Communities and Rivers in the State Named After the “Great River”

In a local farmers market, colorful t-shirts hang from hooks proudly proclaiming, in the words of William Faulkner, “To understand the world, you have to understand a place like Mississippi.” As a More »

Fulbright Wins a Silver Telly Award!

The Fulbright Program has been awarded a Silver Telly Award for our short film “My Fulbright Life: Brian Rutenberg”! We’re excited that the story of cultural exchange is being heard far and More »

Bridging the Atlantic through Traditional East African Dance and Music

My journey to New York University (NYU) to pursue graduate training in dance education started when I was still young. My artistic creativity, performance dexterity and exposure to dance artistry were nurtured More »

Expecting the Unexpected–Cosmic Ray Physics in Argentina

As a physicist, I study cosmic rays—high-energy particles that zip around the universe. If scientists are lucky, these cosmic rays land on detectors set up on the ground. For my Fulbright grant, More »

Home on the Steppe: My Fulbright in Mongolia

I know there was a time when Mongolia didn’t feel like another home, before I went there on my Fulbright grant, before 2006. But I can’t remember it. Every time I speak More »


Making a Connection

Fulbright-MTP Participant Alyas Widita builds his professional network during his visit to Chicago

In the words of Alyas Widita, a Fulbright Foreign Student from Indonesia:

Alyas on the MTP

Fulbright Foreign Student from Indonesia Alyas Widita reflecting on his upcoming trip to Chicago, IL

I had a great time in Milwaukee. During my time there, I sensed from the millennials I met with an eagerness to transform the physical landscape and image of the city with their hands and hearts. I was a bit sad to leave, but also excited for the adventure awaiting the Fulbright-MTP group in Chicago.

Prior to departing for Chicago, I reminded myself to spend at least an hour of the trip sleeping. By the time the Fulbright-MTP group were on their way to Chicago, and MTP’s Patrick Dowd introduced one of the Chicago visit speakers, Charlie Monte Verde,  Government Affairs Specialist at Amtrak, I could not help but stay awake to listen to him. Charlie Monte Verde spoke about topics that I am very interested in: the future of transportation, urban development, and how Amtrak will factor into all of these developments. Charlie reiterated Amtrak’s strategic importance in connecting communities throughout the country, especially the role of long distance rail routes. He pointed out that long distance rail routes are not merely a form of transportation, connecting point A to point B, but also a way to promote economic development and urban growth. Following his lecture, we had a lively discussion in which everyone had a chance to voice his or her views about Amtrak. It was a truly compelling moment as Fulbright-MTP participants were deeply engaged in the discussion with Charlie, and also exchanging opinions with each other about how millennials can play a role in shaping the future of Amtrak – as well as the future of cities and regions. As the marvelous Chicago skyline started to come into view, the fruitful discussion with Charlie ended.

Architecture amidst the Trees in Helsinki

By Rebecca Littman-Smith 2010-2011, Finland

Rebecca Littman-Smith - 1

Rebecca Littman-Smith, 2010-2011, Finland

In a landscape of trees, the fields appear like islands, providing intermittent view corridors while riding the train from Helsinki to Turku. The trees are prevalent, dominating the Finnish countryside both in nature and in the built environment. Birch, pine and spruce trees are harvested and employed in a variety of ways. Timber is part of Finnish identity, from the forests that thrive in the Nordic climate, to the tradition of building a summer cottage within the landscape.

My Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant took me to Helsinki, Finland to study the use of wood in Finnish Architecture. As a material to use in the construction of buildings, timber is unique. Timber breathes, it feels warm to the touch, it shrinks and expands and preserves the organic qualities that give it a connection to life. In the words of Juhani Pallasmaa, Finnish Architect and scholar: “Wood speaks of its two existences and time scales; its first life as a growing tree and the second as a human artifact made by the caring hand of a carpenter or cabinetmaker.”

“A Day in Transit”

Fulbright-MTP Participant Siliva Tijo shares her experience in Whitefish

The Green Power house uses algae and sunlight to transform waste into energy at the Algae Aqua-Culture Technologies in Portland, Oregon.

The Green Power house uses algae and sunlight to transform waste into energy at the Algae Aqua-Culture Technologies in Portland, Oregon.

In the words of Silvia Tijo, a Fulbright Foreign Student from Colombia:

Our visit to Whitefish, Montana ended on Sunday. I had the opportunity to visit Algae Aqua-Culture Technologies as part of my Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project (MTP). They have a Green Power house, which transforms waste into energy with the help of sunlight and algae. The Green Power house is a unique project that I was able to personally experience thanks to the stop made there by the MTP train and to Robin Kelson, the Vice President of Corporate Development at Algea Aqua-Culture Technologies, for the hospitality and tour provided on such a short notice. Although the visit to Whitefish was short, it was productive, and it prepared us for a long trip ending at the Twin Cities (St. Paul / Minneapolis).

