To Lydia Senatus ‘17, the Great Wall is No Barrier

This summer, Lydia Senatus ‘17 took her passion for international studies, as well as her academic and professional development to another level. She has just returned from a month-long study abroad experience in Wuhan, China, led by Ambassador Harsh Bhasin, visiting professor of political science. The program was organized by both International Academic Programs and the Confucius Institute.


Lydia Senatus ’17 overlooks the Great Wall of China.

Like most students pursuing an overseas academic experience, Lydia was initially concerned about finances. In addition to the funding provided to program participants by the Chinese government, Lydia applied for and received the nationally competitive Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State. For Lydia, receiving the Gilman Scholarship was not just about the monetary award. She was also inspired by how the Scholarship mission prioritized diversity in its selection of students and where those students will intern and study.

The Gilman Scholarship application requires two essays, and Lydia worked closely with The Office for the Integration of Research, Education and Professional Development and The Writing Center to develop hers. She especially enjoyed crafting the Follow-on Service Project Proposal, which explains how the scholarship recipient will give back by inspiring others to pursue an overseas experience and raise awareness about Gilman as a possible source of funding.

Lydia listed “getting to see the Great Wall” and meeting the student ambassadors from ZUEL (Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan) as two highlights of her trip. Another was discovering that one of the Chinese students also spoke French. That language became their literal lingua franca during a calligraphy lesson.


At Beijing’s Summer Palace, Lydia helps Chinese students practice their English.

“I was surprised by the instant connection we made as a result of this and my friendship with her made the seminars we attended and the historical sites I saw much more meaningful,” Lydia said. “I can’t wait to host her in my hometown of Brooklyn someday.”

While she was in China, Lydia was notified that she had been accepted to the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women (JFEW) SUNY Scholars Program in International Relations and Global Affairs. Career Center Director Marianna Savoca mentors JFEW participants, who receive scholarship funding and a paid summer internship in New York City. Lydia said she hopes to complete her internship at Department of State’s New York office or the Council on Foreign Relations.

When Lydia graduates, she plans to leverage these experiences by applying for graduate programs in international relations and plans to pursue the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a program that is also funded by the Department of State and provides post graduate research and teaching opportunities overseas for Americans.

—Jen Green

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