In 2019, Maria Cornejo-Terry, a senior political science student at Arizona State University, was looking forward to studying abroad as a participant in the US-UK Fulbright Commission UK Summer Institutes (FUKSI), but the pandemic put a damper on her plans.
The Fulbright UK Summer Institutes are three to four week programs for United States students with little or no travel experience outside of North America. Participants explore the culture, heritage and history of the United Kingdom while experiencing higher education at a British university.
The UK Summer Institutes are supported by donations from private individuals and by a Study Abroad Engagement Grant from USA Study Abroad within the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Fulbright Commission’s partnership with leading UK educational institutions.
Students enrolled in the program receive round-trip airfare, paid tuition and fees at their host institutions, accommodation, and in some cases a daily stipend for meals.
Last summer, Cornejo-Terry finally got the chance to travel to the UK, where she spent two weeks studying at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland.
“I am very grateful to be able to participate in the FUKSI program, especially as I was selected for it at the beginning of the pandemic. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to attend due to COVID-19 restrictions, but luckily I was able to attend my program this summer,” said Cornejo-Terry.
Cornejo-Terry, a student at Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, grew up in Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. A Latina frontier worker, she is interested in pursuing a master’s degree in migration studies and learning more about border security and politics related to border communities and migrants.
She has been working on her thesis focusing on Title 42, a policy put in place in the US at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent migrants from seeking asylum and their application at the US border crossing and Mexico Douglas and AguaPrieta.
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?
Answers: An integral part of my study was the analysis of 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 with FUKSI influence your studies at ASU?
A: Religion was not the sole focus of my program, but religiously shaped identities 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 politics, 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 challenge the militarization of the border. One aspect of my FUKSI program was to show the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement which saw the elimination of border militarization between the border region of Ireland and Northern Ireland. While the resolution between both groups is far from over, I think the way local communities use art to preserve their history and beliefs is an important way to resist the erasure of historical moments that have fatally affected their communities. In contrast, the erasure of frontier history at the US-Mexico border is a prevalent problem that frontier communities can highlight and partially solve by using art to share their stories and keep them alive for future generations. So I hope to encourage discussion about erasing boundaries through art in my community.
Q: This was your first trip outside of North America. What are your impressions of the trip and the places you visited?
A: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived in Northern Ireland, but I didn’t expect to feel so connected to nature. Another FUKSI participant and I visited several natural sites such as Giant’s Causeway and Dark Hedges. I absolutely loved the Giant’s Causeway despite accidentally hiking in the wrong direction. Everywhere we went you could see sheep, which was a foreign word to me, coming from life in the desert. Despite the contrasting climates and environments, my trip has made me appreciate nature much more. I also really enjoyed the museums in Belfast, particularly the Titanic Museum. The Titanic was built in Belfast and sailed there for the first time which made the visit incredibly exciting as it was interactive and featured letters from passengers on the ship which unfortunately 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. Especially students from different backgrounds. In my case, I think my borderline identity and my LatinThe gender-neutral term for a person from a Spanish-speaking country or culture, or from Latin America or their ancestors. Identity set me apart from other applicants. My identities also helped me to be aware of cultural identities inside and outside borders, which was important in terms of my own programming. It will be different for someone else, but I think highlighting your passions and identities underscores why you deserve to be in the program because nobody is quite like you. Even if you feel out of your comfort zone because you are questioning your chances of success, apply. Don’t limit yourself to what you think you deserve because you are most likely smarter and worth more than you think.
Q: You worked with ASU’s Office of National Scholarships Advice (ONSA) on your FUKSI application. What help did you get there?
A: I went to her workshops and arranged face-to-face meetings with Dr. Jacquelyn Scott Lynch and Dr. Laurie fabric. However, I spent most of my time with Dr. Scott Lynch for helping me identify my strengths. I strongly recommend anyone applying for a national scholarship to contact ONSA. In my case, Dr. Scott Lynch and Dr. Stoff very knowledgeable about the FUKSI program and Northern Ireland which made it easier for me to understand what to focus on in order to stand out in my application and interview.