Sunday started early with a small group of researchers waking up to enjoy the sunrise over the landscape of Montana. The journey from Whitefish, Montana to Saint-Paul, Minnesota started at 6:30 a.m. when the locomotive pulled the three cabins of the MTP: the Silver Splendor, the Pacific Sands, and the Salisbury Beach. Shortly after departing on this part of the trip, it became an excuse to learn about the beauty of America’s landscape and the diversity of its people.

From left to right; Silvia Tijo, Ayla Boyle, Sarah Al-Khayyaal, and Kay-Anne Reed, participants of the MTP.

From left to right; Silvia Tijo, Ayla Boyle, Sarah Al-Khayyaal, and Kay-Anne Reed, participants of the MTP.

The Silver Splendor was full of life all Sunday since the entire day we spent  in transit. This cabin is where we spend most of our time, and the space morphs as the day progresses: first, as a dining hall; then, a place to hang out; later, office space; and it even became a disco as the train chugged through one of the longest tunnels in the United States.

After breakfast, Julie Ershadi, the Sous chef Simone, and myself chatted while we cracked pistachos needed for lunch. Julie is from Los Angeles, California. She is developing a multimedia project on Iranian – Americans as cultural pioneers and bridge-gappers.

“From Pakistan to Whitefish, Montana”

Fulbright-MTP Participant Anser Shaukat compares Karichi, Pakistan beaches to a river swim in Montana

In the words of Anser Shaukat, a Fulbright Foreign Student from Pakistan:

Anser draws the images of America he views on the Millennial Train Project journey.

Anser draws the images of America he views on the Millennial Trains Project journey.

Our whitefish adventure began with us packing ourselves and our leather bag-packs in a rental car. Armed with nothing but traditional maps, we started heading towards the rocky blue horizon that seemed to be the permanent backdrop for the city of Whitefish.

The mountains in the distance reminded me of various swatches of blue paper cutouts meticulously selected and arranged along the horizon.

As we got closer, the colors changed from cerulean to red and viridian; a sight that could not be ignored by young smart phone-wielding Millennials. It was no wonder that our journey to the Glacier National Park took the pace of the glacier itself; slowly carving our way, through the lush pine, ridged rocks and silver rivers.

We stopped our cars immediately and frequently to immortalize our memories of the park’s grandeur in our phones whenever a breathtaking ravine would demand it of us and the hoard of visitors behind us would allow. It did not matter how many times we circled around the same rocky facade, the cameras would come out each time, as if the mountain was born anew. Each time we stopped, we would run across the highways avoiding incoming cars, Karachi-style, receiving shouts from the bikers along the way. We didn’t care, we were alive. 

Lab Science – Not for Loners

By Kevin Fomalont, 2012-2013, Russia

Kevin Fomalont

Kevin Fomalont, 2012-2013, Russia, preparing for the day’s injections of inflammatory factors

There is the impression that laboratory scientists do their work in isolation, plodding through their experiments uninterrupted. It is often overlooked that to maintain a controlled experimental environment, researchers accept some chaos in their own lives. After a few months working at the Institute of Experimental Medicine in St. Petersburg, Russia on my Fulbright project to investigate the effect of early life exposure to stress on behavioral development in a rodent model, I realized how similarly laboratories in Russia and in the United States function. To collect all the data during our narrow time points, we borrowed labor from other laboratories to be paid back in the future. We shared materials to be returned on pain of death. Our experiments started at 5:00 p.m. sharp to take into account the daily rhythm of stress hormone – the rats have outsized influence on our schedules. Five of us created an assembly line, and hurried at each step not be late for the next. Meticulous planning and troubleshooting preceded the harried action of the experimental day. Although there were many languages spoken, one sentiment was shared: “don’t blow it, or wait six months to repeat the experiment.”

Science research is a fundamentally collaborative activity, and that is why a laboratory-based project proposal is well-suited for a Fulbright grant. Successful Fulbright proposals have an element of community engagement. I became interested in the Institute’s research at a conference, where I also learned about its famous history. The Physiology Department of the Institute includes Ivan Pavlov’s preserved office to commemorate the location where he conducted his groundbreaking conditioning experiments. One of his students discovered that the immune system could be conditioned to overreact to innocuous substances, using the principles of Pavlovian conditioning. Although performed in the 1920s, these experiments were not well regarded in the United States until 50 years later when they were revisited at the University of Rochester. If Soviet and American scientists had worked together over those 50 years to reconcile their different experimental approaches, progress would have proceeded more quickly.