Category Archives: U.S. Fulbright

A Lao Experience through Fulbright

By Michael Bayyouk, 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Laos


Michael Bayyouk, 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Laos (far left, first row), with his sophomore English class students at Savannakhet University in Laos this past summer

I first heard of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program while I was a teacher in New York City. I had one of those “This is what I’ve always wanted to do!” moments and was soon applying through my graduate school, St. John’s University. My first application was declined, but I was told by my Fulbright Program Adviser to reapply next year. I’m very glad I took his advice!

My experience in Laos through the Fulbright ETA Program was beyond anything I could have prepared myself for. Even with the intensive, pre-service Fulbright training, there were plenty of lifestyle adjustments to be made. The learning curve included driving a motorbike while eluding aggressive stray dogs (good thing I had had my Rabies boosters), understanding and ordering a completely new menu of foods, and attempting to communicate through a very tonal language.

Fortunately, I was not alone in my assignment and was accompanied by two other Fulbright ETAs, Jessica and Mysee. They would be the closest and most reliable forms of support I had during my program. Collaborating with my Lao co-teachers, staff, and faculty was professionally and personally stimulating and beneficial. We became friends and I was invited to their family dinners, events, weddings, and holiday parties. I learned the most about Lao culture this way! There is a fun game that we would play called Kato or Rattan Ball. It’s like volleyball and hacky sack combined!

Cancer: A Growing Public Health Problem in Haiti

By Martine Prompt, 2015-2016, Fulbright-Clinton Fellow to Haiti

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Martine Prompt, 2015-2016, Fulbright-Clinton Fellow to Haiti (center), discusses the socioeconomic impact of cancer with patients Madame Louis (left) and Melissa (right)

In honor of World Cancer Day, 2015 J. William Fulbright–Hillary Rodham Clinton Public Policy Fellow to Haiti Martine Prompt shares her cancer awareness work with Project Medishare as part of her overall grant objective to improve the health literacy skills of vulnerable populations as a means towards improving their overall health, and promote health equity.

“Mwen pè maladi sa, mwen pè mouri pou pitit mwen yo, men mwen gen espwa poum geri paske mwen gen konfyans nan Letènèl, sa banm plis espwa.”

“I am afraid of this disease. I fear death because of my children, but I have hoped that I’ll heal because I have faith in the Lord – that gives me more hope.”

Madame Louis and four other women sat on the chemo chair in the cancer center at Bernard Mevs Hospital as their nurse prepares them to receive their infusion. Madame Louis is a middle aged woman with a malignant tumor that was undiagnosed and untreated for a long time. In the place where her right breast should be, there is a cauliflower-shaped tumor growing through her skin. She pointed at it for me to look but she looked away, sad, angry, and shamefaced. Such enormous tumors are rare in developed countries, yet typical in Haiti. The women at the cancer center are trapped by poverty, misinformation, and stigma, which often lead to them not seeking help for breast cancer. Many are diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer when the prognosis for survival is poor. Madame Louis confirms, she has never performed a self-breast exam, nor had a mammogram. She was diagnosed, when she showed a doctor that she had blood coming out of her nipples. “Yo dim se cancer ke mwen genyen, kounye a map tann gerizon. Yo dim map geri.” (They told me I have cancer, now I’m waiting for a cure because they told me I will be cured.)

Studies confirm that breast cancer is a leading cause of death and disability among women, especially young women in low-and middle-income countries. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), low-and middle-income countries like Haiti, accounted for 57% of the 14 million people diagnosed with cancer worldwide in 2012—but 65% of the deaths. Today, cancer kills more people in poor countries than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The high fatality rates are likely due to a lack of awareness of the benefits of early detection and treatment and a scarcity of adequate facilities for detection, diagnosis, as well as treatment.

Double Immersion: Stories from a Fulbright-Schuman Grantee

By Lin Shi, 2013-2014, European Union

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Lin Shi, 2013-2014, European Union (right, holding microphone) on a panel presentation during the 60th annual Berlin Seminar for American Fulbright Scholars

The Fulbright-Schuman program afforded me nine amazing months of research and life experience in the European Union. This particular grant was unique in that my host “country” was not one in particular, but the European Union as a whole. One requirement of my grant was that I needed to spend time in at least two host countries. So, for the sake of my research in pensions, I chose to spread my time between the Netherlands and Belgium.

The subject of pensions has a reputation for being a not-so-interesting topic, but it is tremendously important. Currently in the United States, pension plans are shifting from traditional pensions with guaranteed monthly benefits provided by the employer, to plans like the 401(k), which are based largely on employee savings. Over 30% of non-retirees have not saved for retirement; almost 60% have saved less than $25,000, which is far from sufficient. Europe faces its own retirement concerns, as it is the only continent that is projected to have a negative population growth rate over the next 50 years; by 2060, there will be only two people of working age in the EU to sustain every person aged over 65, as compared to a ratio of four to one today. For my research, I collaborated with the Center of Research in Public and Population Economics in Liège, Belgium and with the Erasmus School of Economics in Rotterdam, the Netherlands to study a mix of workforce exit patterns, pension risk appetite, and pension fund management diversity, all in an international context.

Dreams and Friendship in Macedonia

By Abigail Jones, 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Macedonia


Abigail Jones, 2014–2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Macedonia (fourth from left), helped facilitate the Dreams and Friendship Exchange, a virtual exchange between students at Krste Petkov Misirkov in Bistrica, Macedonia and Ferry Pass Middle School in Pensacola, Florida. In this picture, some of the participants are shown after their last online class in May.

In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we are re-posting an article from Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Macedonia Abigail Jones, who through the Dreams and Friendship Exchange promoted interethnic and intercultural understanding between students in Macedonia and the United States. We hope that the Fulbright community is inspired by Abigail Jones’ – and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s – work in fostering positive change in their host and home communities.

I arrived in Resen, Macedonia in a cab I paid too much for. I stood on the side of the road and called my host teacher from my new cell phone. I had only spoken to Maja twice, but I recognized the smile in her voice through the windshield of her red Volkswagon. My two under-twenty-five-kilo suitcases filled the backseat. I reached for a seatbelt that wasn’t there. Maja’s mother, Sonja, met us in their front yard and gave me the kind of hug I remember when I am asked to summarize my year in Macedonia.

My official Fulbright assignment was to assist in high school English classes. In the fall, I taught with Maja at the high school in Resen. My assignment moved to a music high school in Bitola for the spring. Throughout the year, I also spent two or three days a week at a junior high school in a village outside of Bitola, helping facilitate the pilot of an embassy-sponsored project called the Dreams and Friendship Exchange—a virtual exchange program that promotes English language learning and interethnic, intercultural understanding through partnering students in Macedonia and America.

Have You Seen Our Holiday Storify?

Check out 2015's Fulbright holiday celebrations from around the world