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Two River Hill High graduates continue studies overseas as part of Fulbright Program

Growing up, Marc Morris’ amusement parks were museums and archaeological sites.

“I always like to say they were my amusement parks because I’ve never been to Hershey Park, Disneyland or Kings Dominion,” said Morris, 21, of Clarksville.

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He became fascinated with archaeology, even filling out an activity sheet in elementary school stating he wanted to be an archaeologist when he grew up.

Upon graduating from River Hill High School in 2016, Morris realized he could make his passion a reality. He spent a year at Howard Community College, taking classes in archaeology and anthropology, before transferring to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he graduated in May.

For the next year, Morris will continue his studies as a Fulbright research fellow at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where he will earn a master’s degree in archaeology with a focus on the Mediterranean region.

Fellow River Hill alumnus Liam Connor, who graduated in 2013, is also participating in a Fulbright Program. Both programs begin later this month.

Connor, 24 and a 2018 graduate of University of Maryland, Baltimore County, will live in the Lao Cai province in northwest Vietnam, teaching English to college students at Thai Nguyen University.

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 by U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, of Arkansas, who introduced legislation that called for surplus war property to fund the “promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science,” according to the Fulbright website.

As the longest serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Fulbright’s “vision for mutual understanding shaped the extraordinary exchange program bearing his name,” according to the website.

The program sponsors American and foreign students and scholars who participate in exchanges in the areas of the arts, government, business, academia, the sciences and public service, continuing “to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” according to the Fulbright website.

The program is split between Fulbright students and Fulbright scholars. The students are either recently graduated college seniors, graduate students, artists or early career professionals who will study, teach or conduct research. Scholars are college and university faculty members who have a doctorate, or an equivalent degree, allowing them to teach and/or conduct research.

Operating in over 160 countries, more than 380,000 Fulbright students and scholars have participated in the program to date, with approximately 8,000 grants awarded annually.

Fulbright is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs within the U.S. Department of State.

Connor looks at Fulbright’s “logic being that maybe we wouldn’t have world wars if we got to know each other a little bit better.”

Through the Fulbright program, participants are carrying out the senator’s legacy, he said.

Connor, of Ellicott City, first heard of Fulbright two summers ago after he attended an interest meeting.

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He thought there was “no way I could do something like this.”

He then traveled to Vietnam as part of UMBC’s chapter of the Vietnam Medical Assistance Program, where he spent two weeks in the southern region of Vietnam and helped lower-income people receive access to free medical care.

When he returned home, the information systems major began working at the UMBC English Language Institute as a front desk employee. Students, mostly international ones, attend the institute to take non-credit classes to learn English.

Connor began to shadow professors and became a part-time volunteer lecturer at the institute. Around that time, he saw the flier for the next round of Fulbright applications, and he attended the meeting and began the application process.

Throughout the next year, Connor wants to “paint a more realistic portrayal of what American people are like,” than what is shown through American media, he said.

Being in Vietnam for the first time gave him a new perspective of how other people live, he said.

One night after volunteering, Connor slept at the home of a new friend.

“They kept the windows open, slept on the tile floor, so that’s what I did, too,” he recalled. “It was a reminder to appreciate the comforts that you have and also to understand the way that other people live.”

When he returns after his Fulbright Program, Connor isn’t sure exactly what his next move will be. He is considering either getting a master’s to teach English as a second language or possibly pursuing a career in international affairs.

Morris is no stranger to Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He’s participated in two summer-long archaeological digs with Vrije Universiteit students in Puglia, Italy, located at the heel of the boot of the country.

The dig was about 5 kilometers from where Morris’ mother grew up. On vacation the summer before attending Howard Community College, Morris stumbled upon the site.

“I just remember thinking, ‘This is the coolest thing,’ and I was itching to do it,” he said.

The next summer he was back in Italy and digging with the team. Both summers, he worked on excavating a temple sanctuary that is believed to have been built “by indigenous Italian people who were influenced by the Greeks,” Morris said.

Those summers carved his interest in wanting to focus on Mediterranean region archaeology.

After inquiring about the Fulbright Program while at Dickinson, Morris happened to find the Netherlands on the list of participating countries and one of the programs being at Vrije Universiteit.

“That’s when I basically said, 'All right, that’s it.’ Strangely enough, VU was part of it from the beginning,” Morris said.

This summer, he did not go back to the dig and instead is interning with Lost Towns Project, a nonprofit archaeology group in Edgewater. The nonprofit runs the Anne Arundel County Archaeology Laboratory. He said he is working to develop an archaeology resource master plan for the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian.

When in Amsterdam, Morris is looking forward to exploring the Netherlands and being able to specialize in Mediterranean archaeology. He plans on furthering his studies with a doctorate program in the United States.

“And hopefully by the end of the year I can hold a conversation in Dutch,” Morris said.

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