The Stamps Leadership Scholarship at the University of Mississippi has allowed me to find nontraditional paths to my education in the context of a traditional university. It has allowed me to take control of my education, both academically and personally.
My freshman year, I took a leave of absence for eight months to participate in a program in Xi’an, China. Stamps funded my program fees, and without this assistance, I wouldn’t have had the confidence or resources to do something like this. It was in Xi’an that I deepened my relationship to and interest in Chinese culture. I traveled the country and saw the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang and the crowded streets in Hong Kong. An American friend and I taught a 9-unit lecture course on American culture that forced me to view my own background through the lens of an outsider. I had freedom to craft my educational experience to fit my personal needs and goals.
“Stamps has played an essential role in allowing me to shape my experience and guiding me towards new and exciting places.” – Brendan Ryan, Stamps scholar
Two years ago, I started down a YouTube rabbit hole on Singaporean English (Singlish) and Malaysian culture. Many hours later, I was hooked and determined to visit these two countries. That dream became realized when I took a 10-day trip throughout Malaysia and Singapore and got to witness phenomena I had only seen through a screen in my dorm room. I loaded up on Singaporean and Malaysian literature and spent the first half of this year reading books like SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century and The Rice Mother, two of the best books I’ve read. This kind of blending of life and learning is what I envision to be the perfect college experience.
Stamps has allowed me flexibility and time to delve into personal interests. The financial support from Stamps gives me time to do things like intern at the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour in Oxford, which has exposed me to new musicians and authors. I have been able to expand my boundaries beyond the borders of the university and into the local community. These experiences have further enriched my experience at the University of Mississippi and challenged me beyond my immediate academic discipline.
Projecting forward, it’s hard to say exactly what my next step will be. I may try to move to Asia, or I might pursue another degree. Stamps has played an essential role in allowing me to shape my experience and guiding me towards new and exciting places. Regardless of what I do next, the growth I have made in these past four years will stay with me as I continue working to better myself and better my understanding of the world.