2017 Fulbright Year in Review

2017 Fulbright Year in Review

This year, Fulbrighters from the United States and all over the world made breakthrough discoveries and created lasting connections. Take a look back at this year’s highlights in the 2017 Fulbright Year More »

Top Ten Fulbright Student Articles of 2017

Top Ten Fulbright Student Articles of 2017

TOP 10 FULBRIGHT STUDENT BLOG POSTS OF 2017 by Fulbright on Exposure Have a Fulbright story you’d like to tell? We’d love to hear your story – and from you. Contact us More »

Exchanging Cultures, Building Friendships: A Fulbright Thanksgiving Story

Exchanging Cultures, Building Friendships: A Fulbright Thanksgiving Story

Editor’s note: Did you celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States or abroad this year as a Fulbrighter? We’d love to hear your story! Send us a note or share it on social More »

Of Mice and Dreams: My Path to Fulbright

Of Mice and Dreams: My Path to Fulbright

One of my favorite animated films tells the tale of a mouse with a dream to become a chef. Everyone thinks him crazy, but he strives towards his goal and proves to More »

An International Dream Realized: My Path to Fulbright

An International Dream Realized: My Path to Fulbright

I’m Jordyn Hawkins-Rippie, a recent graduate of Hampton University in Hampton, VA. For as long as I can remember, I have grappled daily with living in a world that appeared, at times, More »

 

Reading Greece

Written by Steven Tagle, Fulbright US Student to Greece 2016-17

At Mytikas, the highest peak of Mount Olympus, with Josh Arnold, an American friend I made on the way up

When I describe my year in Greece, I often feel like I’m describing a place I imagined rather than a place that actually exists. It is a place where golden light strikes marble columns and sparkles over the wine-dark sea; where rowdy, curious, and clever characters drink and dance; where tradition and innovation, creativity, and chaos brew in a social and economic cauldron. As a fiction writer with an admittedly tenuous grip on reality, I’ve inhabited Greece the way a reader inhabits a book. “Reading” Greece this year has reawakened my senses and bound me to Greek and Syrian people whose mythic stories have challenged what I thought I knew about the crises, and what I thought I knew about myself. I may be the newest reader of a book that spans millennia, but like Byron, Fermor, and Merrill, I’ve found a home in this country and hope to contribute to its pages.

The Vikos Gorge from the Beloi Lookout in Vradeto, supposedly the deepest gorge in Europe.

I came to Greece through its mythology, intrigued by a people whose gods were as raucous, petty, and vindictive as they were noble and just. The landscapes of Greece retain the mystery and power of mythology. Thanks to Fulbright, I’ve visited many of these places, where our world still seems to touch the world of the gods. I’ve walked along the Acheron River –  the “River of Woe” – whose spectral blue waters seem colored by the spirits of the dead. I’ve listened for prophecy in the rustling oak leaves at Dodona and felt stalactites drip onto the back of my neck as a silent boatman ferried me through the caves at Diros. I’ve retraced Odysseus’s homeward path through the Ionian Islands and paid tribute to monsters Hercules had slain in the Peloponnese. Some days, traveling alone and outside my comfort zone, I walked on the edge of fear, knowing that beyond fear is awe, or δέος, the proper attitude for approaching the gods.

I saw δέος on a Naoussan boy’s face during Carnival when he put on the wax mask of the γενίτσαρος for the very first time. I learned to play Trex in UNHCR hotels and befriended an amorous Iraqi who had lost his legs as a child. My students at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki shared their yiayias’ spoon sweets and their own stories of first love, of coming out, of overcoming anxiety, of living with HIV. I visited their hometowns, stations of my Syrian friends’ wayward journeys. I know which cheeses each island produces and for which dessert each village is famous. Everyone I’ve met breathes a bit of Greece into me, and their life stories take root in my imagination. Now initiated into Greek culture, I’m eager to soak up every bit of history and myth, new local food, new tradition.

At Kallimarmaro Stadium with the Solidarity Now team, the first refugee team to run in the Athens Marathon.

A monk on Mount Athos gave me this advice: To write distinctly, live distinctly. In Greece I learned a different way to live. I’ve always held myself apart from people, but here, I was expected to spill into other people’s lives, to reach over them for food, to let myself need and be needed by them. Friends who have visited me in Greece say that I speak louder in Greek, that I’m more willing to talk to strangers, more willing to ask for help. They notice how Greek people open up to me when I speak the language. When a Greek asks me if I’m part Greek, I respond, Ναι, η καρδιά μου είναι ελληνική, “Yes, my heart is Greek.” Completing my Fulbright year is a bittersweet accomplishment, like coming to the of a beloved book. But as Greece has become part of me, so has my experience become part of the story of Greece.

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Fulbright for Posterity: The Ripple Effects of Fulbright on Rural America

By Niecea Freeman, Fulbright ETA to Czech Republic 2018-2019

“How about: It’s quality, not quantity?” my dad proposed, wearing a grin. We were brainstorming city slogans for Loyalton, California, my hometown of 800 people nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains—now named “the Loneliest Town in America.”  We all laughed. On the surface, country living seems like paradise, but in reality a myriad of issues affect rural communities across the nation. Employment opportunities are sparse, lower income leads to higher instances of poverty, and—consequently—there is a clear demand and absolute need for higher quality education.

Megan Meschery and her family in Spain, 2008 Fulbright program.

When the town’s sawmill closed in 2001, followed by a mass population exodus, Loyalton’s tax revenues declined rapidly and ancillary school programming disappeared with them. First, we lost music and art specials. Later, our middle school was condemned, and students were moved from portable buildings into the high school, losing their separate facilities entirely. In truth, it has only been through the extraordinary efforts of dedicated teachers and community members that our school district has been kept afloat: teachers like my high school Spanish instructor, Megan Meschery, who are determined to redefine our local community without much funding from state or federal agencies.

