Category Archives: U.S. Fulbright

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.”

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.

Why I Thought I Wasn’t the “Ideal” Fulbright Candidate

By Lauren Gaydosh, 2012-2013, Tanzania

Lauren Gaydosh

Lauren Gaydosh, 2012-2013, Tanzania, leading a film discussion in celebration of Women’s History Month at the Embassy of the United States in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

When considering applying to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, I was skeptical of my chances. After all, I did not fit what I thought was the typical Fulbright profile. I was, however, awarded a Study/Research grant to Tanzania for 2012-2013. Through my Fulbright tenure and involvement as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador, I have come to appreciate that there is no prescribed profile that Fulbrighters must fit. Here are five reasons why I was sure Fulbright wasn’t for me, and why I was wrong!

1. I’ve had too much experience abroad.

Before researching the Fulbright, I thought it was a program aimed at providing international experiences to Americans with no previous experience abroad. Prior to my Fulbright tenure, I traveled across Europe and Africa and lived for two-and-a-half years abroad. Successful Fulbright candidates can have a wide range of international experience, from never having left the United States, to having lived and worked extensively abroad.

Sweet Home Spain

By Arienne Jones, 2012-2013, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Spain

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Ari Jones, 2012-2013, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Spain (right), with Global Classrooms participants

I was nervous about going back to Spain. The country held a dear place in my heart, as studying abroad in Granada, Spain was my first international experience. I questioned whether I made the right decision in applying for a grant in Spain. Would my Fulbright experience tarnish my love for the country? Thankfully, it did not. There will never be anything like Granada 2010, but there will also never be another Madrid 2012-2013.

As an English Teaching Assistant (ETA), I taught a variety of subjects at a secondary bilingual institution, IES Parque de Lisboa, in the Comunidad de Madrid region of Spain. I had the opportunity to conduct two lecture series on slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. As a history major, I loved discussing these topics, but I believe (and hope) that they induced my students to think more critically about the role of racial and ethnic diversity in Spain, especially at a time when the country is being urged to take an active stand against racism and xenophobia.

In addition to my traditional classroom teaching, I co-taught Global Classrooms, which encourages students to explore world issues through a Model United Nations simulation. The four months during which my co-worker and I taught fourteen brilliant students about topics ranging from clean water issues to good debating strategies were some of the most rewarding interactions I had in Spain. Watching our students display their hard work at the Global Classrooms conference was beautifully humbling.

Experiencing Life, Business and Education in Mexico

By Joshua Rodriguez, 2013-2014, Binational Fulbright Internship Grantee to Mexico

Joshua Rodriguez

(Left to right) 2013 Binational Business Internship grantees Joshua Rodriguez, Alex Honjiyo, Christopher Bergan, and Jeff Macdonald traveling through the Yucatan

When I was first asked to write a piece for the Fulbright Student Program Blog, I was at a loss for words. How could I possibly describe such a life-changing experience? If a picture is a worth a thousand words, then how many words is a year living abroad? Simply put, Mexico has taken my breath away.

As I went to the theater this past weekend, I saw an advertisement that encouraged tourism in Chiapas. The slogan was great, “Chiapasiónate. I started to think to myself if I had to create an advertisement for tourism in Mexico, what would it be? Would it start with the incredible beaches of Zihuatanejo and Cancún? Or, should I start with the Mayan ruins in the Yucatán and Chiapas? I could focus on the gorgeous neoclassical churches in San Miguel de Allende, Querétaro and Guanajuato. But how could I forget the cosmopolitan city that is Mexico City?

Honestly, this blog post cannot suffice to explain my love affair with Mexico. Mexico has 32 UNESCO world heritage sites. It is the birthplace of the New World. The food is out of this world. Mexico is the political, economic and social gateway into Latin America.