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U.S. Fulbright

Turkey: The Home of Ancient Monuments, Legendary Folklore Heroes and Eternal Hospitality, By Rebecca Anderson, 2009-2010, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Turkey

July 30, 2012


I’m a Fulbright cliché. Like many alumni, my Fulbright experience was life-changing. My first visit to Turkey as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) at Pamukkale University enriched my development as a global citizen in unexpected ways. Living in the industrial city of Denizli, my colleagues, friends and students shared perspectives that continue to influence me both personally and professionally.

I applied for a Fulbright ETA grant to Turkey to assistant teach English and explore how Turkish culture has influenced folklore tales featuring a trickster-ish character known as Nasreddin Hodja. American and British translations of the Hodja tales are the focus of my dissertation project.  By using my analysis results of how these translations reflect resistance and receptiveness to Turkish culture, my project aimed to create a global citizenship pedagogy. The teaching approach involved students using Turkish Nasreddin Hodja tales and Western folklore as investigative tools, and identifying story themes highlighting similar and different cultural patterns. For example, although there are big differences in their motivations, the queen in Rumpelstiltskin and Nasreddin Hodja both use trickery to achieve their goals. The students and I then worked together to apply these identified patterns to contemporary local and global events. These exercises not only helped students’ critical thinking skills but their ability to negotiate and articulate their roles as global citizens.

My ETA assignment immersed me in the kind of cultural engagement that my dissertation – and the Fulbright Program – promotes. I assistant taught hundreds of students in the Hazırlık (English Preparatory Program) using my department-wide, cross-cultural studies approach.  Instead of simply relating anecdotes and facts about American culture in the classroom, I focused instead on exchanging information and perspectives. I created a series of interactive PowerPoint presentations on a range of American cultural topics (such as important historical events, contemporary family and community life, the educational system, popular books and body language) which served as a model for my students. They, in turn, reciprocated with PowerPoint and video presentations about similar Turkish cultural topics. We found many commonalities between our countries and cultures (not the least of which is the popularity of the Twilight series!). The end result of these exchanges was that we developed new understandings about being global citizens in relation to each other’s culture.

My schedule was busy, but when a colleague mentioned that the understaffed department needed a discourse analysis instructor, I volunteered, excited to help create a course about analyzing the construction of meanings in communication. My colleagues appreciated the help and I was pleased to develop further my dissertation research on discourse analysis.

My relationship with my colleagues changed after this. Previously, it had been mostly social; now, my colleagues began inviting me to university workshops and international conferences located in such beautiful historic cities as Efes (Ephesus) and İstanbul. Workshop collaborations with one of my colleagues cemented a valued friendship. When I returned to Turkey during summer 2011 to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship Program, she and her family welcomed me to their home in the beautiful coastal town of Çeşme.

Students and their families also extended generous hospitality. On learning about my plans to visit Konya, the home city of one of my students, Ferhat Ak, he and his family appointed themselves my tour guides to the city’s beautiful mosques and gardens. They also invited me to their second home in nearby Akşehir, the purported birthplace of Nasreddin Hodja. Ferhat and his classmates explained that my interest in the Hodja tales had made them feel proud about a part of Turkish culture that previously hadn’t been very important to them.

By my assignment’s conclusion, my interactions with students, colleagues and so many others helped me realize that the Fulbright experience is about more than promoting mutual understanding between cultures; it is about individuals extending and receiving support for each other’s cultures and values.

A few application suggestions:

  1. Be flexible and open to new ideas.  Make sure your application reflects that you are both.
  2. Give yourself ample time to draft and revise your application components. Ask at least two or three people (I asked several professors) to review and comment on your drafts.
  3. If you are applying through an institution, take your institution’s Fulbright committee’s critiques of your drafts seriously. I did, and my application benefited.

