Focus on Fulbright: Q&A with Kathryn Jasper
Assistant Professor of History Kathryn Jasper traveled to Italy from 2008-2009. To celebrate Fulbright alumni at Illinois State, she recounts her days in the program and the impact it made. #Fulbright@ISU #FulbrightPrgrm
Please describe your project.
My project combined cutting-edge archeological mapping techniques with new archival documentation to examine a “grassroots” reform movement in the Italian Marches, the monastic congregation of Fonte Avellana, how it functioned as a communications network during the eleventh century, and how interactions between individuals and with the landscape produced a compelling and politically potent vision of personal and institutional change.
How do you believe your Fulbright experience changed your work after you returned?
The positive changes in my work are too numerous to recount, but at the forefront of my mind is how much more collaborative my work became as I met and exchanged information with my Italian colleagues.
Travel can be referred to as the gift of the unexpected. What was the most unexpected thing you saw or experienced?
During my Fulbright year I traveled to Marradi, a small town in the Apennines. I wanted to explore the ruins of one of the hermitages I study, but I had no idea how to reach the site, which is not far from Marradi. I entered a bar and ordered a coffee, then asked the man behind the counter how I could get to the hermitage of Gamogno. He explained it was impossible to go on foot, but offered many other possible solutions. Soon two other people in the bar joined the conversation and then a few more, until soon the entire place was working to get me up the mountain. The story goes on to include a town festival, afternoon coffee at the home of new friends, and an invitation back to Marradi anytime. At the end of the day I accomplished far more than my research goals.
Have you returned to the country where you served your Fulbright award?
I return to Italy at least once a year since my Fulbright year. Had it changed? It changed in that my friends, colleagues, and the city of Florence itself moved forward but I wasn’t there to see it. Every time I return there’s news of a marriage, a baptism, or even a new “best” pizzeria. Had you changed? I am forever changed from the experience. I met my husband during my Fulbright year. We have a 1-year old daughter. We baptized her in Florence last December. So even though I have absolutely no Italian heritage, I now have a large Italian family. The result is, Italy no longer feels like a foreign country to me.
What do you most wish people could understand about the Fulbright experience?
That it is so much more than your research project. You are living abroad, not just staying or working abroad. You actively need to make connections and meet people to accomplish your work goals, and by default you will make friends and have experiences that travelers just don’t.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying for Fulbright?
In your application, don’t be afraid to get personal and describe which parts of your life have led you to this point and which experiences will make you a good cultural ambassador. Don’t be afraid to stress your accomplishments; it isn’t the time to be overly modest.
Learn more about the Fulbright alumni community at Illinois State. If you took part in a Fulbright Fellowship and are part of the Illinois State community, contact Fulbright Scholar and Associate Professor Erin Mikulec at email@example.com.