Category Archives: U.S. Fulbright

After the Quake: For Former Fulbrighters to Nepal, it’s Hard to Stay Away

By Danielle Preiss, 2008-2009, Nepal

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Danielle Preiss, 2008-2009, Nepal, manning a table at a rehab center flea market, during her Fulbright U.S. Student grant

The first thing I remember about preparing to travel to Nepal on a Fulbright U.S. Student grant to study Kathmandu’s drug rehabilitation system was the Nepal Fulbright Commission’s manual. The inch thick book devoted about half of its space to earthquake preparedness. This seemed excessive. I know now of course that it wasn’t.

I began my Fulbright grant in the fall of 2008. According to the manual, Nepal’s earthquake cycle lasts about 75 years, with the last massive quake in 1934. That put my year smack in the middle of when the big one should come. I also now know how agonizingly imprecise earthquake science can be.

Since 2009, I’ve returned to Nepal often. Once you’ve lived in and loved Nepal, the habit is hard to quit. The threat of a massive earthquake hitting was always in the back of my mind, like it undoubtedly was for most Nepalis. I’d walk through Kathmandu’s gorgeous brick alleys in the shadow of concrete high rises wondering which would hold up better (surprisingly it was the high rises), and peer out from viewpoints over the city already heartbroken for the day when buildings would crumble with lives inside.

Confidence in the Face of Fear: Reflections from a Current Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Malaysia

By Akirah Crawford, 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Malaysia

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Akirah Crawford, 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Malaysia (third from right), preps her students for the annual Debate Competition. They are the opposition, running up against the government!

My experience thus far as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) at SMK Tan Sri Abdul Aziz secondary school in Malaysia has truly opened my eyes to the importance of cultural exchange for building and maintaining lasting relationships with other countries. I am also realizing the importance of English not merely as a language but also an avenue to opportunity. At times it is clear that my students lack motivation when speaking English, not only because they are uncomfortable speaking it but also because they are unsure of its relevance to their lives. This is where I come in! As an ETA, I like to think of myself as the “Motivator” or “Confidence Queen”. Motivating my students to utilize their newly acquired skills as a means of social empowerment made me realize that my students are powerful in ways in which they do not always recognize themselves.

One of my most rewarding moments thus far was my school’s participation in the English-speaking Debate Competition. We were the opposition going up against the government on the issue that international schools hamper nation building. My students panicked upon realizing their position was the opposition. I remember one student saying, “Teacher, who is going to believe us? We are going up against the government you know”. I chuckled at this remark while immediately dispelling his conceived notions of doubt. “We are going to win,” I said and he believed me. It was in that moment that a seed was planted. On the ride to the competition I had students silently repeat to themselves affirmations including: “I am the best”, “We will win” and “I am the best English speaking student in all of Perak”. I saw their nervous energy transform into a burning desire to win. After much doubt from others and only one day to prepare, my students surprised themselves and their competition! They blew the competitors out of water! Everyone was amazed by how eloquently they presented their arguments in English.

Plasma Fused Cultures in South Korea

By Nathan Taylor, 2013-2014, South Korea

Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor, 2013-2014, South Korea (third from right), with his lab coworkers, visiting scholars from Germany in Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul, South Korea

Prior to my experience as a Fulbright Student, I had almost no connection to South Korea. Before my Fulbright grant, I had been working on my Ph.D. at Drexel University in Philadelphia for the last five years and had never lived outside of my home state of Pennsylvania for any appreciable amount of time. The only tie that I had to South Korea was my research interests and a passion for learning about different cultures. I was introduced the Plasma Bioscience Research Center (PBRC) at Kwangwoon University by my research adviser at Drexel, so I advise any potential applicants to reach out to their advisors for connections as well. After receiving the fellowship, I spent 10 months living and working in Seoul, South Korea.

The people I met in South Korea were some of the most hospitable people that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. From my very first day, I was treated better than I could have imagined. The day that I landed, I was taken from the airport to my house and minutes later (after a 23 hour trip without a shower), went to a dinner with all of the lab members I would be working with and a visiting lab team from Japan. It was quite jarring, but they wanted to make sure that I was introduced as soon as possible and included in the event that was happening.

A World of Imagination

By Julie Baer, 2011-2012, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Malaysia

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Julie Baer, 2011-2012, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Malaysia (third from left) with students engaged in one of their final Imagination Nation projects involving building moon landers which protect eggs dropped from the third floor of a building

Every Wednesday afternoon at SK Seri Bunian, a small elementary school in Pontian, Malaysia, my English Language club Imagination Nation, gathered together to delve into the world of our imaginations. My students walked into the classroom and picked up their passports which “permit the citizens of the Imagination Nation to pass without delay or hindrance, to any place as far and wide as their imagination will take them.” We transformed into robots and then became the engineers who created them. We flew around the world, saw how pollution and plastics harm our Earth, and then made recycling boxes to keep our school clean; we Skyped with a NASA Astronaut Educator Diane Sartore and made moon-landing devices. But when the clock struck 1:30 p.m., we were back in Seri Bunian.

To me, being a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) was much more than practicing sentence structure with my students. My English Language club and other school activities sought to challenge my students to think creatively. I wanted my students to harness their imagination, work determinedly to achieve their dreams, and turn the figments of their imagination into reality.

Help Us, to Help You, to Help Others

By Tiffany N. Burd, 2013-2014, South Africa

Tiffany Burd

Tiffany N. Burd (second from left, middle row) at the Community Support Worker Graduation Ceremony in Cape Town, South Africa

Receiving a Fulbright U.S. Student grant fulfilled a lifelong dream of working in one of the most challenging communities in the world: a South African township. The grant allowed me to research the strengths of an extremely impoverished community with an estimated 40% HIV prevalence rate. The findings of the assessment were used to plan and implement HIV prevention programs at a local community resource center, Butterfly House, which serves 400 orphans and vulnerable children.

I conducted hundreds of interviews with people living around Butterfly House and quickly realized their strength. While interviewing a woman in her shack, I learned of her community activism efforts. She had mobilized over five hundred women to sign petitions to shut down a local pub that had been serving underage youth. A man shared his interest in nutrition and his endeavor to build a community garden. Others spoke of their participation in neighborhood watches. The list continued to grow and I left each interview knowing that each of us had shared a moment of mutual understanding of the world.