Photo: Rebecca Anderson, 2009-2010, Turkey (center), with the Ak family and a friend in their rose garden in Konya

U.S. Fulbright

Stories from Berlin’s Schools, By Samson Lim, 2010-2011, Germany

July 23, 2012













“How do I tell a student who wants to be a bank manager that he’s in the wrong school and will never be able to accomplish his dream?” As a 2008 Humanity in Action Fellow, I remember shaking my head when I heard these words uttered by a teacher at the school we were visiting.

Germany has long maintained a stratified three-tier education system in which only students in the top track (Gymnasium, or university preparatory school) have a shot at attending university. In relaying this story of a young boy who aspired to be a bank manager but was not in a Gymnasium, the teacher expressed a feeling of perplexed helplessness for late-blooming students such as this boy.

That experience inspired me to spend extended time in Berlin—beyond just a four- or five-week program—to talk to and learn from young students as they progress in their own educational journey. The Fulbright Program offered me the perfect opportunity to conduct such an ethnographic research project. I visited all types of schools in Berlin and spoke with students, families and teachers about how they perceived access to education in Germany, particularly in the context of social mobility.

Through my university’s connections in Berlin, I was able to connect with the chair of American Studies at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, who subsequently became my primary affiliation for my Fulbright project.  He also connected me with another research professor at a large social sciences research institute in Berlin giving me a second affiliation for my project.

More than anything, my research project taught me that I do not want to spend my life doing research. While this may seem counterintuitive, this revelation impacted me in two ways: 1) I realized that I wanted to pursue a career devoted to public service and direct action in my community, and 2) I understood that I had much more to learn about education and policy.

As such, I’ll be heading to Teachers College, Columbia University this fall to pursue a Master of Education in Politics and Education even though I had not planned on pursuing graduate studies for another few years. My Fulbright experience sparked an even greater desire to delve deeper into two issues that I am passionate about: social justice and educational opportunity.

For anyone thinking about applying, the best advice I can offer is: simply apply.

I sought out mentors at my university, who helped me hone my ideas and critique my essays multiple times before I finally submitted my application, and spoke with several former Fulbrighters to pick their brains about their experiences. Unequivocally, their responses affirmed my decision to apply and pursue an opportunity to conduct research abroad.

More than just research or teaching, I had an opportunity to travel and see Europe, immerse myself in Germany’s fascinating culture and through it all, make friends for life. So, do yourself a favor.  Apply for the chance to become a Fulbright Student.

Photo: Samson Lim, 2010-2011, Germany, visits the Paul-Natorp-Oberschule in Berlin’s Schöneberg neighborhood to talk with students about diversity in the United States

U.S. Fulbright

Jolli Meals: The Rise of Filipino Fast Food, By Laurel Fantauzzo, 2010-2011, Philippines

July 10, 2012

Whenever I told Filipinos I was researching Filipino fast food on a Fulbright grant, they would laugh twice. First, they would laugh at how funny and ludicrous my topic sounded. Then, they would laugh again, because fast food, and food in general, is such an obvious part of their everyday lives. Then they would start to tell me their fast food stories: their memories of the Jollibee commercial “I Love You Sabado,” their favorite McDonald’s order, their family celebratory traditions, their theories as to why certain foods were embraced by Filipino culture.

I noticed that when Filipinos talk about their cuisine, they’re not talking about only food. Embedded in every interview I conducted was a discussion of memory, of gathering, of a Filipino identity, shifting and constant all at once. It didn’t matter what station in life Filipinos occupied, whether they were drivers, businesswomen, CEOs, food experts, students, or housecleaners. Fast food has deep, daily, emotional and cultural implications for Filipinos, and they were eager to share their interpretations with me, a relative outsider. If I could name the simplest, deepest impact my presence had in the Philippines, it was as a listener. I could sense how important it was for Filipinos to feel heard, and I was honored to help represent their stories and relationships to fast food.

