Blugold's dream to study in Asia comes true

| Madigan Knuth

If you had told UW-Eau Claire junior Madisyn Hammick she would spend this fall semester studying in Thailand after winning the prestigious Freeman-Asia Scholarship, she probably would not have believed you.

Madisyn, who grew up in St. Paul, is proud of what she has accomplished at UW-Eau Claire as an ecology and environmental biology major. As a little girl, Madisyn always dreamed about traveling to Asia and learning about its people and their culture, but she was not sure her wildest dreams would ever come true.

“I grew up studying Mandarin Chinese from sixth grade all the way to twelfth grade and absolutely loved it,” Madisyn said. “This forever sparked my love for Asia, and for their culture and food and just everything about it.”

Madisyn is one of a very select group of UW-Eau Claire students who have won a Freeman-Asia Award. She is the first Blugold in nearly a decade to win the scholarship, which supports students from low-income households who are in interested in studying in Asia and returning to the United States to educate others about Asian cultures and people. The award ranges from $3,000 to $7,000, and students are required to study for at least eight weeks in an Asian country and maintain a minimum GPA of 2.8.

Madisyn chose to study in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and winning the Freeman-Asia Award became the proverbial icing on the cake.

“When I decided to study abroad, I was debating between an African country or an Asian country, and I picked the land of smiles, Thailand,” Madisyn said.

Jenna Krosch, study abroad program coordinator at UW-Eau Claire, said the team in the Center for International Education was thrilled when Madisyn was awarded the scholarship.

“The Freeman-Asia Award is a prestigious, nationwide scholarship, and students from a wide range of schools, from community colleges to Ivy League schools, apply each year,” Krosch said. “Madisyn is one of three students from UW-Eau Claire to ever have won the scholarship, which puts her in an elite category at our university. Each semester they award between 25 to 30 scholarships across the country, so Madisyn’s achievement was well earned and something she should be very proud of.”

Madisyn left for Thailand in August and will return in December. When asked if she is homesick, Madisyn said, “My experiences abroad so far have made it pretty hard to miss home. I have met so many amazing people, visited so many beautiful places, and have eaten so much amazing food!”

Recently named a “top city” in Asia by Travel+Leisure magazine, Chiang Mai is a study abroad program for students who want to learn about the local Thai culture and history, and apply what they learn outside the classroom, Krosch said.

While study abroad is an amazing opportunity for students, sometimes students don't consider it because they don't think they will be able to afford the cost, Krosch said. However, the Center for International Education actively provides resources to students regarding the financial implications of studying abroad, and information about financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

 “I found out about the Freeman-Asia Award because the UW-Eau Claire study abroad office is amazing when it comes to providing scholarship information, and I am good at looking for it, too,” Madisyn said.

For Blugolds interested in studying abroad who are worried about being able to afford it, Madisyn said students should cast a wide net.

“Anything is possible,” Madisyn said. “If you want it, go get it. Apply for 20 scholarships. You can get many little ones that would add up, or you could be like me and get lucky and be awarded one bigger one. I would say to try to start a financial plan early, watch your casual spending before your trip, but overall, just remember that there are scholarships for everything and that there is also FAFSA and loans.”

Krosch said Blugolds have a variety of resources to turn to when they want to find out more about studying abroad. More than one-third of Blugolds participate in study abroad.

“Start planning early and consider all program options,” Krosch said. “Students can find a comparative look at costs on our program costs site. Students also can use resources found on our financial aid page if they’d like to visit Blugold Central and talk with a frontline advisor about their financial aid and how study abroad fits into that.”

Krosch added that financial aid “travels” with a student, and UW-Eau Claire partners with several organizations that provide scholarships, programs and opportunities for students to study abroad.

For students who want to learn more about study abroad, Krosch recommends these three steps:

  1. Research UW-Eau Claire study abroad programs based on your academic, personal and professional interests and goals.
  2. Talk to your academic advisor. They will help study abroad fit into your schedule.
  3. Attend a "First Steps to Study Abroad" info session for answers to FAQs.

Find more information about the Freeman Asia Award and upcoming application cycles here.

Photo caption: UW-Eau Claire junior Madisyn Hammick stands in front of the historic Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, Thailand.