Jonathan Rabb, 2012-2013, Germany, hiking in Marburg
“If you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, there is no telling how far you will go.” That is what Reiner Rohr, the Deputy Director of the German Fulbright Commission, told me and a small group of bright-eyed Fulbrighters upon our arrival in country. This just so happens to be some of the most important advice I have ever gotten, and it helped me utilize every single moment of my grant to the fullest.
My name is Jonathan Rabb and I was one of seven journalists awarded Fulbright’s Beginning Professional Journalists grants to Germany for the 2012-2013 academic year. This grant was created in 1996 to allow a select group of promising U.S. journalists to come to Germany to conduct research, improve their craft, and complete residencies at German media and news outlets. For my particular grant, I did multiple residencies in digital audience development and transmedia, including one at UFA LAB, a one-of-a-kind digital creative lab owned by the oldest and largest production company in Germany. At UFA LAB, I worked on developing new formats for online television and did on-air coverage in both German and English for “eNtR berlin,” a YouTube channel, on events ranging from Barack Obama’s historic 2013 visit to Berlin to re:publica, one of the world’s largest and most important conferences on digital culture.
Christopher Knight, 2013-2014, Chile (in red shirt, far left), collecting organisms along the rocky shoreline with Manon Sanguinet of France, Rodrigo Uribe Vásquez of Chile, and Dr. Simon Morley of the British Antarctic Survey
Overlooking the sea, I was wandering the dirt roads in the sleepy village of Las Cruces. It was my first week in Chile and I was trying to find the local bodega. I mustered the courage to speak Spanish with a man working in his garden.
-Hola, can you please tell me how to get to Malloco?
-Hi! Sure, it’s really close. How about I just drive you there?
During the short ride, we introduced ourselves. Incidentally, he had a son that recently moved to the United States and he was eager to visit. At the end of the ride, I thanked him and could not help but grin at his hospitality. Little did I know, such kind interactions would become a routine occurrence at my new home.
As a Fulbrighter, I was conducting marine biological research at the Estación Costera de Investigaciones Marinas (ECIM). Along with my advisor, Dr. Sergio Navarrete, and his PhD student, Joan Escobar, I explored how interactions between organisms such as sea stars, crabs, and mussels affect the community structure of the rocky intertidal zone. A typical day might involve collecting organisms for a lab experiment, dodging powerful waves while collecting field data, and on calmer days, ending with a celebratory plunge into the frigid Pacific Ocean.
Have a Fulbright Thanksgiving story to share? Please send us any images or content you would like to share with us to this link: https://fulbright.netx.net/uploads, making sure to use #Thanksgiving2015 in the caption box. This will help us locate your uploaded images within our digital asset system. Also, feel free to post to your own personal social media accounts as you normally do using #Fulbright.
Once we have gathered your content, we will pull it into a Storify like the one we did last year (see below)!
Conducting counts of coral egg bundles during coral spawning volunteer research at Coconut Island, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii (Foreground: Robert Mason, 2013-2015, Australia; mid-ground: Jen Davidson; background: Jolly Ann Cruz)
Imagine sitting in a hall, surrounded by the brightest of your peers in the nation. You’re a senior high school student, and in front of you is a test paper – but it’s no normal test paper. The topic is not something anyone learns at school, nor even in most university courses. In fact, the topic is so specialized that only a small group of experts knows the material well. Fortunately, you work together with a teammate to answer the exam – and you need one, as your next exam is a magnetism problem that would tax a fully trained engineer.
This might sound like an X-men recruitment exam, but it’s the true experience of a small number of students from each American State participating in the National Science Olympiad, an annual competition in which students are tested on 22 different science and technology topics. Only one or a few schools per state qualify to take part in the contest. To help their students prepare, many schools enlist professors, scientists and other experts, who volunteer their time as coaches.
Martin Spendlhofer, 2013-2014, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Austria visiting Hawaii
To give you insight into the Fulbright year I spent at St. John’s University in Minnesota (Oh ya, you betcha!), I would like to describe four things that I really enjoyed.
Every semester, there is something called the “24-hour Play Festival” at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University (CSB/SJU). A group of incredibly talented students get together to write, direct, rehearse and perform a total of eight plays in 24 hours. Last January, I wrote an eight-minute play and acted in it as well. Even though I had about an hour of sleep (and there was more blood in my caffeine than caffeine in my blood), I enjoyed every second of the experience and it was a total blast. Having taught in Austria before coming to the United States, I was able to gather some valuable experiences as well.
One of my German club related highlights last semester was Oktoberfest. We served authentic pretzels, danced the polka, and had a gummy bear guessing game. We put a lot of work and effort into it, and I think it paid off! For advertising, we had a great flash mob with traditional Austrian music at the Gorecki dining center, and we also handed out hot cider at the bus stop. All in all, I enjoyed working together with an ambitious team of German club officers.
I researched math achievement in Xi’an, China as part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, and I was in for a surprise. I discovered a student learning style that called into question the negative stereotypes Americans often have about ‘memorization’ in Asian countries. The use of test scores as a measure of human potential is a controversial topic in our national news. I was definitely curious how Chinese students ace their tests so easily. Maybe, I thought, classrooms in China really are like student factories, pumping out perfect calculators. I could not have been more wrong.
Since my grant ended in 2013, I have excitedly told everyone within earshot that math education in China is much more than the ‘test culture’ we often hear it is. In China, I found a culture of participation inside classrooms and I watched young children work through failure with courage and persistence. By all my tests of good learning, Chinese classrooms were performing well.