In 2019, Maria Cornejo-Terry, a senior Arizona State University political science student, was looking forward to studying abroad as a participant in the U.S.-U..K Fulbright Commission U.K. Summer Institutes (FUKSI), but the pandemic put a damper on her plans.
The Fulbright U.K. Summer Institutes are three- to four-week programs for undergraduate students from the United States who have no or very little travel experience outside North America. Participants explore the culture, heritage and history of the U.K. while experiencing higher education at a U.K. university.
The U.K. Summer Institutes are supported by donations from private individuals and through a Study Abroad Engagement Grant from USA Study Abroad within the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State, and the Fulbright Commission’s partnership with top U.K. educational institutions.
Students participating in the program receive round-trip airfare, paid tuition and fees at their host institutions, accommodations and, in some cases, a daily stipend for meals.
This past summer, Cornejo-Terry finally got her chance to travel to the U.K., where she spent two weeks studying at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland.
“I feel very grateful for being able to participate in the FUKSI program, especially because I was chosen for it when the pandemic began. I was afraid I would not be able to participate due to COVID-19 restrictions, but thankfully, this summer I was able to attend my program,” Cornejo-Terry said.
Cornejo-Terry, a student in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, was raised in Douglas, Arizona, and Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. As a Latina border native, she is interested in pursuing a master’s degree in migration studies and learning more about border securitization and policies related to border communities and migrants.
She has been working on her honors thesis, which focuses on Title 42, a policy implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. to prevent migrants from seeking asylum, and its application at the U.S.-Mexico border port of entry between Douglas and Agua Prieta.
We asked Cornejo-Terry about her interests and experiences as a FUKSI participant. Here’s what she had to say.
Question: What did you study in your program at Queen’s University Belfast?
Answer: An integral part of my study was to analyze the reconciliation process between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland in relation to the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998 after Bloody Friday and the Troubles.
Q: How will your experience in FUKSI inform your studies at ASU?
A: Religion was not entirely the focal point of my program, but identities formed through religion in Northern Ireland were an integral part of understanding how systems oppressed groups in predominantly white homogenous communities outside of racial identities. I think my experience made me realize the importance of recognizing religion as a social construct in domestic and foreign policies, which motivated me to take a course in religion, ethics and international politics.
Q: What are your goals, and how will your participation in FUKSI help you achieve them?
A: I’m from Douglas, Arizona, and Agua Prieta, Sonora, two border towns that have shaped my desire to question border militarization. One aspect of my FUKSI program was to show the aftereffects of the Good Friday Agreement, which included taking away border militarization between the border region of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Although the resolution is far from over between both groups, I think the way local communities use art to maintain their history and beliefs is an important way to resist the erasure of historical moments that fatally impacted their communities. In contrast, the erasure of border history at the U.S.-Mexico border is a prevailing issue that can be highlighted and partially resolved by border communities using art to share their stories and keep them alive for future generations. Thus, I hope that I can foster discussion of border erasure through art in my community.
Q: This was your first time traveling outside of North America. What are your impressions of the trip and the places you went?
A: I was not quite sure what to expect when I arrived in Northern Ireland, but I was not expecting to feel so connected to nature. Another FUKSI participant and I went to multiple nature locations, such as the Giant's Causeway and the Dark Hedges. I absolutely loved the Giant's Causeway, although I accidentally hiked in the wrong direction. Everywhere we went, you could see sheep, which was a concept foreign to me, coming from a life in the desert. Despite the contrasting climates and environments, my trip made me appreciate nature a lot more. I also immensely enjoyed the museums in Belfast, specifically the Titanic Museum. The Titanic was built and first sailed in Belfast, making it incredibly exciting to visit as it was interactive and showed letters written by passengers on the ship that, sadly, were never sent.
Q: If a fellow student was interested in applying for FUKSI, what would you tell them?
A: I think I would tell all students to apply. Specifically students with diverse backgrounds. In my case, I think my border identity and my LatinxThe gender-neutral term for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America. identity made me stand out from other applicants. My identities also helped me be conscious of cultural identities that exist within and outside of border lines, which was important to understand in regard to my own program. It will be different for someone else, but I think highlighting your passions and identities emphasizes why you deserve to be in the program because no one is exactly the same as you. Even if you feel outside of your comfort zone because you question your ability to succeed, apply. Don’t limit yourself based on what you feel like you deserve, because you most likely are smarter and worth more than you realize.
Q: You worked on your FUKSI application with the Office of National Scholarships Advisement (ONSA) at ASU. What kind of assistance did you receive there?
A: I went to their workshops and set up personal meetings with Dr. Jacquelyn Scott Lynch and Dr. Laurie Stoff. However, I spent most of my time working with Dr. Scott Lynch, who helped me home in on my strengths. I highly recommend anyone applying for national scholarships to connect with ONSA. In my case, Dr. Scott Lynch and Dr. Stoff were extremely knowledgeable about the FUKSI program and Northern Ireland, which made it easier for me to understand what I should focus on to stand out in my application and my interview process.
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