Marist FFE Graduate Continuing her Global Education

headling_ffealumThe Fulbright Program ranks as one of the top scholarship grants a college student can receive. Of the 8,000 grants awarded annually world-wide, only 1,600 go to U.S. students. In 2011, Robin Miniter was one of two Marist students who received the distinguished grant and dedicated her efforts post-college to empower women in India and the non-western world participating in sports. Looking back at everything she has achieved, Robin’s interest in global issues began during her freshman year abroad while participating in Marist’s Freshman Florence Experience (FFE).

FFE is a unique one-year study abroad program for select freshman at Marist’s Branch Campus in Florence, Italy. Upon graduating Marist in 2011 with a major in communications concentrated in journalism and minors in global studies and women’s rights, Robin received the prestigious Fulbright U.S Student Program Scholarship to continue her interest in global studies by researching the development of women’s rugby in India.

“Sports can be a means of limitation as well as liberation,” states Robin. While women’s rugby is slowly gaining acceptability in the Western world, Robin examines if the contact women’s sport is accepted into places like India that holds a complex social structure.

Before traveling to India, Robin held no previous experience studying gender within cultures. As a member of Marist’s nationally ranked Rugby club team, Robin became interested in sports specifically ones that were stereotyped as “masculine” and “too rough for girls.” In addition Robin’s younger sister was adopted from India which stands as the reason she began her research in India.

Robin’s grant provides her with real life experiences and resources to targeting the social issues many women face globally. Able to work with real life professionals who are sans advisors and sociologists from Mumbai working on gender issues within sports, Robin comments that “the beautiful thing about this grant [is that I am] awarded complete freedom.” Her location of study in India is currently one of the most under-researched areas in social sciences with little to no information about women’s spots.

Many Marist students like Robin stay interested in global issues because of their experiences abroad. Currently, students are increasingly applying for grants and scholarships to study abroad. Besides the Fulbright award, Marist undergraduate students have received the Benjamin Gilman, Freeman Asia, and Boren scholarships, to study abroad. Additional scholarships awarded to Marist undergraduate students for domestic study, is the Barry Goldwater Scholarship that recognizes exceptional promise in scientific research. Students have also been named as finalists for the highly competitive Harry Truman Scholarship, and Marist seniors pursuing their doctoral studies in sciences received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

In trying to sum up her life changing experiences in India, Robin reflects how “Five months ago my bags were stuffed and with e-ticket in hand, I was headed off into the great unknown.” However reenergized in her studies because of continuously finding new elements in her research, Robin still has a hard time putting her experiences in India into words.

“While my research is taking shape a favorite question still flashes on my Gchat [from family and friends]: ‘So how’s India?’ The Merriam-Webster has plenty of words to describe this place…and I have no idea where to begin. [To start] India is unapologetic. She (India) entices a visitor to love her but her honesty may cause them to despise her. She romances the traveler with ideas of the exotic only to hit them with gruesome realities. She is blatant, intentional, coy and mischievous… Being here is about believing in luck, even if it’s using up your last shred of hope in a last ditch effort. It’s [about] letting go of all misconceptions and expectations, and developing a patient sense of anticipation. It’s about going for the ride that you’re on. India awakens your introspection that comes from being okay with surrendering control.”

With all of her literal game changing research for women around the world, Robin’s journey began by participating in Marist’s Freshman Florence Experience continues to expand. Her advice to future study-abroad Marist students who share a passion to make a global difference is to take in the culture as much as possible and to trust in: “believing what you are seeing, even if you can’t find the right words.”