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University of Missouri

Shipped Abroad

Mizzou junior studies at University of Bristol through Fulbright.

Samantha Franks

MU junior Samantha Franks received a position in the Fulbright Summer Institute and spent the summer studying at the University of Bristol in England. Photo by Rob Hill.

When Samantha Franks was 10 years old, her mom gave her Bloody Jack, a book about a young girl who lived on a ship in the British Navy. The story hooked Franks, and she’s been reading about ships and pirates ever since.

“I know a horrifyingly strange amount about pirates and privateering,” admits the Nixa, Missouri, native.

In high school, Franks was active in the debate club. Combined with her love for history, it turned her into a self-proclaimed “quintessential nerdy debate kid.” Every month Franks was researching a new topic or policy and how they shaped how people live.

Now a junior English and political science major at MU, Franks received a position in the Fulbright Summer Institute and spent the summer studying at the University of Bristol in England.

Samantha Franks

Franks poses in front of the SS Great Britain, the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854. Photo courtesy Samantha Franks.

From nine programs, Franks chose Bristol because — why else — it’s the hometown of the infamous English pirate Blackbeard. During the 4-week program, Franks studied international trade and the transatlantic heritage of slave trading. A typical day included a lecture about the consequences of slavery on the economy of England or a field trip to a mill that produced brass used to trade for slaves.

But Franks’ favorite part of the program was the time she spent in the university and city archives researching for her final presentation on piracy, how it shaped British-American relations and how it led to private military companies.

“[The archivists] were pulling out journals from ship captains in the 1500s that still have the original wax stamps, and they are just handing them to me. Are you serious?” Franks says. “Going through the primary sources has changed how I look at research.”

Back on campus, Franks is the assistant director of the Department of Student Activities, president of the American Association for University Women, and spends time at the Women’s Center. After her experiences through the Fulbright Summer Institute, Franks has a renewed interest in conducting research.

“I didn’t think about when you go some place and can see the primary sources,” she says. “It’s opens up a different world of things you can learn.”