Q&A Fulbright Scholar, Laura Powell

Fulbright Student, Laura Powell, recounts her experiences abroad

My name is Laura Powell, originally from Bel Air, MD. I graduated from Towson in 2010 with a Major in History and a Minor in Anthropology. Before graduating, I received a Fulbright Scholarship to do independent research in the United Kingdom. More specifically, I lived in Cardiff, Wales and with the guidance of faculty at Cardiff University I studied and researched the history of the Welsh language movement and the importance of the Welsh language in constructing modern Welsh culture

Q: When you first chose to apply to the Fulbright program, what motivated you to choose that program? A professor, friend, a specific opportunity?

One of my professors at Towson suggested it. Originally, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do immediately following graduation. I was considering applying to graduate school, but didn’t know if I was ready to move straight from undergraduate to graduate school. One of my professors suggested that I apply for a Fulbright Scholarship as a way of getting more experience with research and studying on my own while still getting world experiences and traveling abroad.

Q. What was the hardest part about being abroad?

The hardest part about being abroad was being truly independent for the first time. I had always considered myself independent before leaving the United States, but living abroad took this to a completely different level. In an emergency or in moments of uncertainty, my friends and family were an entire ocean away and any help that they could have given me would be slow in coming. For the first time, I was having to figure out every aspect of my life by myself with the knowledge that, in the event that something went wrong, I would have to figure it out largely on my own.

Even though this was the hardest—and at times scariest thing—about living abroad, it was actually the best thing that could have happened to me.  Living and traveling along abroad forced me to adapt quickly to new situations, new personalities, and a new culture. This made me so much more responsible to myself and so much more confident in almost every aspect of my life.

Q. Now that you’ve had some time to reflect on your experience, and move on from TU, are you able to utilize your experience? 

My experience has been extremely useful to me in two particular ways. First, the experience I gained in constructing my own research project has proven invaluable to my current studies as a graduate student.  I learned key lessons about crafting research questions, setting realistic work goals and timelines (and then sticking to them!), and working with others to build the projects I imagine. My time as a Fulbright scholar was an amazing intermediate period between college and graduate school that provided a relatively painless transition from college where professors tend to guide their students more, to graduate school where professors expect more independent thinking and work from their students.

Second, the changes that have occurred in my own attitudes and self-confidence have been incredible. I find that I’m less intimidated by difficult or challenging situations that come up. Instead of panicking or turning to others to guide me, I’m able to calmly and reasonably work my own way through these situations. I would say that this develops from being forced to make life decisions on my own and often in unfamiliar circumstances and environments.  Once you need to figure out when to get on a train in Prague and when to get off the train in Vienna so that you can sprint to catch the bus that is taking you to Salzburg, and then catch the right train to Florence when all you speak is English and French, nothing really seems quite as scary as it used to.

Q. Do you miss anything from abroad?

I miss traveling! When I was living in the UK, countries and cities were so close together and public transportation was so efficient that traveling was easy and relatively inexpensive.

I don’t know that this wanderlust will ever go away, but it has definitely made me more interested in continuing to travel and to explore new places.

Q. If a student asked you about applying for a Fulbright, what would advice would you give them?

I strongly suggest that students give themselves a lot of time to build their application and to carefully consider and craft their research topic and questions.  Make sure that the project you’re proposing fits the scholarship to which you’re applying.  More importantly, make sure that your research questions are specific enough to show that you have some knowledge on the issue and that no one else is working on this particular project, but broad enough or applicable in some way that the work you’ll be doing is of interest to people in the field.  I worked very closely with my Towson Fulbright advisor to make sure that my research proposal and personal statement were as strong as they possibly could be and didn’t have any glaring holes that would raise questions from a review panel.  Be prepared to go through several drafts of your research proposal and application for national scholarships.  The competition is very fierce, so it will take some time to work on your application and fully polish it before submission.

Thanks, Laura!


Did you know?

Towson was named a top producer of U.S Fulbright Scholars? Read about it here!