Casey Receives Fulbright Scholarship to Study in Wales

Senior Jill Casey recently received a Fulbright Scholarship, which will allow her to attend Aberystwyth University in Wales.

This scholarship will aid Casey in her journey toward achieving her Master’s Degree in International Relations.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international education exchange program, sponsored by the U.S. government, designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” according to the Fulbright Scholar Program website.  Nearly 310,000 participants are chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential. The program allows these participants to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the Department of State.

Casey, a political science major with a minor in economics and international relations, began applying for the scholarship in the spring of her junior year after she returned home from studying abroad for a semester.  Casey’s spring semester last year consisted of practicing, writing and revising personal statements and statements of grant purpose every week. “A big part of the process was figuring out what I wanted to do with my life and what programs I would be a good fit for,” Casey said.  “A lot of it was based on reflection from studying abroad.”

Casey sat through two Elizabethtown College faculty committee interviews as part of the application process. After they accepted her interview, Casey attended an official Fulbright interview where they graded her on a scale of one to four pertaining to specific qualities Fulbright strives for in their candidates.

Fulbright is concerned with students who have strong academics, but they also search deeper than just a candidate’s level of intelligence.  “The main point of Fulbright is to foster cultural exchange,” Casey said.  “They want people who are open-minded and really want to be engaged in the country’s community.” Fulbright searches for candidates with confidence in their ability to survive on their own in a foreign country because Fulbright often takes a hands-off approach to the learning process.

 For the Fulbright Scholarship application itself, Casey submitted a personal statement and a statement of grant purpose to explain the type of research she would be conducting in an international setting. Casey’s application was recommended by the U.S. Commission in January of this year and it was transferred over to the country’s commission.  The U.K. Commission ultimately decides which students they want for each particular Fulbright Scholarship and they complete this process through a phone interview.  Casey was called at the end of February for a telephone interview.

The U.K. Commission picks which participants will be awarded the scholarships, but the U.S. State Department is the final decision-maker.  Casey received an email from the U.K. Commission stating they had picked their finalists, but she had to wait a few days to hear from the U.S. State Department. Finally, she received an email from the U.S. State Department in March verifying that she had officially received the Fulbright Scholarship.  There are grants awarded by Fulbright belonging to several different categories and Casey received the U.S. Student Grant with a U.K. partnership.

Casey believes the paper application played a large part in her receiving the scholarship. “I think they were looking for someone who has a very specific research interest and knows what they want to do,” Casey said.  “Fulbright really emphasizes on the phrase of ‘life trajectory,’ meaning you really have to spell out what your career goals are.”

Dr. Kyle Kopko, an Assistant Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Pre-Law Program at Etown, supported Casey through the duration of the application process. He added to Casey’s confidence to apply for the scholarship. She also worked closely with Joel Janisewski, the Assistant Director of Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships on campus. “The committee at Etown really made me figure out what my focus was going to be targeted toward,” Casey said.

Casey wants to focus her research on Sub-Saharan Africa and conduct her work within development studies. “I studied abroad in the Gambia and that piqued my interest in working with development studies,” Casey said. When she returns to the United States, Casey hopes to study international law and work with issues concerning developing countries.

Please note: Staff writer, Kelci Sannapieco, originally wrote this article for The Etownian published on April 17, 2013. The Etownian is Elizabethtown College’s student newspaper. Click here to view the original article.

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