Students utilize Nationality Room Scholarships for summer study abroad programs


Hannah Levine | Staff Photographer

The first floor of the Cathedral of Learning.

By Bella Markovitz, Staff Writer

After a long semester of applications and interviews, students are beginning to reap the benefits of the Nationality Room Scholarships they’ve received for summer study abroad programs.

Maighread Southard-Wray, a senior anthropology major, is one such student. They were awarded the John F. Kennedy Memorial Summer Study Abroad Award by the Irish Room Committee, which gives them $5000 to work on an archaeological dig in Wexford. 

“It’s a fairly medieval monastery, and now there’s a cathedral adjacent to the site,” Southard-Wray said. “So we’re going to be digging there. It’s the third and last year of the project, and it’s part of a larger project, which is between Ireland and Wales looking at connections in the early medieval era between these sites of religious significance.” 

The JFK Memorial Award is one of dozens offered by the Nationality Room Scholarships. Most Nationality Rooms are home to at least one summer scholarship while some, like the Irish room, offer more. 

The Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs began awarding the scholarships again last summer after a two-year hiatus during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Southard-Wray learned about the scholarship from their Irish instructor and faculty leader of the Irish language program Marie Young, who serves on the Irish Nationality Room committee.

“She knew I was planning to do an archaeological field school this summer, and those get expensive very fast,” Southard-Wray said. “So she said, ‘You know, there’s money around,’ and put me onto the scholarship.”

Southard-Wray sent their application in December and was selected for a Zoom interview in late January. They interviewed with the director of the Nationality Room program, Kati Csoman, and the Irish room committee members, including Young.

“And then the next day one of the committee members called me to let me know that they’d chosen me for the scholarship,” Southard-Wray said. 

According to Young, the Irish room committee had only three or four applicants to choose from and “Maighread ticked all the boxes.” She said the Nationality Room scholarships are valuable because of their flexibility.

“There’s not a minimum [program-length], which is nice for some of these scholarships,” Young said. “Maybe some students can only do two weeks, or some of them can only do a week…there’s been other scholarships that students have and they have to go for a minimum of four weeks.”

Southard-Wray said that after the first four weeks of fieldwork they will spend the last two weeks traveling around Ireland on their own, researching Irish iron-age hillforts for their Bachelor of Philosophy degree.

Rising junior Alli Hastings, an engineering science major, spent the first two weeks of May in the Czech Republic after receiving the Czech Nationality Room’s summer scholarship. Hastings joined 13 other Pitt Swanson School of Engineering students in the new Plus3 Transfer Plus program.

According to Hastings, the students stayed in a hotel in Prague’s Old Town while taking an engineering and society based class called “Engineering at the Crossroads of Europe,” in which they analyzed “the culture of the Czech Republic and how societal changes have kind of impacted engineering industries throughout their history.”

“We had a few lectures, but then we also had company visits where you’d visit engineering companies,” Hastings said. “For example, one that we visited was Škoda, which is a big car company in the Czech Republic.”

Hastings also appreciated the opportunity the scholarship offered her to explore Prague outside of classes or academic trips.

“We did day trips to both Kutna Hora and Cesky Krumlov, which were other cities in the Czech Republic.” Hastings said. “Some of my favorite parts were just getting to walk around Prague and explore on my own time.”