Name: Daniel Mendiola
Country: Costa Rica
UH Affiliation: Ph.D. Student, Department of History
Summary of Research: My research examines the people and practices of two rival conquests in 18th-century Central America: Spain’s overseas empire, and the indigenous Mosquito Kingdom. I argue that frontier commerce and diplomacy – often facilitated by people of African descent – were central to shaping both conquests, thus revising assumptions that Mosquito raiding created a completely militarized frontier. This project comprises my dissertation.
Why did you apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program?
I applied for the Fulbright U.S. Student Study/Research Grant for a variety of reasons. Academically, I knew that my dissertation would simply be a lot better if I were able to spend more time researching in special collections archives in Costa Rica. My dissertation focuses on the history of Spanish—indigenous relations in the Central American Caribbean, and the National Archive of Costa Rica has a lot of really important documents that are still unread by historians in my field. The Fulbright program somewhat unique in allowing students to research abroad for an entire year, so I was motivated to not only apply but to put together the best application possible. I knew that the program was highly competitive, but for the sake of improving the academic quality of my dissertation, I knew I had to try.
What was the most challenging aspect of the Fulbright application process?
For me, the most challenging part of the application was the personal statement. It had been a long time since I had attempted to write something like that. It has to be intimate and personal, less an academic analysis and more a reflection on values and goals. It took a long time for me to feel confident with this style of writing. I knew generally what I wanted to say, but it was a lot of work to turn the essay into something interesting and understandable for the application readers. I still have six drafts of the personal statement saved on my computer! Here I can’t stress enough how great it was to have such a supportive team helping me through the process. In my case, Jennifer Asmussen and Richard Armstrong at the Honors College not took the time to help me brainstorm components of the personal statement, and then they read all six drafts. Ultimately, it takes a lot of work to do the application well, but here at UH, you don’t have to do it alone.
What is one interesting thing you learned about yourself when developing your application essays and materials?
Overall, I found the entire process to be empowering. I think the Fulbright application was a great opportunity for me to discover what I’m really capable of as an academic. I now have a clearer vision of my goals as a historian, as well as the significance of my dissertation research, and I can articulate this vision so much better than before. I think that a lot of my fellow Cougars will be likewise pleasantly surprised at what they can produce when they attempt a Fulbright application, so I hope to see more UH students applying this year!