How many people get the chance to win a Gilman scholarship and a Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) Grant as a student? Stephanie Eordanidis, junior computer science with information systems options major, was selected to spend the spring semester in Tokyo, Japan for her academics.
"I didn't think I could go to Japan through Kean [University]," said Eordanidis. "But I was talking to someone in the Asian Studies department and they were like 'Yeah, you could!'"
Eordanidis will luckily spend time at Sophia University, one of the top private universities in Japan. She received two Gilman scholarships; one from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and one from the CIEE Gilman Go Global Grant. The CIEE Gilman Go Global Grant is available to those who apply for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, so both scholarships were able to cover Eordanidis's airfare and program costs.
"I've always had a fascination for Japan, especially all the games I played were always Japanese-made games. But eventually, I got more into the culture with the anime, the literature, and I decided to visit," explained Eordanidis. "I instantly fell in love with it from the 10 to 12 days I was there. Everyone is so nice and I remembered all the middle school/high school kids eagerly wanted to practice their English on me."
Originally, Eordanidis was not too involved on campus until she started doing research. She took an internship under a professor in the science department, and from there, she became more well-known and was asked to do speaking events, "meet the college" events, impromptu computer science information sessions.
Recently, she was asked by Dr. Juan Li, the adviser of the campus chapter and Department of Computer Science assistant professor to represent Kean University at a local event in town.
Other than role-play games (RPGs) and open world video games, such as Fallout, The Elder Scrolls and Borderlands, Eordanidis has a strong interest in developing educational games and robotics. She plans on creating such games for students.
"I kind of got dropped into [making educational games]," she explained. "I took a game and development course, and it was [Kean University's] first time having it, so I went for it even though the professors never taught it before. In that class, I decided to do an educational game actually geared towards middle school kids. [My professor] saw that and she was starting to talk about doing a research endeavored to making [educational] games for middle school girls. The fact that I'm also a female added to the many key-points [my professor] was looking for in an assistant."
Eordanidis loves how Kean University provides small, intimate classes for the students. Because of the small classes, professors know the students more, and because she became more known around campus, she was offered more internship opportunities.
"It's kind of like a little family, in a way, and the professors are so willing to help you," she said.
She hopes to see more inclusion and awareness about internship and scholarship opportunities offered at Kean University. She believes it would be more beneficial for the students to know the types of benefits they have at Kean University.
Eordanidis paired up with Dr. Li and a couple of other students and created the Association for Computing Machinery-Women (ACM-W) chapter to help women in the computer sciences at Kean University. Read more about the ACM-W chapter.
Sometimes, the small percentage of women may feel intimidated by the largely male population within the science field, and women are underrepresented and uninvolved compared to the males in the field. The ACM-W chapter is to help those students with questions who are afraid to ask questions in front of everyone, as well as try to bring in more professional women to informational/career sessions. Anyone and everyone are welcome to join, but the events are geared towards women.
Eordanidis was a huge advocate of gaming and education since she was young. She picked up HTML coding from one of the games she used to play, Neopets, and would help make pages look flashy and nice.
"If you think about it, a lot of people pick up computing skills from games of entertainment media that makes them want to make their things unique," she pointed out. "It's partially why I'm leaning towards educational gaming. I like to help others and I really enjoy learning and figuring things out."
After graduation, Eordanidis plans to move to Tokyo or Hokkaido and live comfortably. She will be surrounded by so many people from around the world during her semester in Tokyo, and she knows this experience will help her and her future plans.
"You don't get these opportunities often. I advise students to go for [these scholarships]," she said. "It's free money and it's worth doing. Not everything will be handed to us, so I had to look really hard to see what scholarships I was eligible for. Start early because deadlines pass by really quickly! I believe as long as I'm alive, I will get opportunities."
Congratulations once again Stephanie Eordanidis and ganbatte ne ("do your best") in Japan!