In 2008, Megan left for a Fulbright grant in Granada, Spain, where she examined how rural economic development funding provided by the European Union reduced inequalities in public schools regardless of geographic location. She sought to find parallels and lessons applicable to rural education in America and to develop ways to promote cultural awareness and growth in Loyalton. While Megan’s experiences rather highlighted the differences between U.S. and EU development models, Megan also returned from her two-year Fulbright burgeoning with ideas tailored to Loyalton’s situation, and immediately found ways to introduce positive change, starting with school electives.

The Sierra Schools Foundation sponsors hands-on learning opportunities like harvesting chamomile tea flowers in the Loyalton Learning Garden.

My favorite memories from high school are from the culture club she initiated, through which I saw my first Broadway play, Wicked, and visited my first classical art exhibit, featuring masterpieces from Rembrandt and Raphael. These experiences opened my eyes to the world beyond our tiny valley, and change did not stop there.

The following year, Megan founded a non-profit organization called The Sierra Schools Foundation (SSF – sierraschoolsfoundation.org) to combat inequality in the school district by providing grants for resources and programs such as the STEM Learning Garden, Local-Artists-in-the-School, Advancing to College SAT prep, and others. I volunteered with SSF throughout college, running fundraisers, where I witnessed firsthand how, with dedication and perseverance, local organizations genuinely have power to initiate positive change.

Niecea (right) and her mentor, Martina (left) in Lanškroun’s city square, Czech Republic, 2018 Fulbright program.

These formative experiences propelled me to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in the Czech Republic for the 2018-2019 academic year, where I will be living in a rural community not unlike Loyalton, teaching English to secondary students enrolled in veterinary and agricultural programs. As an undergrad, I pursued a B.S. in Integrated Elementary Education with an emphasis in English as a Second Language with the primary goal of becoming an elementary school teacher in a high-needs, rural community in the United States. Now, I  am ready to go forward and learn from the students and families of my host country to explore new perspectives and pedagogies that will reshape the way I view myself and my role as an educator. The quantity of programs in Loyalton’s schools has stagnated, but the quality of our education can continue to blossom

Niecea with the calves at the Lanškroun Veterinary & Agriculture School dairy
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2018 Fulbright Year in Review

Last year, Fulbright Program Participants made strides in education, art, and science across the globe. Take a look back on the year in the 2018 Fulbright Year in Review.

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Top 5 Fulbright Student Blog Posts of 2018

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The Power of the Fulbright Network

My journey began after I left the Japanese Ministry of Defense, where I’d worked for nine years, to become a Masters student at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, on a Fulbright fellowship from 2009 to 2011. I chose SAIS to study international security and to expand my network with security experts in DC, which is the center of politics. This experience opened doors for me to meet esteemed professionals and continues to influence my career.

Mihoko at her commencement from Johns Hopkins University

I have always been interested in international security and wanted to study it in a global environment, in a second language, to learn from a different perspective. Since I didn’t know when I’d ever get to live outside my own country again, I wanted to take advantage of my time in D.C. to get to know many people and their cultures. When I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, I made two goals. The first was to make international friends. The second was to publish at least one article in English before graduation.

An American classmate and Fulbright alum had me over to her parents’ home in Chicago for Christmas in 2009 and 2010. Another American classmate (also a Fulbrighter alum) invited me to her parents’ home in upstate New York to celebrate Thanksgiving in 2010. This was my first traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. Their hearty welcome and friendship definitely made my time in the United States memorable and special.

Cybersecurity began to attract attention in the United States when I was a student. One of my classmates, an editor for a policy journal, was looking for a contributor to write an article about Asian cybersecurity, and asked me if I knew anyone who could write about the topic. I told her that I could, and this marked a turning point in my career. She helped me publish a blog which became my first English piece on cybersecurity.

After graduation from SAIS, I had one more year to stay in the United States on my Fulbright visa to do academic training. Since I wanted to earn more professional and academic experience, I did two fellowships at Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies (now Pacific Forum), a think tank based in Honolulu, to research Japan-US cybersecurity collaboration.

A SAIS colleague who graduated one year ahead of me joined a cybersecurity firm and introduced me to his colleagues who does research on Asia. My publications were helpful to prove my interest in cybersecurity. Since most Japanese news articles about cybersecurity are never translated into English, I started to share English summaries with my colleagues when I was with Pacific Forum.

Right before my second fellowship at Pacific Forum ended, I went to see a friend, an American Fulbrighter alum, to say goodbye. At the time I was thinking about being jobless soon, and I was quite scared. He shared his experience after earning his PhD and encouraged me to aim high and stay positive, even in challenging circumstances. I was reminded of the power of the Fulbright network and was encouraged to persevere not just to find the right job for me, but also to help others through our international network.

It has been almost seven years since the end of my Fulbright fellowship at SAIS. I am still involved in global cybersecurity policy, and write and speak about it all the time. While my career path has turned out to be different than the traditional Japanese path of staying in one organization, it also enabled me to be adventurous, travel all over the world, meet people, and make so many international friends.

A few years ago, I bumped into a woman who helped me with my Fulbright visa process at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in 2009. She was doing her PhD then and her research focus now includes cybersecurity. This is the beauty of Fulbright: getting to know a diverse group of passionate people and learning from each other.

To those who are interested in the Fulbright Program but are hesitant for any reason, I cannot emphasize this enough: Go for it! Don’t be afraid to be different. Your journey will be full of adventures, Fulbright passion, and friends.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail