Student’s journey highlights benefits of Centre’s study abroad program

Published 11:30 am Monday, January 8, 2024


Centre College

Alli Barrows didn’t plan on attending college — much less a college in her home state.

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But after one campus visit, the Paducah, native fell in love with Centre College. Now she’s headed even farther from home, bound for Erlangen, Germany thanks to the Gilman International Scholarship Program.

“There are so many opportunities (at Centre) that I never thought were possible, like study abroad” said Barrows, a member of the class of 2025.

The Gilman Scholarship is the latest in a line of transformative experiences Barrows has taken to shape her future.

“I just told myself, you just have to do it. You only get one opportunity to do these things. If you push yourself to make those opportunities happen, take them. Take all the opportunities that you can,” she said.

Barrows’ support begins with her advisor, Assistant Professor of German Katrin Bahr.  It was in her German 110 class in the fall of 2022 that Barrows fell in love with the language and culture.

“I had never taken a foreign language class before,” Barrows said. “It was just so fun, I love Dr. Bahr — she’s such a supportive person, and she truly believed in me.”

Bahr has had a front-row seat to Barrows’ transformation since arriving at Centre, dubbing her an “exceptional student.” In particular, Bahr mentioned a CentreTerm course on “Women in German History,” which gave Barrows the push to consider a future with the language.

“I have seen Alli grow since the first day she entered my class,” Bahr said. “She took initiative to learn the language beyond the class requirements … I am excited that she chose to study abroad in Erlangen, Germany, which I am sure will have a major impact not only on her academic development but also personal growth.

“She very much deserves the Gilman Scholarship since she has worked very hard to be where she is right now.”

The Gilman Scholarship, through the U.S. Department of State, lowers barriers for outstanding students who might not typically participate in abroad experiences through scholarships and other forms of support. According to the Office of Fellowships, Centre has had nine Gilman recipients since 2022 when study abroad fully resumed.

“It offers a strong alumni network. To have resources outside of Centre is really something I’m interested in,” Barrows said. “The alumni of the program can do conferences abroad. There’s one in Belgium that I’m going to apply for.”

Aside from scholarship, Barrows will work with an advisor abroad — a huge help for students who might not know the ins and outs of international travel and education.

Even though Barrows hasn’t been on a plane, she’ll jet for two separate abroad programs in the first half of 2024: First, a CentreTerm course in Bhutan with Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International Studies Chelsea Cutright, another member of Barrows’ support group that brought the Gilman Scholarship to her attention.

After Bhutan, Barrows will travel to Erlangen — one of the newest programs offered through the College’s Center for Global Citizenship. Its director, Adam Chen-Dedman, was another key member of Barrows’ network of support, helping with the application process for the Gilman Scholarship.

While in Erlangen, Barrows hopes to engage in community service — something she has fallen in love with as a Bonner Leader at Centre.

“Bonner is something I love — I love service, and that is tied to my internship with Gilman,” she said. “I’d like to do community service while I’m there. Gilman requires you to give a presentation about your experience. I want to relate how study abroad is more than being a tourist, it’s learning and immersing yourself in things you enjoy, even back home — like volunteering.”