West Virginia Wesleyan College student, Marcus Larsson, participated in a summer study abroad program, spending three weeks each in Rwanda and Uganda. Larsson was a 2019 recipient of the prestigious and highly competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. In addition, he was honored with Wesleyan’s John K. Saunders Award for international travel to help fund his travel experience.
Larsson enrolled through the School for International Training (SIT) to study peace and conflict studies in the Lake Victoria Basin. He is in his senior year at Wesleyan with a double major in history and political science and a member of the men’s Bobcat basketball team. Throughout the program period, Larsson enrolled in courses that examined the root causes of conflict and genocide and measures to foster resettlement and reconciliation in Rwanda and Uganda.
“Studying genocide and civil war in Rwanda and Uganda was one of the most challenging experiences that I have ever undertaken,” Larsson said. “Witnessing the remnants of such horrific amounts of suffering, death, and trauma placed an emotional and psychological toll that has altered the way I view the world for the rest of my life. Listening to the stories of refugees, wives of former rebel soldiers, and genocide survivors provided an insight into the devastating consequences of conflict that could never be taught in a traditional classroom setting.”
“Navigating my way through a foreign country while processing emotions of extreme guilt, sorrow, and helplessness compelled me to grow in ways I never thought possible. Despite this, I was also able to learn how resilient individuals can be, and how one can find happiness in the hardest of circumstances. This experience provided a perspective on the privileges I have and the things I took for granted, while also allowing me to appreciate the diversity of the human experience.”
Now back on campus and continuing his studies, Larsson reflects on the experience and encourages other students to consider studying abroad. “Students do not have to fit a particular mold to participate in study abroad,” Larsson said. “There is an underrepresentation of men, athletes, people of color, and first-generation college students taking advantage of these opportunities. If you have an interest in studying abroad, apply for a scholarship and go for it!”
The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad. The scholarship program is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide.
Caption: Wesleyan student and Gilman Scholar Marcus Larsson (right) with Samuel Gatete, who risked his own life to save others during the Rwandan genocide.