Blazing trails in the UKAugust 21, 2013
Katelyn Sullivan, Rowan's first-ever Fulbright Summer Institute awardee, hangs out along the River Thames. In the distance is the Tower Bridge.
On her last day at the University of Exeter in Great Britain, Katelyn Sullivan and her fellow young scholars confidently explained the politics of Bertrand Russell, a 20th century British philosopher and political activist.
“Our task was to show how he illustrated some of the global themes we had discussed in our previous classes,” said Sullivan. “We talked about his anti-imperialist, anti-war, and anti-nuclear proliferation protests and his general activism.”
Sullivan’s eyes grew wide with excitement as she recalled the intellectual challenges she faced in discussing Russell, considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy, in the context of global and imperial history.
Clearly, the privilege of studying four weeks in England through the Fulbright Summer Institute, one of the most prestigious and selective summer scholarship programs in the world, wasn’t lost on this junior history and philosophy and religion studies major.
‘I could never have imagined how wonderful this experience was going to be’
“I was very happy, very thankful, to be there,” says Sullivan, the first Rowan student ever to land a spot in the Fulbright Summer Institute. “I never could have imagined how wonderful this experience was going to be. Part of me is still incredulous of it all.”
In Rowan’s College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Sullivan, 20, has a perfect 4.0 grade point average. She carries a minor in anthropology, as well as concentrations in Asian studies and international studies, and is a student in the University’s rigorous Thomas N. Bantivoglio Honors Program.
The Fulbright experience included studies focusing on the environment, sustainability, and leadership, as well as attendance in Exeter’s International Summer School Programme. Sullivan was enrolled in the programme’s Global and Imperial History Pathway.
She was well prepared, she said, for the academic demands placed on a student in the Fulbright Program. The Summer Institute grooms students to become leaders and scholars.
“Our classes consisted of lecture in the morning and seminar in the afternoon,” Sullivan said. “Like Rowan, the class sizes at Exeter are small, which allows students and professors more opportunities for discussion and the exchange of ideas.”
Through the International Summer School, Sullivan attended class—and toured London—with students from a multitude of other countries. Among them: Thailand, Hong Kong, Turkey, China, Russia, Egypt, India, the Netherlands and Ghana.
While academics are a significant part of the Fulbright experience, Sullivan found time for fun, travel and a few moments of immersion in popular culture.
Mad Libs, pizza, royal birth
She laughs about playing Mad Libs with students from other countries—“It was really crazy. It was like playing with my friends at home”—sampling local fare—“I was not expecting the pizza to be so good”—and being in London on the day Prince George was born. Sullivan’s hotel was within walking distance to Buckingham Palace, but she actually heard about the royal birth in a text message from her mom…in Stratford, N.J.
“We were mildly interested,” Sullivan said, admitting that she likes that George’s birth is a nice benchmark for her Fulbright experience. “I do like that I can tell my kids I was in London when he was born.”
Sullivan was enthralled with Shakespeare’s “Globe Theater,” where she saw a performance of “Macbeth”…from the groundling section.
“I liked Shakespeare before, but I have a much deeper appreciation now. It was a profound experience. I saw Shakespeare the way it’s meant to be seen.”
Before the Fulbright Summer Institute, Sullivan hadn’t been west of Chicago in the United States. Now, she’s seriously considering graduate school abroad. And, she’s intent on applying for a full, nine-month Fulbright Scholarship in the future. Doing so would put her in some good company. In the past 13 years, 16 Rowan students have landed highly coveted Fulbright Program scholarships.
“I definitely want to apply for a Fulbright in the future. I’m not sure where yet,” Sullivan said. “I’m also thinking of attending graduate school outside of America.
“Through this experience, I think I’m more open-minded when it comes to the world. I have a better idea now of what’s out there. It’s hard to say how it has changed me. I don’t think I know the full extent quite yet.”
A gifted writer, Sullivan maintained a blog of her Fulbright experience at kmarysullivan.blogspot.co.uk.
It was important, she said, to share her experiences with others and to help her readers understand more about the UK. The blog is chock full of links about places she visited.
“Part of being a Fulbright is being an ambassador. It was important for me to put the information out there for my readers. We were all representing our countries, formally and informally.”
Sullivan left England with scores of friends and contacts—from all over the world—and more than a few funny stories.
“My Hong Kong friends tried to teach me Cantonese, not with very much success,” she laughed.
“I tried to explain the Phillie Phanatic to them. It didn’t really work. Some things just don’t translate. Certain things, I think you just have to experience.”