My mother, who is White, did the best she could to raise my sister and me as a single parent. My father, who is Black, has gravitated in and out of my life, as well as in and out of prison. I have overcome much hardship to become the first person in my family to receive a high school diploma.

Notably, I have triumphed over a debilitating form of social anxiety and learning disability. The volatile environment I grew up in caused me to develop a severe form of anxiety. My childhood was plagued with panic attacks. Up until the age of 19, I was unable to walk into my high school without completely breaking down. After years of being told that I would not accomplish anything, I am now enrolled full time at a university and I can handle my learning disability with a calmness I could never have imagined.

In college, I study geography and public health. Geography, the mother of all sciences, is the study of location, people, and how things work. While at Christ University in Bangalore, I took courses that fit perfectly into the field of geography. I took Hindi, Indian Culture and Traditions, Contemporary Political and Economic Issues in South Asia, Bollywood and other Indian Cinema, and Indian Art and Architecture.

At Christ University, I also had the opportunity to volunteer in the university’s Centre for Social Action.

Volunteering allowed me to personally make an impact on the community where I lived. 

The program included volunteering in agricultural endeavors and education opportunities with underprivileged children in the city of Bangalore.

My experience in Bangalore, India is one that I will not soon forget. My study abroad experience has helped me focus on myself, and figure out early what I would like to do with my life. This all would not have been possible had I not received the Gilman Scholarship.

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, provides U.S. undergraduate students receiving federal Pell Grant funding with grants to support their participation in study abroad programs worldwide. See the Related Link for more information.


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