The Erasmus Scholarship provides current or incoming master’s students the opportunity to study in multiple European universities to obtain an internationally recognized master’s. The scholarship includes travel, visas, and living allowances. Additionally, the Fulbright Killam Fellowship is an exchange program between the US and Canada where undergraduate students spend up to one academic year studying in their host country. Fellows receive a cash grant each semester, orientation weekend in Canada, and additional opportunities to travel around the host country for enrichment.
Brittany Christian received both The Erasmus Scholarship and the Fulbright Killam Fellowship, enabling her to study law and political science over the course of her BA and JD education. We interviewed Brittany to learn how she won both fellowships and their impact on her personal and professional life.
Interested in either fellowship? Be sure to apply soon, the application deadline for both programs is January 31, 2024!
Can you tell us about your background and what led you to the Erasmus Scholarship?
Prior to the Erasmus Scholarship, I had a longstanding interest in exploring countries and cultures abroad. I come from a family of Caribbean immigrants, so hearing about and experiencing their culture growing up paved the way for my interest in gaining a global experience in college. By the winter break of my first year in college, I was selected by my university, Bridgewater State, to volunteer in Belize with fellow students at a local primary school and a Belizean organization serving locals in need. A couple of months later, for spring break, I was selected to join a cohort of ten classmates on a journey to Cambodia to work with a local NGO providing water filters to local villages in partnership with Cambodian university students. Through these service trips, I learned much about life in other regions of the world, and from that point on, I did my best to pursue experiences that would expand my comfort zone and allow me to gain as much knowledge as possible about global perspectives and lifestyles other than what I was used to.
My experience becoming an Erasmus Scholar holds a special place in my heart. It would be my first time studying abroad, and was, ironically, a completely unexpected experience. I’m sitting in one of my elective courses at Bridgewater State when, through the window of the doorway, I see a bulletin advertising to students that funding was available for students to study for a year in the UK. I went to the information session at Bridgewater State’s Study Abroad office and learned that my university partnered with Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met), in the diverse city of Manchester, England, one of the largest universities in the UK with over 40,000 students, to provide funding for a selected group of exchange students from both universities who wished to have a British or American study abroad experience.
I was very excited at this opportunity as my mother and two of her siblings were born in England after my grandparents immigrated there from Barbados. Her family eventually immigrated to the United States, but she had so many stories about her and my family’s experiences there, which gave this fellowship a very personal touch for me. Although we were given the opportunity to stay for either a semester or a year, I took the plunge and applied for the full-year experience. In hindsight, after being awarded this scholarship, I gained an unmatched opportunity to connect with England and the Manchester community.
Afterward, what inspired you to apply to the Fulbright Killam Fellowship?
During my Erasmus Scholarship in the UK, I pursued the Fulbright Killam Fellowship for the semester after my Erasmus Scholarship ended. One could say I caught the travel bug from doing these experiences back to back, but I was so pleased with my time in Manchester that I wanted to pursue as many opportunities abroad as I could before graduation. Bridgewater State is part of a select cohort of universities that American students can apply to for admission to a few of their top choice universities in Canada, and vice versa. I knew I wanted to be in Toronto as the city has the unique feature of being the most densely populated city in Canada and one of the most multicultural cities in the world.
I was blessed to be accepted to York University, located in Toronto, and Canada’s third largest university, where I spent the second to last semester of my senior year meeting professors, students, and other locals from all over the world while taking courses on Canadian law and North American politics. It was a very insightful experience indeed.
How was your time as a Fulbright Fellow?
As a Fulbright Killam Fellow, I felt fully immersed in the student body. I lived on the York University campus, which was gigantic, so one’s classes could be over 10 minutes away from each other on foot. With a large campus also came a huge benefit, in my opinion: many student organizations and events! I joined quite a few during my time at York. The classes were also lecture-style, with dozens of students being taught at once in a lecture hall, while seminar classes with a smaller number of students would take place a few times per week so we could fully grasp the material the professor lectured on. I learned much about Canadian law and politics, as well as global politics.
As I was a Political Science major, this experience certainly expanded my knowledge of international affairs in a way I believe I wouldn’t have received back home. I met students, professors, and locals from all walks of life, including both Canadian and international students. Even students who were Canadian, however, had several diverse ethnic backgrounds of their own. There were also many diverse international food options on campus and local grocery stores selling familiar Caribbean food, as well as cuisine from other countries. I returned home feeling very well-rounded.
How was your experience as an Erasmus Scholar Program?
I found my experience as an Erasmus Scholar to be very unique. Similar to the experience at York, students at Manchester Met would attend a mix of lectures and seminars, but on a much less frequent schedule than North American universities. Self-study of the material was prioritized more than classroom time. Usually, the seminars and lectures would take place a couple of days a week, with the remaining three or so business days used for students to work on assignments or study.
With so much flexibility in my schedule, I was able to both study and take getaways to other countries in Europe. Some memorable experiences were going to Spain and Italy for the first time, usually for only 20 to 40 euros for each flight! I also would spend time exploring Manchester, visiting libraries, museums, restaurants, and local shopping venues. I found the people in Manchester to be lovely and there was a similarly multicultural vibe to the city as York had. I had three amazing ladies from both the UK and abroad sharing an apartment with me during the school year. I also attended a fantastic church in Manchester, which allowed me to greatly connect with the locals. I came home knowing that I would certainly return to the UK either academically or otherwise in the future, which I indeed did a couple of years later, being selected for a summer abroad program in 2022 at the University of Oxford.
What were some key takeaways from these experiences abroad?
From my experiences as a Fulbright Killam Fellow and Erasmus Scholar, I learned the importance of pursuing your passion, even if you might be the first among your community to take that step. Apart from being a first-generation American, I was a first-generation college student, so I was already taking a big step being on a university campus in America, let alone being on such campuses throughout the world.
However, I did not allow fear of the unknown to stop me, and so many doors have opened as a result. I’m able to be an active participant in discussions on international affairs and connect with professionals from around the world because of my experiences with their countries and cultures. I also have gained the courage through those experiences to travel to several more locations abroad since.
What advice would you give aspiring students interested in pursuing these opportunities?
I would say that it is beneficial to gain awareness of the diverse countries and cultures of the world, even if they might be different from what you are used to. I also believe that through your experiences, you can knowingly or unknowingly be an inspiration for others. As an undergraduate, I had friends who were reluctant to participate in abroad opportunities because of fear of safety or otherwise, even for opportunities in countries that had a lower crime rate than the United States. However, those conversations opened the door for me to share my experiences abroad, and sometimes that’s all it takes.
I also would mention that for anyone considering fellowships, especially for long periods of time, preparation is important, particularly if it will be your first time abroad. I suggest researching in advance (through blogs, YouTube videos, social media, connecting with current students or fellows, etc.) details about the location of your fellowship, major or minor cultural differences to expect, and other aspects of life that you might find important such as access to public transit. Overall, if you believe that a fellowship or scholarship will open the right doors in your career path and expand your global knowledge, then you should certainly consider moving forward.
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Brittany Christian, J.D., is a daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college and law school graduate. As a Justice Policy Associate at Legal Action Center, she liaises with Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration to implement legislation on healthcare. In pursuing her BA in Political Science from Bridgewater State University and J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law, she fulfilled her passion for expanding her education and service work abroad to locations including Cambodia, Belize, Greece, Canada, and England. Aside from her domestic advocacy work, she continues to undertake opportunities related to international affairs, having traveled to over fifteen countries.
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