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Lower Burrell girl gets chance to study in Northern Ireland

Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Seton Hill University student Adrienne Bracken recently received a scholarship to study in Ireland. Bracken is from Lower Burrell.

Adrienne Bracken

Age: 21

Hometown: Lower Burrell

Family: Parents, David and Lisa; sister, Amanda; brother, David

Favorite thing about the Valley: How close-knit the communities are. We're not really a series of big, flashy towns; rather, we're more a cluster of interconnected towns filled with families and long-term friendships.

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Monday, March 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Fitting enough, it wasn't long before St. Patrick's Day that Adrienne Bracken received some exciting news pertaining to the Emerald Isle.

She learned she had received a competitive scholarship to study abroad in Northern Ireland.

“I got the email and I just about fell out of my seat,” said the Lower Burrell resident.

“I was shocked. From what I understand, study-away opportunities – especially ones that have some sort of scholarship or financial aid attached – are hard to get.”

Along with Katelyn Stanley of Kentucky, Bracken is one of two students from Greensburg's Seton Hill University selected to take part in the Irish-American Scholars program, which goes to a small number of students throughout the country each year.

Sponsored by the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities, the United Methodist Church and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the program selects applicants based upon an essay, references and grade-point average.

Those chosen get the chance to study at one of five Northern Ireland universities.

Bracken, a junior with an English major and a psychology minor, is looking forward to the country's history and beauty.

“I've been told there is a lot of inspiration to be found there,” she said.

Her advisor, Christine Cusick, associate professor of English and composition, describes Bracken as a student who is “humble, incisive and intellectually curious.”

“She cares not just about the aesthetic beauty of literature but also about how the study of literature impacts how we think, imagine and live,” Cusick said. “She will bring humility and intellectual curiosity to her studies abroad, qualities that will empower her to truly learn from her experiences in a new cultural context.”

At Seton Hill, Bracken is involved with “anything with an English focus” on campus. That includes working on the campus newspaper, being a member of the literary magazine staff and president of the English club.

When she attends school in Northern Ireland in fall 2013, she plans to continue being that active while studying English and psychology at the University of Ulster in Coleraine.

Bracken plans to obtain a Ph.D. in English literature and teach at the post-secondary level.

She expects that the chance to study at the University of Ulster will help her to prepare for additional study, especially if she chooses to pursue further education abroad.

Bracken learned of the award in January and applied for it last month.

She found that a new perspective on such opportunities helped give her the motivation to move ahead.

“There always seems to be something holding you back from going ahead and doing what you want to and furthering your education,” she said.

“I thought, ‘What if there wasn't a barrier? What if it turns out you really can go?' ”

“I had to just push through it, and I'm incredibly happy that I did now because everything worked out in my favor.”

Julie E. Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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