This month Fulbright scholar Brian Cully has been reflecting on his year at the University of Southampton.
My time at Southampton has been life-changing. From my academic program, to my new life in the UK, I’ve become a smarter, more cultured person who is confident to take on new challenges and experiences.
I studied at the United States Naval Academy and commissioned as a submarine officer in May 2017. Later that fall, I moved to Southampton to begin a master’s degree as the university’s 2017-2018 Fulbright Scholar.
After studying aerospace engineering at the Naval Academy, I wanted to expand my engineering knowledge and use it to solve the sustainability challenges we will face over the next several decades. I searched for programs that weaved together my technical background, passion for sustainability, and future naval career. Southampton’s MSc in Sustainable Energy Technologies could not have been a better match.
After settling into the degree program and meeting its faculty, I looked forward to the other fun features of student life. But how does a Navy guy fit into a more relaxed university atmosphere? Joining numerous societies on campus allowed me to pursue my hobbies with new people—and ultimately new friends—who shared my interests. After the first week of lectures, I was already indoor skiing with the ski and snowboarding club, photographing horses in the New Forest with the photography society, and playing a water polo game in Bath with the water polo club. Southampton’s various societies not only allowed me to practice shooting film cameras or listen to Big Shaq before a big water polo match, but they provided a strong sense of community with my fellow students that has lasted the entire year. Joining a few societies is easy to do, as Southampton offers scores of diverse options, and is a must for any new student wishing to settle in quickly.
So it was unsurprising that there was seldom a day in Southampton when I was bored. In addition to student groups, I met many of my best friends on the first day of school at different welcome events. And my academic program not only yielded lectures which worked my brain in new ways, but also new friends who joined me for pints at the pub and (mostly) weekly breakfasts at my flat.
The Fulbright program further enhanced my educational experience. As a Fulbright Scholar, I was able to tap into some serious British intellectual capital. A significant portion of my personal growth has simply been the result of interactions with my fellow Fulbright Scholars. Southampton is a quick train journey away from central London, home to many scholars in my Fulbright cohort, and I’ve shared a strong sense of community with them and the other scholars in the South. I’ve hosted them for Easter weekend and summer barbecues, and they’ve reciprocated with couches to sleep on after various events in the city (dinners, lectures, West End shows, and a ballet recital to name a few). I’ve also travelled with Fulbrighters to other cities such as Oxford, Manchester, and Belfast.
Southampton’s location also lends itself well to exploring the rest of the United Kingdom. It’s close to iconic items on any tourist’s checklist (Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, Jester’s Nightclub) and other local gems such as Winchester, Bournemouth, and the Isle of Wight.
For future Fulbright applicants, I recommend thinking deeply about the connection between you, your studies, and the greater American-British context that they fit within. Know why you want to study in Southampton, and the United Kingdom in general, rather than any other place in the world. By understanding those ideas, your passion should show itself plainly in the application and interview, and you may end up in my shoes.
The cultural exchange between the US and UK has been an incredibly interesting aspect about studying across the pond, and these experiences have made me a more well-rounded naval officer. I’m incredibly grateful for Southampton and the Fulbright Scholarship for providing this opportunity. After earning my degree, I will return to the United States and service onboard submarines as a naval officer. I look forward to entering that role equipped with the lessons this year has taught me.
The University of Southampton partners with the Fulbright Commission to offer a fully funded scholarship award each year for a US citizen to study a Masters programme. To find more, visit our International Funding Partnerships page.