Category Archives: U.S. Fulbright

Engineering a New Mindset across the Pond

By Emmanuel Johnson, 2013-2014, United Kingdom

Emmanuel Johnson

Emmanuel Johnson, 2013-2014, United Kingdom, working in the lab

On September 10, 2013, I arrived in London, England at the King’s Cross tube station. As I left the station, I was hit by a cold breeze which quickly reminded me that my initial assumption about the weather in England was wrong.

I arrived in Birmingham, England a week later to begin my master’s program in robotics on a Fulbright grant. From day one, I was welcomed by students from various cultures. In the States, I was accustomed to meeting students from around the country, but in Birmingham, I met students from countries around the world – a few I knew nothing about. The exposure to different cultures challenged my views daily. I questioned my thoughts on dress, ideals, biases and ways of living. In the United Kingdom, the weather, fashion, food and dialect were different. I was naïve to think that because the British spoke English, the cultural elements wouldn’t be much different than those in the United States. I was constantly reminded of the difference between the two countries: when I rode the lift (British word for elevator), rode the tube (London subway) and had to get a jumper (British word for sweater) to keep warm.

The main focus of my Fulbright grant was to pursue a master’s in robotics and conduct research in human robot interaction. My research explored ways in which a robot can use gestures to provide feedback to a student during a learning activity.

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

By Kara Witherill, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Germany and Reach the World Traveler

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Kara Witherill, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Germany and Reach the World Traveler

In partnership with Reach the World (RTW), the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is publishing a series of articles written by Fulbright English Teaching Assistants participating in Reach the World’s Traveler correspondents program, which through its interactive website, enriches the curriculum of elementary and secondary classrooms (primarily located in New York City but also nationwide) by connecting them to the experiences of volunteer Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) and other world travelers who are currently studying and living abroad. 

One thing that never changes, no matter where you are in the world, is how fast time goes by. It was almost exactly a year ago that I found out I had won a Fulbright U.S. Student grant and would be spending this year in Germany teaching English. Now, as I look forward, it’s hard to believe I only have four more months left in Germany and that this is my last journal entry for Reach the World. However, thinking about the passage of time brings me to one of the most important pieces of advice I can give to someone planning on pursuing a Fulbright grant: take it one day at a time.

I cannot emphasize this point enough. When I realized I was going to be leaving behind everything I knew and embarking on this journey in a foreign country, I was very excited, but I was also terrified. Thinking about moving to a foreign country for a year, especially one that speaks a different language is scary. When you think about the fact that you won’t see your friends or family for months, it can be sad. When you think about trying to find a place to live, navigating a new lifestyle and making new friends, it can be daunting. However, I’ve learned that instead of thinking about all those things at once and totally freaking myself out, I need to think about these things one day at a time.

A City Back on Its Feet

By Julia Holup, 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Malaysia

Julia Holup

After a long climb, the view from the top of Death Rock, looking down upon Williamson and the Tug River

It’s just before sunrise and I’m making my way up a steep, rocky slope. A short jog beyond the city’s main drag, the earth begins to rise. Flat streets become steep grades as we climb up, up, into the Appalachian Mountains. The weather is cool as the mountains exhale softly in the morning air. I fall in stride next to Tim Caudill, a Williamson native, trained archeologist, and seasoned ultra-marathoner who has since returned home to carry out research into how best to revitalize the local economy.

This morning, we’ve pulled ahead of the group of us who rose early to hike up to “Death Rock,” a peak overlooking Williamson offering a birds-eye view of the Tug Fork River separating Williamson, West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. For Tim, the roughly five-mile route to the top is easy exercise. In the course of training for a 100-mile race, he logs dozens of miles per week in the surrounding mountains. As we run, Tim shows himself to be a trusted guide for all things big and small. He stops to point out the fossilized remains of plants etched into small rocks. And when we reach the peak, he is quick to gesture toward mined mountaintops and discuss the storied history of the area. Here the closer you look, the more treasures you see.

Williamson is a city graced with grand natural beauty. With over 700 miles of trails, the surrounding mountains are a trail runner’s dream. While many locals utilize the Hatfield-McCoy trail network for All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) recreation, runners like Tim are a less common sight. But times are changing.

Detecting Gravitational Waves at Home and Abroad

By Daniel Hoak, 2015-2016, Italy

Dan Hoak

Daniel Hoak, 2015-2016, Italy

Two months ago, physicists around the world were set ‘chirping’ with the announcement that gravitational waves had been detected for the first time. The detection is the culmination of decades of work, and it represents the beginning of a new era in astronomy.

I’ve been a member of the team that made the detection since 2005, when I joined the staff of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in Livingston, Louisiana. Later, I went to grad school at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where I earned my Ph.D. last fall. My doctoral research focused on data analysis with gravitational wave detectors, and I assisted with upgrades to the LIGO facility in Hanford, Washington that made the detection possible.

For my Fulbright research, I’m helping to upgrade the Virgo detector, an experiment located outside of Pisa, Italy. Using a third detector to listen for gravitational waves will improve the science tremendously: we’ll be able to detect weaker signals, across more of the sky, and work out their position and properties with greater accuracy.

From Apia to Paris: Combating Climate Change as a Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellow

By Marie-Claire Tuzeneu, 2014-2015, Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellow to Samoa

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Marie-Claire Tuzeneu, 2014-2015, Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellow to Samoa, attending the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris with the Samoan Delegation – the perfect conclusion to her Fellowship with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

In honor of Earth Day and the United Nations’ Climate Signing Ceremony, we are sharing Fulbright-Clinton alumna to Samoa Marie-Claire Tuzeneu’s testimonial of attending the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) last December.

Do you have a story to share about how you’re celebrating Earth Day today on your Fulbright grant? Send them here or share them on Twitter using hashtags #Fulbright and #earthday2016.

As a Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellow, I was placed with the Samoan Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE). A central part of my Fellowship was finalizing a review of Samoa’s climate change policies and programs and helping lay the groundwork for a new Climate Change Bill. This Bill will provide an official mandate for climate change work in Samoa and clearly delineate the roles and responsibilities of key government ministries. Finally, several months after completing my fellowship, I was able to rejoin my Samoan colleagues in Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21), assisting the delegation by preparing remarks, taking notes during initial negotiations, and conducting background research.

My time at MNRE gave me a direct look at some of the challenges countries face when using external funding from sources such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for national and local development projects. I was also able to learn some of the detailed steps involved in managing one of these projects, from holding an opening workshop, to hiring project staff and consultants, procuring equipment, and preparing annual and completion reports. And I was able to make more general observations about the day-to-day running of a Ministry. I now know, for example, that in Samoan Ministries, email is not used as extensively as for communications in the United States. For example, important inter-ministerial communications are often printed with a cover letter and distributed by courier.