Stuck In Texas During Pandemic, Fulbright Scholar Completes Master’s Degree Remotely
The COVID-19 pandemic has made wearing masks, limiting group sizes and social distancing became the “new normal.” For second year Romanian Fulbright Scholar Olga Bodrug, the pandemic also left her more than 6,000 miles from home.
Bodrug, master of international affairs student from Moldova at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, decided to remain in Texas this spring and summer. It was a tough choice, as she was slated to finish and defend her thesis for a master’s degree she was pursuing concurrently in Romania.
“I was supposed to go home this summer to take my exams, to defend my master thesis, and to graduate,” Bodrug said. “But because of travel restrictions and uncertainty, it was highly recommended that I stay in Texas. For two months, I didn’t know if I would be able to take my Romanian exams online, or if I would be able to defend my master’s thesis from the United States. The problem was that if I had left the United States, I risked not being able to return for the second year of my studies at the Bush School.”
Eventually, Bodrug received permission to complete her master’s degree from Bucharest University of Economic Studies online, which presented another problem: time zone differences. Bodrug defended her master thesis at 6 a.m., and took some exams between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.
Bodrug credits her Bush School family with helping her prepare the master thesis.
“Four Bush School professors, Dr. Richard Abel, Dr. Gabriela Thornton, Dr. Christopher Layne, and Dr. Michael Bartel; our research librarian Professor Wendy Kaspar; and two students Brittany Lauritzen, Patrice Yaro, helped me with feedback,” Brodrug said. “And I did a part of my research at the Policy Sciences and Economics Library, and George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
“Many other Aggies provided me emotional support along the way. This help from all sides convinced me once again that I am part of the most beautiful community and that there is no institution in the United States where I could have been better received than at Texas A&M,” she said.
Bodrug is the first member of her family to earn a master’s degree, the first student in the history of her university in Romania to defend a thesis online from the United States, and the first to graduate while in the United States.
Unable to attend her graduation in Romania, Bodrug came up with a unique way to celebrate her achievement with friends and family halfway around the world
“Since I could not go home this summer because of travel restrictions, and as I missed my graduation ceremony, I thought the best solution was to take my graduation pictures at the Bush School campus,” Bodrug said. “I consider this a way to show my gratitude for all help received, as half of my Romanian master’s was completed while being here in Texas. The unique Fulbright experience at the Bush School broaden my horizons and increased my level of expertise. To inspire other students to follow dreams that may seem impossible, I wrote a LinkedIn article about my experience.”