Lockerbie Scholars struggle to extend stay beyond 1st year at Syracuse University
Remembrance Week: Part 1 of 4
When Stefan Hanley walked through the Quad on his first day at Syracuse University, he knew a year there would not be enough.
“I need to stay here,” he said, “I was never more sure of anything.”
Then a freshman, he was one of two Lockerbie Scholars chosen to attend SU for the 2009-10 school year. Now, as a senior advertising major, he is the third Lockerbie scholar to either extend the stay or come back to SU.
The Syracuse-Lockerbie Scholarship was formed in response to the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing of 1988, a tragedy that left both the rural town of Lockerbie, Scotland, and the university devastated. SU, in partnership with the Scottish charity Lockerbie Trust, formed the scholarship. Each year, two students from Lockerbie are chosen to spend a fully-funded year at SU in honor of the victims of the bombing.
If Lockerbie Scholars want to stay at SU for more than a year, they can, said Judy O’Rourke, director of undergraduate studies.
But it isn’t easy. The biggest challenge, she said, is money.
If the scholars want to return for another year, the university will not continue to fund their education. They cannot apply for need-based funding through the government because they are international students. They have to rely on university scholarships and savings, O’Rourke said.
David, Erin and Stefan and Fergus, they all told me the same thing. They fell in love with SU and they wanted to stay.
Judy O’Rourke, program coordinator for the Remembrance and Lockerbie Scholars
When reapplying to SU, O’Rourke said the scholars receive no preferential treatment.
Some scholars who have returned resorted to becoming resident advisers, O’Rourke said. That’s what Hanley did. At the end of his second semester, Hanley got an email saying he was accepted to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and that he would be an RA at Brewster Hall his sophomore year.
The first scholar to stay at SU to complete an undergraduate degree was Erin McLaughlin, a scholar from the 2003-04 academic year. David Thomson, a scholar from the 1996-97 school year, was the first to come back for his master’s at Newhouse, O’Rourke said.
Currently, Hanley and Fergus Barrie, last year’s scholars, are both extending their education at SU.
“David, Erin and Stefan and Fergus, they all told me the same thing,” O’Rourke said. “They fell in love with SU and they wanted to stay.”
Current Lockerbie Scholars Rachel Nicholson and Claire Dorrance said they would stay more than a year if they could, but financially, they don’t know if it’s realistic.
But being at SU for one year has given them the opportunity to explore different fields. Since they don’t have declared majors, they are both taking a variety of classes and trying new things this semester.
“Coming here was a bit of a shock,” Dorrance said. “I was involved in everything back home, and here and I’m just a little fish in a big pond.”
Nicholson plans to take ballroom dancing and fencing classes next semester, while Dorrance said she hopes she can take some Newhouse classes.
While it’s often financial reasons holding the scholars back from extending their stay, Jessica Liddon, one of last year’s scholars, said there were several other reasons drawing her back home.
“I wanted to be closer to my family,” she said in an email. “I had a place at The University of Strathclyde which I wanted to fill. I wanted to rejoin my sports team which I left when I moved to SU.”
Since Lockerbie scholars usually don’t go home for breaks, Liddon said it was tough watching all her friends go home to see their families. O’Rourke said it’s very common for the scholars to experience homesickness, as is common for many freshmen. But overall, she said, being away from home is a beneficial experience.
“It really does teach you a lot about yourself to get out of your comfort zone,” she said.
Hanley, the senior who extended his stay, said he has never been homesick. For the past few summers he stayed in the United States, last summer working for Say Yes to Education in Syracuse. During breaks, he has stayed with friends.
“I’m a very independent person, so it was really nice to come here by myself, get away from that small, boring place,” he said.
While O’Rourke said she’d love to extend the Lockerbie Scholarship to more than one year, it all comes down to funding.
“When I win the lottery,” she said.
But for Hanley, staying at SU was the only option. Although he applied to a university in Scotland, he wasn’t motivated to attend. He said he doesn’t know where he would be if he hadn’t come to SU.
Next year, Hanley hopes to still be in the United States, as he said it’s difficult to find advertising jobs in his home village of 500 people, right outside of Lockerbie.
“I think sometimes you just need a little push to make you realize something,” he said. “And this little push here made me realize what I needed to do. I needed to go to the university. I got pretty lucky because who knows what I would have done.”
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