During her three years in college, Mason junior Weyem Kobrosly, a marketing major in the School of Management, has savored the perks of living at home in Arlington, Va. There are family brunches on Sunday mornings, weekly breakfast-for-dinner movie nights with girlfriends and the companionship of a group of regulars she instructs at yoga class.
Though rooted locally, Kobrosly's mind has wandered globally. In the spring semester, so will she. As a Gilman Scholarship winner, Kobrosly will travel to Seoul, South Korea, for a four-month stint at Yonsei University, where she will study business and marketing.
"It really hasn't struck me yet," says Kobrosly, who filed her Gilman application about three hours before the deadline. "I don't know when it will hit me that I'm actually going away."
Seoul is not where Kobrosly expected to land in the direct exchange program. She figured she would study in Turkey, the native country of some of her relatives. She even spent last summer studying Turkish. But the courses available this spring in Turkey were not in her major.
But when Kobrosly researched Yonsei, it was love at first click. Beginning in early March in Seoul, she will take two marketing courses and classes in Korean language and economy. For now, Kobrosly watches Korean news and soap operas so she can better pick up the language and culture of what will soon be her temporary new home.
The direct exchange program is precisely the type of experience that attracted Kobrosly to Mason after she spent two years at Northern Virginia Community College. (Her brother, Seif, graduated from Mason in 2012 with an information technology degree).
"The biggest thing I was looking for was a school with a great study-abroad program, and when I looked at Mason, I was blown away by how many opportunities there were," Kobrosly says.
The Link between Culture and Business
The experience of living and studying in a foreign country will be a reward in itself, but she also has a fundamental question that she would like answered while she's studying in Seoul.
"The tendency in American business when they try to enter East Asian markets is to fail, and I want to know why," she says. "What is the link between culture and business there that we as an American society can't seem to understand? It's fascinating."
For a community outreach project related to the Gilman award, Kobrosly will return to her Arlington high school, Yorktown, to share with students the benefits of taking foreign language courses before college with the intent of studying abroad.
Plenty of such opportunities exist: This spring, 700 undergraduates from 341 colleges and universities in the United States will study abroad on a Gilman Scholarship, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the Institute of International Education. Gilman scholars receive up to $5,000 toward their study-abroad programs.
"An Extraordinary Young Woman"
Kobrosly also will encourage those young students to utilize all of their resources. This was her first time applying for a scholarship, so she frequently consulted with LaNitra Berger, director of the Office of Fellowships in the Honors College, as well as Anya Creightney, personal statements specialist in the Office of Fellowships and a graduate student in creative writing.
"It was a pleasure to work with Weyem on the Gilman Scholarship application," Berger says. "Anya Creightney did a wonderful job helping Weyem conceptualize her essays, frame her interest in study abroad and revise her essays.
"Weyem wrote many drafts of her application and was never afraid to start over. I am particularly pleased that she is a marketing major because these students do not study abroad as often as students from other majors. Weyem is an extraordinary young woman who will represent Mason well at Yonsei University."
In Seoul, Kobrosly will be on her own, other than her first week when her father, Naim, plans to stay with her. So the family brunches, movie nights and yoga crowd will have to do without her for a while.
"I'm so excited because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I've been talking for years about how I want to do a study-abroad program," Kobrosly says. "The fact that it's only a couple of months away seems unreal."