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Bristol hosts top US students for Fulbright Summer Institute

Fulbright participants gather on the Mayflower Steps

Reviewing historical accounts at the University's Special Collections Library

Looking at maps of the west Indies trading routes at the University's Special Collections Library

20 June 2017

Ten of the USA’s brightest undergraduates have been spending four weeks at the University of Bristol to explore the culture, heritage and history of the UK, as part of the Fulbright UK Summer Institute scheme.

The students from across the US have been learning about the role Bristol played in shaping American history, specifically through its involvement in the notorious Triangle Trade, while getting to experience the thriving and cosmopolitan city it is today.

The University of Bristol is one of nine institutions to host the prestigious Fulbright Commission’s Summer Institute, which grants scholarships to US undergraduates in recognition of their academic achievements.

The programme of events features slavery and Atlantic Heritage as themes, focusing on the notorious Triangle Trade, which saw ships leave Bristol to trade goods for slaves in West Africa, before crossing the Atlantic to plantations in America and the Caribbean where slaves were exchanged for sugar, rum or tobacco before returning to Bristol.

Under the guidance of scholars from Africa, North America and the UK, the students have been gaining perspectives from all three continents in the triangle. They have studied the African diaspora though archaeological remains, historical records and explore the legacies of the slave trade between the British Empire and the African continent.

On a visit to the University’s Special Collections Library, they had the opportunity to examine the exhibits, including the Pinney Papers - a collection of accounts, notebooks and other documents dating from 1650 – 1884 relating to the Pinney family business in Dorset and the West Indies.

Dr Erik Lithander, Pro-Vice Chancellor (International), said:

“It is a great honour to host the Fulbright participants here at the University of Bristol. During their time here, these accomplished students have gained a much deeper understanding of a dark period of history which is part of our shared Atlantic heritage.

“The Fulbright Summer Institute gives students a taste of life at a UK University and we hope they will leave with lasting memories of the vibrant and cosmopolitan city that is contemporary Bristol, and a plan to return in the future.”

Today Bristol is one of the most liveable and connected cities in Europe, known for its hot air balloons, multi-coloured houses and being home of the legendary street artist, Banksy. Students will get a taste of the historical and the contemporary with a tour around Bristol’s iconic harbourside with Professor Mark Horton, field trips to Plymouth, Exmoor, Bath and Bideford and community work at the Berkley Castle dig.  The many social events planned include a night at the Bristol Old Vic, a comedy night at the re-purposed Tobacco Factory and a visit to the Clifton Rocks Railway.

This year Bristol was named ‘Best Place to Live in the UK’ by The Sunday Times. The University is a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities and is consistently ranked among the top universities in the UK.

Meeri Shin, who participated in the 2015 Bristol Summer Institute, said:

“I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the slave trade and how it affected Bristol while learning a lot about the UK as a whole. Not only was I able to learn about a new culture, I was also able to enhance my academic research as well. This summer experience has become a major talking point in interviews, and going into interviews with such a formative experience has allowed doors to open for me that previously might have been closed.”

Penny Egan CBE, Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission:

“Summer Institute participants exemplify the Fulbright mission of turning nations into people, and bring the world closer together through their intercultural awareness, sensitivity and diplomacy.

“We are proud to continue our relationship with the University of Bristol, who provide a unique academic experience for our Summer Institute participants and Fulbright scholars in a modern city with heritage and history.”

Further information

The Fulbright Commission was founded in 1948 to foster mutual cultural understanding through educational exchange between both nations. It has a distinguished history built on the legacy of the late Senator J William Fulbright and the global Fulbright Programme is one of the most prestigious awards programmes world-wide operating in over 150 countries, with over 300,000 alumni.

The University of Bristol Summer Institute has been organised by the International Office and the Faculty of Arts, involving academic staff from Archaeology and Anthropology, Drama, Modern Languages, History, Philosophy, English, Theology and Music.

About the Summer Institute

The Fulbright Commission selects its Summer Institute participants through a rigorous application and interview process. In making these awards the Commission looks not only for academic excellence but a focused application, a range of extracurricular and community activities, demonstrated ambassadorial skills, a desire to further the Fulbright Programme and a plan to give back to the recipient’s home country upon returning.

Fulbright Summer Institutes cover all participant costs. In addition, Fulbright summer participants receive a distinctive support and cultural education programme including: a comprehensive pre-departure orientation, enrichment opportunities in country, a re-entry session and the opportunity to join our alumni networks.

The programme will give the group the opportunity to develop their academic and leadership skills, and to meet a wide range of people from a variety of backgrounds – both from within the University and from outside.

Fulbright University of Bristol Award 

The University of Bristol has a long-standing relationship with Fulbright. It hosted a successful Fulbright Forum in January 2013, hosting 65 Fulbright Scholars, lecturers and staff for two days. The Fulbright University of Bristol Postgraduate Student Award enables US citizens to study for any master’s or PhD programme at the university.

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