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Receiving a Fulbright scholarship may seem like a daunting task to many students, but the challenge of winning this award did not dissuade Barrett student Maggie Waller from applying to pursue the research opportunity of her dreams.
This past summer, Waller and nine other students from across the United States attended the University of Bristol, spending a month in the Fulbright US-UK Summer Institute. Waller capitalized on this opportunity to study arts, activism and social justice in pursuit of discovering the intersection between these disciplines.
“I am deeply interested in the intersection between arts and activism, specifically dance,” Waller commented. “This was the perfect opportunity for me to dive deeper and learn more about what I love in a place that I had never been. I was hungry for new experiences, new surroundings, and new environments– this opportunity allowed me to push myself in my artistry, my scholarship and my independence.”
While in Bristol, Waller attended classes, workshops and lectures taught by professors, community members and artistic practitioners. Soaking up this knowledge, she applied what she learned by participating in projects and field research around the city. From this research, Waller felt validated in her artistic and academic path, further understanding the need for arts-based activism in our world.
Exploring the historic sights and cities around Bristol was another highlight of her experience. “The exploring was one of my favorite parts…we would go perform at open mics, read in the big grassy field called “The Downs,” and observe the exquisite, historical castles and architecture of the city,” the student excitedly recalled. “We learned about social justice issues ranging from the global civil rights movement to refugee rights, collaborated and created artwork, gave presentations, and took historic tours of the city. My classmates and I definitely pushed each other out of our comfort zones to allow for personal growth.”
To achieve this growth, Waller and her classmates were totally immersed in the local culture with the program. Though Waller claimed the “cultural shock” of the UK was not great, she noted that the pace of life within Bristol was quite different from her pace at ASU, which was a slight struggle to adjust to. People allowed themselves more time to relax, walked or used public transport to travel and seemed to reflect on life and nature more frequently than she was accustomed to. It was in banding together, however, that Waller and her classmates motivated one another to appreciate these cultural differences– as well as each other. “The nine other students that I spent the month with were such inspirational, passionate, empathetic change-makers…they each taught me something about both myself and the world that we exist in together.”
Waller was also quick to note that she would not have embarked on such an experience had it not been for the family and friends that supported her along the way. Having never traveled out of the country before, the student was both intrigued and slightly scared. She remarked that her parents were her biggest supporters, closely matched by support from her freshman year Human Event professor, Dr. Mary Ingram-Waters, and the Barrett community. Since her return to ASU, Waller has become a huge supporter of the program, encouraging students to apply at any opportunity.
“The experience of being a Fulbright Summer Institute participant completely changed my life. To other students thinking of studying abroad, my biggest piece of advice would be to just apply– no matter how ‘qualified’ you think you are or how ‘out-of-reach’ the scholarship may be. Show them your best and most authentic self…for them to believe in you, you first must believe in yourself.”