The University of San Francisco: Center for Global Education

USF student in class





Clifford Alonzo-Scholarship Recipient Interview

Clifford Alonzo, Spring 2014 Gilman and American Association of Teachers of Japanese Bridging Scholarship Recipient, Sophia University Tokyo, Japan

Study Abroad (SA): Please tell us a little about yourself.

Clifford Alonzo (CA): I am an Accounting major and Japanese Studies minor. I am originally from Honolulu, Hawaii. For Spring 2014 I am studying abroad at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. My expected graduation is May 2016.

SA: Why did you choose Sophia University for your study abroad?

CA: Prior to taking Japanese language courses at USF, I have always been interested in the Japanese culture. As a Japanese Studies minor, I want to take Japanese-focused classes at Sophia University, such as Intro to Japanese Art and an intensive Japanese language course, to fulfill my core curriculum and minor requirements. I am most attracted to Sophia's high academic ranking in Asia, and its location in Tokyo. However, I mainly chose Sophia University because I know that my goal of drastically improving my Japanese language skills will be accomplished.

SA: How are you funding your study abroad?

CA: As a first-generation college student, my family could never afford to send me abroad, especially in Tokyo - one of the most expensive cities in the world. But that did not stop me from reaching my dreams of studying abroad. I applied for scholarships that specially fund those who plan on studying abroad, and I have won a few. Because of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and the American Association of Teachers of Japanese Bridging Scholarship, I am able to study abroad at Sophia University for free!


SA: For free?  What about your plane ticket, housing, and meals?


CA: Since my financial aid exceeds my tuition at USF, I will be receiving excess funds that will be enough to cover my textbooks, airfare, and student visa. I received a total of $7,500 worth of study abroad scholarships, which cover my housing, meals, and personal expenses. I expect to receive extra scholarship funds, which I plan to use to have short trips to South Korea to visit my friends, or a Southeast Asian country. My parents will only provide money via wire transfer for emergency purposes.


SA: That's fantastic!  What words of wisdom can you give students about financing their study abroad?


CA: I would highly advise students to apply for as many scholarships as they can. Even though they may be busy with their classes and jobs, it would be better to submit an application with recycled essays and last-minute made up essays than not applying at all. Students tend to not apply because they feel that their chances of winning would be low, but they need to realized that sometimes, not many students apply because they feel the same way as well. Therefore, if they would apply, their chances of being selected would be higher. Well, that's what I think. But you never know what your chances are. Who knows?


Also, when working on essays, I suggest students to take advantages of learning resources, such as the Writing Center, or even ask their friends or professors to peer review their essays. For those serious about wanting to create winning-essays, I highly recommend starting on their application 3-6 months ahead of time. By that, they would have more time to do multiple revisions; it can come useful when they are in the midst of midterms of finals.


SA: How many study abroad scholarships did you apply for in total?


CA: I applied to three study abroad scholarships: the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, AAJT Bridging Scholarship, and the Foundation for Global Scholars Scholarship. I am so grateful to be awarded 2/3 scholarships! I am still waiting for my results for one more scholarship.


SA: Good luck on the 3rd scholarship!  How many hours did you spend on all three scholarship applications?


CA: Three months before the Gilman Scholarship was launched, I started on my rough drafts. The essay questions were actually similar to previous essay prompts that I have answered in previous study abroad scholarships to Vietnam and South Korea when I was in high school, so I recycled and revised them. Every weekend, I would spend 2-3 hours per weekend revising my Gilman essays until the deadline.


On the other hand, I barely did any work for the other two scholarships because it was during the midst of midterms. Instead of recreating new essays, I reused my Gilman essays, but shortened it to meet the word limit.


SA: Arigatou Gozaimasu Clifford!  Have a great study abroad!