And so it begins…

I have been wanting to get back to England for years. I was fascinated with the history of the country since childhood, and finally got to visit in 2007 as a senior high school vacation with my family.

I’d never felt at home in America,, but getting into London was just… It just felt right for once. And it’s not the case of “little girl in a big city” for the first time. I’ve been to major cities before. Some I really like (Washington D.C.), some are nice to visit but not to live in (Atlanta, Paris), and some I just didn’t like (New York, I’m sorry, but I’m looking at you). There was so much to see and so much to do, and even though we tried to cram in as much as humanly possible, there was still just so much to go to. And I have a feeling there will always be something new or exciting to see in that city. But the country as a whole has even more.

So fast forward a few years. I started college and learned about a study abroad program offered. It would be a semester abroad for the cost of living on campus for most of the places available (though of course London was easily double the cost). I happened upon a program in Swansea, Wales that looked like fun and applied for the program. I had gotten really far into the process – got a new passport, researched travel and costs… but then it all fell through when I couldn’t get the last bit of funds for it. There was a period of major bummer, but I kinda just moved on and didn’t really give it another thought for awhile. Around late 2009, I had briefly entertained the idea of going to the UK to study for my master’s program, but I always just kinda figured it would take way too much money to do, so never really looked into it.

Fast forward again to 2012, when I started looking into grad schools for museum studies. O.o I don’t know if it’s just grad school in general, or that particular program, but the prices were rather high. Of course there were fantastic looking programs in New York, but it was looking to be around $30,000 A SEMESTER. Even state schools like the ones in Louisiana or Arizona were going to be around $25,000 to $35,000 a year, and the programs ran 2-3 years. At this point, I thought I’d look into England again just for kicks. Obviously, London was still insane (but this is to be expected of that city), but the further north you started to look, the more reasonable the schools became. From there, I narrowed it down by focus, and found the University of Leicester.

I was fortunate to find in Leicester a quality program that integrated my chosen emphasis in technology and digital heritage in museums. Leicester was the first to establish a Museum Studies Program in the UK and had stunning credentials. The department also had a Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, dedicated to researching what changes need to be put into operation, as well as producing educated, innovative, and experimental designs in implementing what is new in technology. Add to it that it would only take me a year to complete and it incorporated an internship – I was in!

However… It was still going to cost me about $35,000 for the degree. Really a good price considering I could get it done in a year, and as an international student to boot, but still a lot to ask for a loan in a single year. As a graduate student, you can apply for $20,500 from the federal government loans, but after that you have to go private. So while I could pull the loans and make it happen, I thought that it reeeeally wouldn’t hurt to look into some scholarships.

That’s when I found the Fulbright Program. I had never heard of it before, but by goodness it was definitely something to apply for. From the official Fulbright website:

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs.  A candidate will submit a Statement of Grant Purpose defining activities to take place during one academic year in a participating country outside the U.S.

During their grants, Fulbrighters will meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences.  The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think. Through engagement in the community, the individual will interact with their hosts on a one-to-one basis in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant numbers are subject to the availability of federally appropriated funds. The United States Department of State reserves the right to alter, without notice, participating countries, numbers of awards, terms of agreement, and allowances.

Grant benefits for all Fulbright U.S. Student grants include:

  • round-trip transportation to the host country
  • funding to cover room, board, and incidental costs, based on the cost of living in the host country
  • Accident & Sickness Health Benefits


In some countries, grants may also include
:

  • book and research allowances*
  • mid-term enrichment activities
  • full or partial tuition
  • language study programs
  • pre-departure and in-country orientations

 

Basically, if you are crafty and smart and have an idea that would make a contribution to the world, give it a go. Okay, at this point in my life, I think I can do this! So I applied for the Fulbright (I won’t go into gory details unless y’all really want to hear it) in October with many, many revisions and discussions with the Fulbright representative on campus. After jumping through the proverbial hoops to get the application in, I then just had to sit on my hands and try not to fidget too much in the meantime.

Come November, I had the chance to go back to England and went over Thanksgiving break. Long story short, it was just as amazing as I remembered, and the school sounded even better talking to the people there. I applied for the university as soon as I got back, and with nothing else to do until the end of January, I have been slowly pacing a hole into the floor and surely driving my loved ones just a little crazy.

— Kate