The Marrakech Express
Hello and Happy Summer Semester to the Graduate School! I am happy to share with you some good news about travel, research, and how you can accomplish your biggest dreams. Having just returned from a very enlightening month abroad in Morocco, I’ve got some insider tips for those of you who want to pursue study abroad research possibilities for your Master’s degree. Whether you are a prospective student, a Master of Public Administration candidate like me, or a member of any of our 19 fantastic graduate programs you may find some helpful advice here!
Great ideas lead to great opportunity.
My trip, research, and (maybe) future career in international community development all sprung from the simple idea to do research abroad in Morocco as a graduate student. Why Morocco? Why not Morocco! But really, I’ve got some roots there. As an undergraduate in 2009, I focused in African Studies. I went to Africa twice in 2009; once, to South Africa (amazing on every level), and then on a short volunteer trip to North Africa to work with Peace Corps Volunteers and the ACLS (Association de Lutte Contre le SIDA, an organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS awareness). At the time, my best friend was in Peace Corps Morocco. Since then, we have both gone on to graduate studies in non-profit administration. Our graduate curriculum has helped us collaborate to identify and realize the needs of a community called Ouaouizerth by creating our own international non-profit organization, Creativity and Community Development: Morocco, Inc. or CCDM (www.ccdmorocco.com). This is the basis for all of my research.
The world is full of possibility, I thought, so why limit myself? So, I didn’t. I wanted to work on research about Morocco for my organization, and I wanted to go to Morocco to do it. I brought the idea to my wonderfully helpful adviser, Dr. Jo Ann Ewalt, and she told me to go for it (and by “go for it” I mean, develop a clear research proposal and we’ll take it from there). So, I did!
Hard work is your biggest ROI (Return on Investment).
For my research, I decided to focus on strategic recommendations for NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to identify the best methods for implementing projects with CCDM. As a starter, I created a poster outlining my research goals for the competitive Graduate Student Poster Session, which awards small grants for students to pursue their research. I didn’t win, but it was great practice—in talking about my research, getting ideas from other people, and shaping the future of my study. But more importantly, it was an introduction into all the hard work I would be doing to make my dream a reality. I cannot stress enough the importance of hard work and dedication to a venture like this. To funders, going the “extra mile” by being involved in things like the poster session could make or break your application. Be involved, knowledgeable, and strong. Know yourself and your great idea, because you will be advertising both!
Use your resources.
The College of Charleston has a wealth of resources for graduate students who want to do research internationally. Ask for help from everywhere, and listen to people when they give you advice! Go to your faculty adviser, or seek help from other people who have traveled abroad. Make new friends. Seek the source of the funding streams. For example, you could get small amounts of funding through applying for things like the competitive poster session or the Graduate School Association (GSA) travel and research grants. Every little bit counts.
For me, the bulk of my funding came from a combination of five grants: the GSA, the Graduate School Office travel foundation grant (through advisory board member Dianne Culhane), the Study Abroad Program grant, the Graduate Scholars Award (which helped with tuition), and a Historic Rotary Club of Charleston international grant. The latter award was not granted through the College, but made possible by their help. When I approached the CofC Office of Research and Grants Administration, they advised me to seek funding assistance from Rotary, who support making global connections and international learning through selective grants to students. When the Rotary association liked my idea, I presented at a club meeting and got to meet some real movers and shakers in Charleston. The Rotary experience is truly fascinating—with their help, I was able to connect with the Rotary Marrakech Menara association in Morocco. I also got to meet up with CofC MPA graduate and my dear friend Ann-Marie Quinn, who is currently studying in Morocco under a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship! I got tons of great data for my research. Many thanks, also, to the folks who contributed to my unforgettable experience.
Ann Marie (MPA class of 2012) and Me! Check out her blog: http://ambassadorabroad.tumblr.com/!
Apply, apply, apply…. And then apply some more.
Be thorough. Seek out all opportunities and then apply for them. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t get funding, or get less than you wanted. Odds are, if you work really hard and believe in yourself and your research, other people will too! For more information about funding, contact your program office, or the Graduate School Office (firstname.lastname@example.org). For larger grants, check out the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards (http://nationalawards.cofc.edu). You should also check out Rotary and their great work, or even apply for a prestigious Global Scholarship at www.charleston-rotary.org. The possibilities are limitless!
Your greatest tools are your own senses. Leave the extra toiletries and fancy shoes at home, prepare yourself for the inevitability of adventure, and let go of your fears. Write down all of your experiences. Read everything you can. Hard work pays off. It’s going to be a great trip, and it starts with you!
Link to my Photostream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/96954505@N06/with/8942482004/
Link to my blog: http://threelayercake.tumblr.com/
Kristen Young, Guest Blogger