Ashley Tickle Odebiyi knew that pursuing her love of Italian history to a Ph.D. at UA would require conducting hands-on research of documents in Italian. When Odebiyi discovered the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, she was struck by not only the amazing research opportunities the program offered but also the prestigious reputation that receipt of the award carries.
Named after Senator William J. Fulbright, who established the Fulbright Program in 1946 to promote mutual understanding and academic exchange between the U.S. and countries around the world, the Fulbright program has sponsored nearly 400,000 Fulbright students, scholars, and teachers over the decades.
Through on-campus workshops offered by UA, Odebiyi prepared her application and language assessment. Applicants must secure a host school for their time abroad. The two oldest and most prestigious universities in Rome – the University of Rome La Sapienza and LUMSA University – both accepted Odebiyi’s request.
Despite challenges presented by a six-month trip delay related to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Italy’s strict quarantine rules, and an unexpected return trip to the U.S., Odebiyi managed to conduct three months of research on the bizzoche, a community of women in fifteenth-century Rome who carefully negotiated standard gender and social norms for women of the era.
Odebiyi was forced to navigate the perils of pandemic-related archive closures and the inscrutability of 700-year-old handwriting. But, her access to the Roman State Archives and the virtual archives of the Vatican provided her with considerable research information which she believes supports her dissertation project.
Beyond the research, Odebiyi says the most valuable part of being a Fulbright Scholar is the international immersion she experienced while living in Rome: “You get to be a part of their everyday lives. You get to know where the grocery stores are and how to interact with others. That’s one of the goals of the Fulbright. They want you to have these cultural exchanges. It’s not just academics.”