Highland Games

Anne Fertig ’13 receives a Fulbright scholarship grant for the U.K. to study Scottish history, literature, and language.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Anne Fertig ’13 was 17 when she fell in love with Scottish culture—well, specifically, Scottish Gaelic culture. She was in high school, and somehow she came across the work of Scottish singer Julie Fowlis. The song was called “Hug Air A Bhonaid Mhoir,” and it, like much of Fowlis’s work, is sung in Gaelic (pronounced gal-ig, unlike its Irish counterpart), a dying language that today only claims something like 50,000 speakers.

The song is gorgeous, with intricate stringed instruments strumming beneath Fowlis’ fast-paced, oddly sensual melodies. It was her gateway, Fertig says, first to other Scottish musical artists, and eventually to Scottish literature and culture. She became so enamored of the language, in fact, that she eventually poured the pennies she earned from her minimum-wage writing consultant job into distance lessons on Gaelic. She took lessons via Skype from University of Arizona professor Muriel Fisher, who runs the Tucson Gaelic Institute.

“It’s a very oral culture,” Fertig explains. “There’s a lot of storytelling. That always kind of appealed to me. I love stories. I grew up in a family where we tell stories all the time. There are hundreds and hundreds of years of oral tradition.”

This gateway will eventually take her to the University of Glasgow, where, starting in September, she will be studying via a prestigious Fulbright scholarship grant. More than 700 students applied for this grant. She was one of only 46 to receive it—and the second from Rollins College (alumna Dana Ivey ’63 received a grant to study drama at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art).

Fertig arrived at Rollins in fall 2009 as an English major. In her first semester, she took a course called Major English Writings II, with Professor Edward Cohen. It didn’t take long for Cohen to see something special in Fertig. In fact, even though she was a first-year student, Cohen invited her to partner with him as part of Rollins’ Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program. Their research focused on a popular English poet, Marion Bernstein, a radical feminist and social justice champion who immigrated to Glasgow in 1874.

After researching Bernstein’s poetry over the summer of 2010, the two drafted a proposal to publish a collection of Bernstein’s work in a book titled The Collected Poems of Marion Bernstein. The Association for Scottish Literary Studies at the University of Glasgow agreed to publish the volume, which is due to be released this spring.

Last year, Fertig studied abroad at Lancaster University for six months, during which she spent a month backpacking across Europe, from France to the Netherlands to Germany, Austria, and finally Denmark. She also, as you might expect, visited Scotland three times—Glasgow twice and Edinburgh once. She found herself enthralled with these different cultures. She wasn’t simply surrounded by Americans in a foreign place, but rather, fully immersed into their daily lives and activities. She says the experience rendered her more confident and independent. And she wanted to do it again.

By this point, she was already deeply involved in the long and complicated process of applying for the Fulbright scholarship. At the President’s List Lunch back in 2011, Fertig approached Jay Shivamoggi, director of the external and competitive scholarships, and said she wanted to study in Glasgow. Shivamoggi had Fertig come to her office, where together they began researching her scholarship options. Last fall, Fertig applied for the Marshall and Fulbright scholarships.

She had to decide the program she wanted to take—a taught master’s literature course in Scottish studies, including a 15,000-word dissertation due in July 2014—and write an essay detailing why she wanted to study in Glasgow.

“As my interest is Scottish culture, history, society, and literature, it is vital I study and live in Scotland,” she wrote in her application for the Fulbright scholarship. “University of Glasgow offers the only interdisciplinary program in Scottish studies; in addition, they offer one of the only taught programs with a focus on Scottish literature.”

Fertig submitted the applications and sat for an interview with representatives of both scholarship programs. In January, she heard that she had been short-listed for the Fulbright grant. Then, in late February, came another interview. Finally, in March, she got the good news. She’ll begin her master’s program in Glasgow in September.

“I’m interested in focusing on interdisciplinary studies with English language and literature,” she says. “I want to know how people create nationalities.”

Students interested in applying for external scholarships like Fulbright should contact Jay Shivamoggi prior to their junior year to begin the process. She can be reached at jshivamoggi@rollins.edu or 407-646-2346.