Dennis Schneider has packed a lot into his 21 years. A 5-day backpacking trip in Cuba. A study abroad experience in China. Co-op opportunities at American Axle. Running a painting company during the summer. Running a half marathon and completing a triathalon. Founding a college council of the Knights of Columbus at WMU. And now the adventurous industrial and entrepreneurial engineering student can add to the list receiving the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which is taking him to study abroad in the Netherlands this semester.
The highly competitive Gilman scholarship is part of a larger U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and interning abroad, helping them gain skills critical to national security and prosperity.
Schneider, a Seita Scholar and 5th-year-senior, will be studying at HU University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht, right outside Amsterdam. He’ll be pursuing a minor in international business, which he wants to pair with his engineering degree and ultimately work on an international level.
“I really want to become genuinely comfortable living abroad,” Schneider said. “I want to make the Netherlands home for the next six months, and travel to other countries and experience multiple cultures while I’m there.” He has his sights set on visiting Spain, Eastern Europe, and possibly Russia.
Schneider credits the Seita Scholars program at Western with providing the support and resources to making him confident and successful. In fact, he said it’s why he selected WMU in the first place. The Seita Scholars program supports WMU students who have been in foster care, providing resources, mentors and coaching. “The program empowers individuals like me to continue their education and thrive,” he said. “I don’t know if I would be where I am without it -- or even on my way to study in Europe now.”
He also pointed to supportive, caring faculty who are helping him succeed. “Dr. Steven Butt has been there for me since day one, and Dr. Bob White has been incredible – very challenging in class – and inspired me to get an international education,” Schneider said.
His advice for incoming freshman? “Allow yourself to be humbled, right from the start. Even though it may be hard, don’t take advice from other 18-year-olds without getting a second opinion. Take advice from your professors who are going to motivate you to do your best in their classes. Try to stay level headed. Be active. And bike the Kal-Haven Trail to South Haven at least once.”