Category Archives: U.S. Fulbright

Don’t Forget Us

By Spencer Reece, 2012-2013, Honduras

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Spencer Reece, 2012-2013, Honduras, with the girls from Our Little Roses Orphanage

I taught, ate, laughed, and wept with seventy-two orphaned girls for one year on the grounds of Our Little Roses, the only all-girl orphanage in Honduras, one of the poorest Spanish-speaking countries in the Western hemisphere and home to some 250,000 orphans. The Fulbright year I lived there, 24,000 orphans tried to cross the Rio Grande in search of their parents or in search of work or in search of both; the year I left the number more than doubled to 50,000.

I lived with the girls in San Pedro Sula, dubbed by most journalists as the murder capital of the world. Roughly three people a day are killed in San Pedro, most of it gang-related. Behind ten-foot walls and armed guards, I came, with the aid of a Fulbright grant in Creative Writing, to teach the girls how to write poems. The idea had come to me on a previous visit to the orphanage when one girl had said to me on my final night: “Don’t forget us.” She might have said that to everyone that passed through there. But with me, it stuck.

Notes on Norway

By Paul Bostrom, 2012-2013, Norway

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Paul Bostrom, 2012-2013, Norway, enjoying an early afternoon sunset in Norway’s arctic Tromsø

I thought of myself as an unconventional candidate for a Fulbright grant. After all, I was in my late twenties and only a part-time graduate student. But I thought of myself as curious person with a deep appreciation for travel – a hardworking student, with a genuine interest in better understanding my own Scandinavian heritage. As I’ve come to learn, there is no “conventional” Fulbright candidate.

My Fulbright application was designed around a “Capstone research project,” the final requirement of my graduate program. My study focused on the market effects of Norway’s energy rating scheme for buildings (read: energy efficiency report card for your home), and I was fortunate to have secured an affiliation with the University of Oslo’s Center for Development and the Environment. The Center has a strong reputation for its research – equally important; it has a long history of assembling international perspectives on pressing environmental issues.

I recall my first dinner at a colleague’s home, about three weeks into my stay. I arrived at a small apartment situated about 10 kilometers north of Oslo. It was a cool September evening, and dusk was just settling in over the city.

The Art of Swiss Compromise: Reflections on a Fulbright Study/Research Grant

By Caroline M. Kirby, 2012–2013, Fulbright Research Grant, Switzerland

‘No ideas but in things’
– William Carlos Williams, American poet

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Caroline Kirby, 2012-2013, Switzerland (far right), with fellow Fulbright U.S. Students (left to right) Kun-Wei, Tevor, and Caitlin in Geneva’s Old Town. (Photo credit: Adam Duker)

I took a metaphorical page from William Carlos Williams’ book when I started my life in Geneva, Switzerland. Instead of reading about the region’s culture, while a full-time student at Université de Genève, I experienced it in the banal and quotidian. And as a result, I learned to consider the needs and preferences of others before my own.

I discovered that certain concepts like punctuality and work-life balance are expressed much more elegantly on paper than they are experienced in daily life. The locked doors of lecture halls and offices, for example, shamed my American tendency to arrive ‘fashionably late’ for events and appointments. And the sanctity of Sunday, when most shops and libraries remain closed, disrupted my typical seven-day-week rhythm of productivity.

I also saw the lofty notion of compromise embodied in everyday local practices. Trams, cars and bicycles respect reserved lanes and stop lights. Official documents contain at least three languages (German, French, and Italian) to accommodate the language preferences of Swiss citizens. And French and German language television networks temporarily exchange newscasters to express appreciation for the language of others.

”Aqui Está la Vida” Learning to Listen in La Carpio

By Jenna Harvey, 2013-2014, Costa Rica

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Jenna Harvey, 2013-2014, Costa Rica, conducts an interview with a small business owner in the informal settlement of La Carpio; Photo credit: Perfil Magazine, 2014

Costa Rica’s central valley is surrounded by stoic cloud-capped mountains and teeming with life—70% of the country’s population to be exact—working, studying and raising families in the sprawling metropolis of San José and its surrounding areas. One of the best views of the buzzing valley is from La Carpio, an informal settlement perched atop the entrance to the country’s largest trash dump and enclosed on the sides by a water-treatment plant and a quarry. La Carpio’s favorable view is just one of many unexpected features of this fascinating community, home to over 20,000 people, about half of whom are immigrants from neighboring Nicaragua.

As a Fulbrighter in La Carpio, my research was focused on the spectrum of informal economic exchanges taking place there: from street vendors peddling their goods on corners to successful micro-entrepreneurs selling products and services from storefronts. I specifically focused on the participation of women in the informal economy of La Carpio and how their efforts have contributed to the economic development of a place that began as a squatter settlement in an abandoned coffee field.

My research objectives were two-fold: gain a better understanding of “urban informality” by identifying both success factors and limiting factors for informal workers, and uncover ways that small-business creation and entrepreneurialism could create a much needed bridge between the migrant women of La Carpio and the Costa Rican women of San José. To accomplish my second objective, I collaborated with a women’s microfinance organization in San José, to foster dialogue about the potential for services to be extended to migrant women living in marginalized areas like La Carpio.

Music = Cultural Exchange

Read How 2014 Fulbright-mtvU Grantee Benjamin Cohn Is Preparing to Begin His Grant in Ghana

Are you applying for a Fulbright-mtvU grant? If so, join the first informational Fulbright-mtvU webinar for the 2015-2016 competition on Thursday, November 13, at 2:00 p.m. EST.

As I await my departure for Accra in November, I thought I could answer some of the most common questions I receive, rundown some of my preparation and detail what I hope to do. I am lucky to live in the Bay Area, home to many organizations built for the preservation of the arts and arts education. I have spent the last months meeting with teachers, employees and heads of music programs of all kinds. It has been a fantastic time to learn, gather resources, make contacts and gain insight into the world I hope to join.

Why Ghana?
Narrowing down what country to create a proposal for was a difficult process. The path that lead me to Ghana began with The Jazz Ambassador Tours and specifically Louis Armstrong’s experiences in Ghana. Ghana was also the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve independence, standing as a role model for the first Wave of Independence through Africa in the 60s and the Civil Rights movement in America.