Korff School junior earns Gilman International Scholarship
calendar icon13 Dec 2017
Lincoln, Neb.--Victoria Handford, a junior music and German major from Kansas City, Missouri, is one of 13 University of Nebraska–Lincoln undergraduate students to earn a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The awards allow the students to study abroad during the spring 2018 semester.
“I was super excited,” Handford said about learning she had received the scholarship while on her way home for the Thanksgiving break.
The Gilman is a nationally competitive scholarship awarded three times a year by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This round of scholarships was awarded to fewer than 1,000 students from 386 universities and colleges.
Gilman scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward study abroad or internship program costs. The program’s goal is to allow students to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages and economies—making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector. The late Congressman Gilman, for whom the scholarship is named, served in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chaired the House Foreign Relations Committee.
Handford will be studying German at the Humboldt-Institut in Berlin, Germany, during the spring semester.
“I am studying the German language because I’m a double major in music and German,” she said. “I’m studying the language and also the German culture and the history of Berlin. I’m also planning to study with a private voice professor while I’m over there.”
Handford’s vocal professor Alisa Belflower, Coordinator of Musical Theatre Studies, has helped her find a vocal teacher in Germany.
“I've made arrangements for Victoria to continue studying voice with renowned opera singer, Prof. Julie Kaufmann, at the University of the Arts in Berlin,” Belflower said. “Victoria's potential as a professional singer is phenomenal, and this semester abroad offers her the next step toward reaching her professional goals.”
Belflower said this experience will benefit Handford.
“Winning this scholarship will influence the remainder of Victoria's life and career,” Belflower said. “There is nothing that can compare to immersing oneself in a different culture. The perspective gained on who you are when out of your cultural context is illuminating.”
A part of the scholarship process is that the winning students must give a presentation afterwards to promote the scholarship and study abroad programs. Handford thinks her music background gave her an edge in the competition.
“I have a connection in the music school, as well as in the German department, as well as being an active church musician,” she said. “My proposal was to put together a presentation about my experience and how study abroad will affect me in the three different worlds that I’m involved with.”
What she is most looking forward to is the availability of music in Berlin.
“It’s nice that we get to see maybe two operas a semester in good ol’ Nebraska,” she said. “But instead of doing a run of a show there, they have a season and throughout the time they do each show. In the first month I’m there, there are four different operas that they do at the Berlin Staatsoper, which I’m hoping to go to a lot.”
Traveling abroad is not without its challenges, of course.
“I’m in an interesting situation in that I’m also a student with a disability, and I’m very open about it, too,” she said. “I have anxiety and ADHD, so it’s been a struggle to coordinate with how I’m going to handle the classes and the availability of medication and things. I find that to be a challenge, but I’m ready to take it on with full force.
Handford thinks studying abroad is a good experience to have.
“Especially in the music field as a vocalist, the culture is so different,” she said. “The availability to experience even other people doing shows, not me particularly doing shows, it’s good to get yourself out there and expose yourself to as much as you can.”
Handford performed in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln musical “Far from Heaven,” and the opera “Tales of Hoffman.” She has also stage managed for the opera program for “Little Women,” “The Ballad of Baby Doe” and this fall’s “Don Pasquale.”
“It’s been really fun, and it’s so interesting to watch from both sides,” Handford said. “My freshman year, I was in the chorus of ‘Tales of Hoffman,’ so it was cool to see it from the performer’s side first. As a freshman who had no experience with opera, to see the graduate students prepare these roles and see the characters develop, I had never experienced it.”
Handford has also received recognition at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) auditions, including winning the upper college women’s musical theatre division at the 2017 West Central NATS and winning the lower college women’s musical theatre division at the 2016 West Central NATS. She was also a semi-finalist in both the 2017 National NATS in the lower college women’s musical theatre division and the 2017 Hal Leonard Musical Theatre Competition.
Studying German helps her with her musical performances.
“Even since studying German, it has helped my performances and my ability to perform in German and understand the language more sincerely,” she said. “I feel like everyone should try as best they can to go over and study somewhere or a different language, to have a different experience. It broadens your view of the world.”
For more information or to see a full list of the University’s Gilman scholars, visit https://go.unl.edu/5e0g.