A map of countries in which thirteen 2010 Penn Fulbright scholars will study. Related article:Fulbrights awarded to 13 Penn students

This year, 13 Penn students — including recently graduated seniors, alumni and graduate students — were admitted into the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Run by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute of International Education, the Fulbright scholarship program is one of the most selective post-graduate programs in the country.

The program offers fellowships for U.S. students to study or conduct research abroad for one academic year and includes round-trip transportation to the host country of the student’s choice, living costs for the academic year and limited health care benefits.

Though the application process is said to be grueling, the University “does pretty well with encouraging kids to apply for Fulbrights and making their applications good enough to be accepted,” Director of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Harriet Joseph said.

Ruth Erickson, a fourth-year art history doctoral student and one of the scholarship winners this year, agreed with Joseph and insisted that her advisor was the only reason she even applied for the program.

“Penn’s support is the only reason I got the award,” Erickson said.

The students who received Fulbright awards are those who have been doing research since they were undergraduates, Joseph said. Though the Penn provides the opportunities, the success of an application is ultimately up to the student.

2010 College and Wharton alumnus Julia Luscombe began her undergraduate research on community currency through University Scholars, Penn’s undergraduate research mentorship program. After first conducting her research locally and making a documentary film on the subject, she will be going to Ecuador to deepen her understanding.

The Fulbright program “will give me many more insights into the challenges and potential for these currencies,” Luscombe said.

Kara Gaston, a 2006 Princeton alumnus and graduate student at Penn’s Department of English, also said the opportunity to travel will help her with her research — a study of how 14th century English writers were influenced by Italian Renaissance poets such as Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio.

“It was really important for me to go to Italy to get access to Italian scholarship,” Gaston said. “This kind of project requires learning the Italian language” — a task she has already undertaken in addition to her research.

Erickson, who is traveling to Paris to work on her Ph.D dissertation, is just as driven. Her project involves looking at French art collectives of the 1970s and their role in the political activism of the time.

“This topic pulls together a lot of aspects of my life,” she said, “both intellectual and emotional.”

The Fulbright fellowships are not only opportunities for academic growth but for personal growth as well.

As Joseph put it, “it’s an all-around wonderful post-graduate experience.”

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