Category Archives: Foreign Fulbright
For nearly 30 years as a U.S. Senator representing Arkansas, J. William Fulbright called Washington, DC his home.
A city of tremendous power, wealth, and intelligence also grappling with trials of corruption, inefficiency, and a tumultuous political and media landscape, within the heart of the nation’s capital the senator worked tirelessly to establish an international exchange program which would eventually bear his name: The Fulbright Program.
From April 13 – 17, 2016, over 130 foreign Fulbrighters hailing from nearly 65 countries continued this legacy imparted by the late Senator and immersed themselves in the allure and charm of Washington, DC. In discussion they challenged each other’s thoughts around the topic of “U.S. Elections and Media” and “Polarization and U.S. Politics.” In service they took to the streets and streams of the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia) zones to participate in the Annual Potomac Watershed Clean Up in partnership with the Alice Ferguson Foundation. And in community they came together in a memorable U.S. Election Simulation Workshop to demonstrate vast political knowledge and prowess under real pressure.
By Raffaella Taylor-Seymour, 2015-2019, United Kingdom
A few days before I traveled to Williamson, West Virginia, I was speaking to a university friend from Chicago about visiting the Appalachian region. He told me that his uncle passed through eastern Kentucky, just across the Tug River from Williamson, in the early seventies. When he stopped to ask which was the best route back to Chicago, an old man by the side of the road paused and said, ‘oh, I don’t think you can get to there from here.’ This story somehow captures the sense of far away, and of inwardness, that reverberates through the American imaginary of rural Appalachia. It’s a region that has a mythical quality to outsiders, a place of coal, “hillbillies,” and bluegrass.
Appalachia keeps you grounded, close to the land and close to the people. Sustainable Williamson, the collective that hosted our congregation of Fulbright Amizade Students and alumni, is trying to reinvent centuries-old connections to the land. With the discovery of coal in the 1880s, Appalachia’s rolling hills became known as much for the riches they contained as for their quiet beauty. The earth here is quite literally coal-soaked; since the turn of the last century, billions of dollars worth of coal has been extracted and the commodity has become the mainstay of the local economy. Sustainable Williamson’s espousal of agriculture is an attempt to shift the region’s soul to the land’s surface, an echo of the hills’ nineteenth century agrarian existence before the discovery of black gold.
The 2016 Atlanta Fulbright Enrichment Seminar, held in Atlanta, Georgia from March 31 – April 3, 2016, brought together another stellar cohort of international students to engage with their peers across political, civic, and cultural-oriented discourses and activities. Over four engaging days, the 131 foreign Fulbrighters convened to explore U.S. political values in the “Democracy in Action” workshop series, participated in a host of volunteer activities throughout the city, and toured captivating historical sites.
The Fulbright Program drew on the wisdom of Kerwin Swint, PhD, Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at Kennesaw State University, to guide and inform student discussions. A reputable writer and author, Swint’s work on electoral politics, media studies, and political history has been published on the BBC, Slate, and The Wall Street Journal.
During the keynote address, held at The Jimmy Carter Center, Fulbrighters enjoyed remarks by Joseph Falk, who is a J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board appointee, and policy consultant with the law firm of Akerman LLP.
By Niyi Abe, 2015-2017, Nigeria
As the world is dealing with the effects of climate change, a visit to Williamson, WV exposed me to a new paradigm on sustainable development and the impact of ‘ruralness’ on the health and well-being of a society. As a participant in the Fulbright Amizade service-learning enrichment activity, this trip to Appalachia showed me how old coal mines are being reclaimed for agricultural use and how community revitalization has created a pathway towards sustainable living and economic growth. Getting close to nature also offered me an opportunity for reflection. Often times we tend to neglect the very small things that matter.
I grew up on a farm in a rural community in south western Nigeria. Coming to a rural community in the United States was, for me, a rare and unique opportunity. I visited many places and met many people but the most exciting aspect of my experience was visiting the community gardens and learning the local style of growing crops. The decline of the coal business has had an effect on the people of Williamson, causing a visible decline in population as evidenced by the abandoned houses. But the general sense I got was one of hope and determination.
The 2016 Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Seattle, Washington, March 17-20, drew together an impressive cohort of 132 Fulbrighters from over 65 countries around the world to explore “Democracy in Action,” engage with leading political commentators (and the occasional rock star), and take in awe-inspiring natural landscapes draped by the city’s iconic backdrop: Mount Rainier.
Even before the seminar’s kickoff opening dinner, students had the opportunity to take in beautiful views of downtown while attending a sea otter feeding and reception at the Seattle Aquarium.
Delivering a riveting keynote address was the incomparable Krist Novoselic, bassist and co-founder of the rock band Nirvana and one of rock’s most politically-minded musicians. Through the Joints Artists and Musicians Political Action Committee (JAMPAC), Novoselic has taken a prominent leadership role in uniting music and politics; currently he serves as chair of FairVote, a Seattle non-profit election reform organization. His speech conveyed a deep passion and dedication to politics which resonated through the Fulbright attendees.