Not Only Learning About Diversity
By Hilal Peker, 2011-2012, Turkey
Since the beginning of my Fulbright experience, I’ve learned a great deal about the United States: its culture, people, and multiculturalism. Being part of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program means not only learning about culture and education, but also interacting with the diverse culture of the United States.
I started my journey with my pre-academic orientation in Vermont. I learned about local values and the U.S. political, health, and educational systems. I also made many wonderful friends whom I visited during winter and summer breaks. As a first-year Fulbright Foreign Student, I had the opportunity to attend a Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Philadelphia and learn about the U.S. political system in detail just before the 2012 elections, which were brought to life through election simulations. During the seminar, we participated in community service activities and helped to clean up a local community. My election group was then invited to a home hospitality dinner during which we talked about food from all around the world. This experience was one of the most unforgettable of my entire grant.
I recently completed my M.A. in Foreign Language Education at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), and I enjoyed both my academic and social experiences. Outside of classes, I was involved in many student organizations such as student government, the Graduate Student Assembly, and the Angola Capoeira Student Organization. I represented all the graduate students at UT Austin in student government and dealt with issues relevant to the graduate school in the Graduate Dean’s Student Advisory Council. I was also the president of the Foreign Language Education Student Association (FLESA) and organized brown bag lunch events with speakers in the foreign language education field. In addition to organizing dinners within the department, I tried to encourage professors and students to mingle with one another.
My two host families in Austin were great, and I plan on visiting them again in the future. I really enjoyed the Thanksgiving and Halloween celebrations I spent with them as well as other holidays not celebrated in Turkey. It was such a nice feeling to spend time with American families as a way to explore U.S. culture on a more personal and profound level.
Academically, I helped a committee in my department to organize student research conferences. Besides being involved with planning conferences, I was also able to attend a conference as a participant, and present a poster and PowerPoint about my research. I focused on student motivation in second language acquisition in different cultures, looking at cultural factors affecting student motivation and self-efficacy in a second language. As a Fulbrighter, I strive to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and people of other countries through my research in second language acquisition.
The world is getting smaller through globalization. I hope to reach people both socially and academically, who come from different cultures, to help them become more globally aware. I admire the goals of the Fulbright Program and would like to thank both the U.S. Department of State, and the Institute of International Education, for improving my awareness of what diversity is and for the incredible experiences!