As I went through the process of scheduling interviews with Filipinos from various walks of life, I gained much more confidence as a nonfiction writer. It was helpful to have nearly daily practice at interviewing various food writers, food entrepreneurs, and everyday workers of all ages and walks of life. It also gave me a fascinating overview of Filipino society, a complex culture that is both welcoming and challenging in a variety of engaging ways. I sensed, too, that Filipinos were always happy for the chance to share with a dayuhan (foreigner) the story of their fast food cuisine, the diverse, accompanying narrative of which reflects the vibrant development and history of the Philippines itself.

If you’re a research/study applicant interested in the Philippines, look closely at what in your professional and recreational background makes you ready for the research you want to do. I’ve always been fascinated by what food represents beyond a functional meal, as far as the identity and the story of a people, and I wrote about restaurants and food during my post-undergraduate life in New York City. In my free time, I also volunteered at supper clubs and ran food events for an overseas charity. What about your background, interests, and daily work prepares you for your Fulbright research? Everyone has their own compelling narrative. The Fulbright Program is an opportunity for you to honor and build on it.

Photo: Laurel Fantauzzo, 2010-2011, Philippines, eats a quick ube ice cream cone in Quezon City, Philippines, as part of her research for Jolli Meals: The Rise of Filipino Fast Food

U.S. Fulbright

Plenty of Adjustment Necessary, By Zipporah Slaughter, 2008-2009, Brazil

July 2, 2012

My Fulbright experience was nothing like what I had anticipated.  After the first week, I was ready to return home.  I was not off to a good start with my host institution.  On the first day at the center, the director greeted me sternly, “How’s your Portuguese?”  No, “Hello.”  No, “It’s good to meet you.”  No, “We’re looking forward to having you here.” 

Even after many language classes, I was still not close to where I wanted to be in terms of my comfort level with Portuguese, nor apparently where I needed to be.  I was disappointed and frustrated by my inability to communicate effectively.  I hired a Portuguese tutor, which I had included in my project proposal.  My listening ear improved and I connected better with the language.  Yet, language skills affected my research early on and progress moved slowly.  Beyond the obvious need for communication, language facility was important for understanding the significance of the issues surrounding my research topic, as well as work being done to address them.  It also added value to my overall Fulbright experience. 

My ethnographic research examined the structure, operations and effectiveness of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Salvador, Brazil, that focused on Afro-Brazilian women and girls.  To better comprehend how these entities were meeting the needs of the community, in addition to interviews and participant observation, I attended seminars, conferences, discussion groups and performances.  I also taught an English course to adults.  The research shifted as I learned that the nonprofits working on issues of gender and race were largely community-based groups and grassroots organizations.  Many were loosely structured and without documentation to qualify as an NGO, which limited their ability to apply for significant funding.  I asked questions about mission, vision, leadership, resources, outreach, and activities.  What was the role of these nonprofits in addressing and combating socio-economic inequities faced by Afro-Brazilian females, a segment of the population often at the bottom of social indicators?












The situation for Afro-descendant women and girls in Brazil is difficult, as racism and discrimination are prevailing factors.  The vast majority of Afro-Brazilians live in impoverished conditions without equal access to quality education and healthcare services.  Black women in Brazil earn less than half of what Whites earn.  In Salvador, the face of domestic labor (namely, maids or nannies) is typically an Afro-Brazilian female, and work is low pay and without labor protection rights.  Negative images of Black women in the media are pervasive and violence against women persists.  With these challenges, Afro-Brazilian women continue pushing to negotiate their own space within organizations to promote equality.

I came away from my Fulbright experience with a greater awareness and comprehension of the issues confronting Afro-Brazilian females and the organizations supporting their improved conditions.  While my expectations were met with my research, I left Salvador wanting to make a positive difference.  The earlier challenges I had experienced settling in–finding an affordable apartment, eating out as a vegetarian, excessive heat and no air conditioning, and administrative bureaucracy–faded into memory .  I gained more in return – developed greater confidence to travel abroad, learned to live in a new culture and made invaluable friendships.

