Trip of a Lifetime


Fulbright recipient ‘blessed’ to experience Northern Ireland

KENNESAW, Ga. (Sep 4, 2019) — Kendall Chamberlain was disappointed when an illness kept her from joining her President’s Emerging Global Scholars (PEGS) classmates on a trip to Costa Rica earlier this year. Fortunately, she earned the opportunity for a different once-in-a-lifetime trip, through the prestigious Fulbright Summer Institute program.

Chamberlain spent four weeks in Northern Ireland studying the country’s literature and culture at Queen’s University Belfast. Through coursework and field study, she learned about Northern Ireland’s political, economic and cultural relationships within the United Kingdom, and with the Republic of Ireland and the world.

“It truly was the greatest experience I’ve had in my life,” said Chamberlain, an Honors College student majoring in journalism. “I didn’t realize how much growth I would experience in those four weeks, both academically and personally. This trip changed how I view myself, how I view my career path, and how I view the world.”

Kendall Chamberlain

Chamberlain explained that “the breadth at which we were able to study Irish literature amazed me.” Along with taking classes from Queen’s University professors, the Summer Institute students visited several historic areas. Chamberlain’s favorites included learning the folklore of the Giant’s Causeway, hiking Cave Hill Mountain and seeing Belfast from above, and visiting the walled city of Derry/Londonderry, the subject of a naming dispute between Irish nationalists and unionists.

“Everywhere I looked, I was able to see how interwoven the arts and literature are into Northern Ireland’s culture,” Chamberlain said. “They truly use art and literature as a means for social change. They value art, they use murals to demonstrate their political beliefs, and they make music a focal point of their social consciousness.”

The moment that literally made her hold her breath, though, was flipping through Jonathan Swift’s own copy of the first edition of Gulliver's Travels, published in 1726. The assistant keeper at the Armagh Robinson Library explained to the group that their priceless copy of Swift’s novel is taken out of its display case only on rare occasions, with the previous one having been for a visit by an American ambassador.

“I think all of us stopped breathing at that point. You’re holding history,” Chamberlain said, but then corrected herself. “Well, not holding it – you are flipping through it very carefully with white gloves on,” she clarified, with a laugh.

“I never knew that the publisher changed things in Gulliver’s Travels because Jonathan Swift was so critical of the government, and Swift annotated things that they had changed when he got his first edition,” Chamberlain continued. “You could see places where he angrily struck out a word because it had been changed. You were able to see Swift’s thought process, so it was like a scavenger hunt trying to find all the things that ticked him off because they had been changed.”

Kendall Chamberlain

Although she is beginning only her second year at Kennesaw State, Chamberlain is classified as a junior because she earned a number of Advanced Placement credits in high school. She is on pace to graduate in 2021 after only three years at KSU and plans to attend law school.

However, “the point between now and law school actually has shifted since going on this Fulbright experience,” she said. Chamberlain now wants to earn a second Fulbright award or other fellowship so she can complete a one-year master’s program in the United Kingdom, likely in political communication. She then wants to work in Washington, D.C., in the political arena, in a position such as a political journalist, communications director or legal advisor.

“I love politics, but I don’t want to be a politician,” Chamberlain said. “Running the show behind the scenes would be my dream gig.”

Chamberlain called herself “blessed” to receive the Fulbright award, which covered the entire cost of her travel, tuition and accommodations. She also thanked the Honors College’s donors for making possible other education abroad trips, such as the one Chamberlain will take to Italy next year with her PEGS cohort.

Kendall Chamberlain

Participants for the Fulbright Summer Institute were selected through a rigorous application and interview process based not only on academic excellence but also leadership skills and extracurricular and community activities. Michelle Miles, director of national and international scholarships and fellowships at KSU, assisted Chamberlain in pursuing the prestigious award after she was inspired by a conversation with Dean Rita Bailey at the Honors College’s Professional Development Night last fall.

“Dr. Bailey came up to me and said, ‘I just want you to know that I really see something in you, I think you have potential and I really think you should pursue this (Fulbright) opportunity,’” Chamberlain said. “I almost cried because that meant the world to have someone see that in me.”

– Paul Floeckher

Photos submitted and by Jason Getz


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