Kate Chandler is a principal inspector in the Animals in Science Regulation Unit at the Home Office. She recently applied for – and was awarded – a Fulbright award to study in New York and London
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IT'S 7am in mid-August. I wake up with the sun streaming through huge bay windows. The air is hot, heavy and humid, despite the hour. Through the windows, between the tree-lined rows of New York City brownstones, the greenery of Central Park is just visible. This high-ceilinged, wooden-floored studio apartment will be home to me and my husband Krys for the next four-and-a-half months. Last week, we were both working in London. I am a 1995 Royal Veterinary College graduate and have worked at the Home Office for six years in the Animals in Science Regulation Unit (ASRU). How did we find ourselves living on the Upper West Side of New York City?
Last October, an intriguing e-mail landed in my inbox. It was a flyer inviting applications for the Fulbright Executive Master of Public Administration Award (eMPA) at New York University (NYU) Wagner. The eMPA is a one-year masters degree, specifically in the area of global policymaking. The first semester is taught in New York at NYU Wagner, the second at University College London and the third consists of a policy project somewhere else in the world. The Fulbright Commission was offering one award to a British mid-career professional.
I immediately knew that I wanted to apply. My current job, which I was enjoying very much, is as an inspector of animal research facilities. My role also involves managing, leading and advising in matters related to the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. I felt that if I gained more expertise in the policymaking process, it would help me achieve more in my current role, and in the longer term could help me expand my career globally into other areas of government, animal welfare, health and science. Once I return to London in December I will continue employment at the Home Office in the same department on a part-time basis while I finish my studies at UCL.
I was also very excited about the prospect of applying for a Fulbright Scholarship. The US-UK Fulbright Commission is a bilateral, transatlantic scholarship programme, offering awards for study or research in any field. Being a Fulbright Scholar is about being an ambassador for the UK while in the USA, learning about new cultures and bringing newly gained knowledge back to the UK. Fulbright Scholars are also encouraged to volunteer in the community, and to embrace the cultural experiences that educational exchange offers. I knew that there would be a huge amount of competition, since Fulbright Awards are so prestigious, but I wanted to try.
‘I felt that if I gained more expertise in the policymaking process, it would help me achieve more in my current role, and in the longer term could help me expand my career globally into other areas of government, animal welfare, heath and science.’
I filled in many online forms, both for the Fulbright application and the NYU degree. I wrote personal statements and essays explaining why I wanted to do the degree, how I would bring British culture to the USA, and what I hoped to experience both educationally and culturally. I also had two interviews: one by the Fulbright Commission and the other by the host universities. It was many hours of work, but in a way, the questions were straightforward. The course is perfect for me: I love the USA and I knew I would make the most of every minute of studying and living in New York City.
I was offered the Fulbright Scholarship in February this year. The eMPA degree covers subjects such as global public policy analysis and public sector reform. I also chose electives on global health policy and finance management for the public sector.
Now, in the humid heat of the New York summer, Krys and I are settling into our new neighbourhood before my studies start. This morning, I completed an online mathematics test in preparation for my finance management classes. Algebra and plotting graphs are skills that I thought I had lost long ago but, strangely, I can still do it, albeit slowly. Krys is bicycle shopping, so we can explore the city with less use of the sweltering subway. I have been to the university bookstore where my rather intimidating book list can be printed out from a machine with a swipe of my NYU ID card. We've also found a few craft beer bars and some live jazz venues near our street.
The next few months are going to hold many opportunities and challenges. I can't wait to be studying political sciences in both New York and London as a Fulbright Scholar, to share a bit of British culture with the USA, to bring back my new skills to the UK, and hopefully to make new friends and colleagues from all over the world.
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