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Ashley Vincent

Vandal Summer Fulbright Soaks Up Culture

Written by Amanda Cairo

For Ashley Vincent, this summer was about making connections and halfway across the world in Newcastle, England, she did just that — on a global level.

The civil engineering junior was one of five U.S. students selected for the Fulbright Summer Institute at the Newcastle University International Summer School for five weeks.

“It was the most amazing experience; it really shrank the world for me,” says Vincent. “I’ve wanted to work abroad since I was in the fifth grade.”

Being in a structured program like civil engineering and in the University honors program, the Charlo, Mont., native jumped at the chance for this distinctive summer program. According to Vincent, it was more than a study abroad experience; it was the Fulbright sponsorship that drew her to the program. This is the first year the U.S./U.K. Fulbright Commission hosted a program for U.S. students to study in the U.K.

As part of the Fulbright program, Vincent went to Newcastle two weeks prior to the summer school session to take in more cultural and educational opportunities. She participated in several field trips, but also attended sampler sessions taught by 13 academics from around the world. It wasn’t just museums and cathedrals, Vincent says; they ate fish ‘n' chips with an international executive in Edinburgh and attended a lecture from the man whose work inspired the movie “Slum Dog Millionaire.”

“I was so amazed at how much we were able to learn in such a short time,” she says. “I loved the experience, but it also made me appreciate coming home to the United States.”

During the three-week school portion, Vincent was enrolled in a political science course with 13 people from nine different countries. What impressed her the most was learning about American politics from an outsider’s point-of-view.

“The course content was much the same as we get in the U.S., but it’s from a different perspective,” says Vincent. “It really struck me what a big player we are globally.”

Vincent adds she learned just about as much from meeting students from all over the world as she did from her professors. The summer school had about 60 students from 19 countries and she fascinated to find herself at a McDonald’s at 4 a.m. debating gun control with students from Austria, France, the Netherlands and Dubai.

“It was such an enriching experience to have all that knowledge and diversity around you,” says Vincent. “It gives you such a sense of the world, a global consciousness.”

Vincent also had a chance to be an ambassador of good will. She was interviewed by BBC Radio about the Gulf oil spill in an atmosphere where many Britons felt the U.S. blamed them.

"It was wonderful to be able to remove that perception of hostility and to reinforce a friendly relationship between citizens of both countries."  she says.

For Vincent, the summer was a great academic experience, but also it gave her connections to the rest of the world. In three weeks, she became fast friends with 60 people from around the world with whom she hopes to visit and network.

As she hits the engineering books back at the University of Idaho, she brings back the global experience and her passion for travel. It is an experience she wishes for every Vandal; but if you can’t make it to Newcastle, Vincent will be more than happy to tell you all about it.