Fulbright Crossing Paths
By Sofia Melendez, 2011-2013, El Salvador
Being a Fulbrighter will always be an important part of my life. The opportunity to study and immerse myself in a culture abroad opens your horizons and makes you grow in every way. Even still, I never imagined that Fulbright would have an impact on my life in an even more profound way. I am from El Salvador, and in 2011, I was awarded a Fulbright grant to pursue a master’s in tourism at the University of Florida. Upon graduating, I returned to El Salvador, but soon after, I was offered a job with an international organization based in Washington, DC.
During my Fulbright, I was involved in Fulbright-specific networking opportunities such as gateway orientations, enrichment seminars and the Fulbright Association Chapter events. I made a lot of friends through these events and I have visited them both in the United States and around the world whenever I have the chance.
New to the DC area, I joined the Fulbright Association National Capital Area Chapter. In November 2014, I attended one of the chapter events: an open house reception at the Goethe-Institut. There is where I met Martin. Martin was at that time a visiting researcher on a Fulbright grant from Denmark, doing a one-year research project at the National Institutes of Health. During our first conversation, I recognized the same spark in his eyes when we talked about our dreams, passions and careers. Despite being from very different countries and cultures that speak different languages, have different professional opportunities and different social norms, we found in each other a partner with the same values, goals and dreams.
Getting to know Martin was so easy. He is a genuine, good-hearted person, who is very close to his family – just like I am. Our relationship grew day-by-day in Washington, but unfortunately, after one year of dating, we had to say goodbye because he completed his research and returned to Denmark to finish his MD. We continued to engage in a long distance relationship, seeing each other at every opportunity that we could take some time off. Taking transatlantic flights and managing a six hour time difference became our new norm.
We have been dating now for more than two years and our dream is to bring together our professional and personal lives very soon. I am thankful to Fulbright because it gave me the opportunity to meet Martin. I cannot imagine another possible way that our paths would have crossed; Martin being a doctor from Denmark, and me being an economist from El Salvador. We do not know what the future will bring for us, but so far, life has brought beautiful and challenging surprises. All you have to do is to be open and willing to take risks.