My advice for applicants:   

  • Discuss your proposed research topic with professors and colleagues to develop a clear perspective and sense of how you expect to carry out your research.
  • Search organizations online to find an affiliate and make contact early.
  • Before traveling, clarify any expectations with your host institution.
  • Be flexible.

Top photo: Zipporah Slaughter, 2008-2009, Brazil, watching a sunset over the Bay of All Saints (Baía de Todos os Santos) in Salvador; the city of Salvador sits on a peninsula between the Bay of All Saints and the Atlantic Ocean

Middle photo: The all-female Banda Didá performing in the streets of historic Pelourinho; The Didá Education and Cultural Association is a nonprofit in Salvador founded in 1993, by Maestro Neguinho do Samba to improve girls’ confidence and self-esteem through music, percussion and the arts.


Yes, We Moved a Family of Five to Leeds in Three Months, By Michael Trice, 2010-2011, United Kingdom

June 20, 2012




















In the spring of 2009, I hit the jackpot.

While in the middle of conducting usability tests for a new payment system at Texas State University, I received an email that my alternate status to go to the United Kingdom as a Fulbright U.S. Student had just been bumped up to principal status.

My initial reaction? Panic!

I bolted from the room to phone my wife. We had agreed earlier that morning to close on a new house and I had just accepted an offer from the Communication Studies doctoral program at the University of Texas. But everything had suddenly changed.

We cancelled the bid on the house, I had to let down Texas, and suddenly, my wife and I had to figure out how to move our three children to Leeds in less than three months.

At least it wasn’t London.

The appeals process for getting the kids into school was tough. The transition from sunny Austin to ever-changing Leeds had a few hiccups. But to this day, all five of us see it as one of the great, best adventures of our lives.

The opportunities we had in the United Kingdom could fill a dozen blog entries. In fact, I wrote 14 while there. However, I’ll stick to some of the highlights.

I came to the United Kingdom to work with Professor Stephen Coleman at the Centre for Digital Citizenship in Leeds. He put me in contact with the fabulous Knowle West Media Centre, a completely green media lab open to the public with sound mixing studios, video and photography equipment, computer labs, and an amazing staff. The KWMC changed my life.

Carolyn Hassan and Penny Evans started out in Knowle West running art projects. They turned those art projects into an eco-friendly multimedia lab with multiple computer studios, a sound mixing booth, photo gallery, and about every other media space one might imagine.

Oh, and they did it to serve one of the most under-represented neighborhoods in Bristol.

For six months Carolyn, Penny, and the very talented and accommodating web maestro Russell Knights, allowed me to assist in the University of Local Knowledge project. The goal was to record 1,000 videos from the Knowle West community of 11,000 people that would allow each resident share and preserve local skills and history. For my part, I built a wiki installation that allowed a handful of community members to come in and record some notes that might eventually lead to ideas for videos. It offered an incredible chance to evaluate digital literacy in a place just alien enough to really push my preconceptions.

They taught me far more than I offered them, but I made up for that slightly by inviting Carolyn and Penny to speak about their amazing work at SXSW this year.

My Fulbright year also included planning two conferences at the University of Leeds, teaching an undergrad usability course, volunteering photography lessons to kids in state care around Leeds, organizing a museum exhibit for that photography and a good number of family escapades. Oh, and the British kindly held an election while we visited.

After my grant, I even started a small business with some fellow UK student scholars. I’m also currently working toward my doctorate at Texas Tech University in Technical Communication and Rhetoric while continuing to research digital engagement.

What’s the secret to such adventures?

Let your research/study project guide you, but remember that your Fulbright grant is a promise to engage communities, and every locale has a wonderfully diverse range of communities wanting to be engaged.

As Cicero said, “The life given us, by nature is short; but the memory of a well-spent life is eternal.”

Photo: Michael Trice, 2010-2011, United Kingdom, on the terrace of the Great Bath in Bath