All Posts By

Nathaniel D. Bastian

U.S. Fulbright

Community Engagement and Mutual Understanding in the Netherlands, By Nathaniel Bastian, 2008-2009, The Netherlands

August 15, 2011

My Fulbright grant was unique in that in addition to being sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, it was supported by the Netherland-America Foundation (NAF), an organization seeking to strengthen the bonds between the United States and the Netherlands through exchanges in the arts, sciences, education, business, public policy and historic preservation.  As a Fulbright-NAF Fellow, I wanted to actively participate in community-wide events that maintained and fostered ties between the Netherlands and United States.

One such event was the 64th Annual Memorial Day Ceremony held at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial. Located in the village of Margraten (roughly six miles from Maastricht), the cemetery is historically significant because of its location near the famous Cologne-Boulogne highway built by the Romans and used by Caesar, Charlemagne, Charles V, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Hitler.  As a military officer, I found this battlefield cemetery site, and similar sites such as Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem, fascinating because of the critical roles these battles played during World War II.

As both a Fulbright Fellow studying at Maastricht University and a U.S. Army officer assigned to the U.S. Embassy’s Defense Attaché Office, I specifically supported this event to help connect Dutch locals with fallen American soldiers’ family members.  During the ceremony, I escorted American World War II veterans and listened to a plethora of their war stories.  Additionally, I mingled with numerous Dutch leaders, politicians and business people from the surrounding area.  From my participation in the Memorial Day Ceremony at Margraten, I directly experienced the principal purpose of the Fulbright Program – to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

During my grant, I also had an opportunity to participate in other Dutch-American sponsored events hosted by organizations such as the Dutch Fulbright Center and the U.S. Embassy in The Hague.  Although each event was different, they all enabled me to represent the United States and the Fulbright Program in the Netherlands.  As a Fulbright grantee, my involvement with Dutch communities not only enriched my life but also helped to promote the United States’ diplomatic goals.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, sponsored by U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is unlike any other fellowship, scholarship or grant offered nationwide because it allows participants to: 1) learn about foreign cultures and customs while developing language and leadership skills, 2) study and conduct research in any field of study with foreign professors at international universities (or with organizations, conservatories, labs, studios and non-governmental organizations – make sure to check the individual country summary requirements before applying), 3) assistant teach English, and 4) serve as U.S. cultural ambassadors.  Not only will your Fulbright experience be highly rewarding to you both professionally and personally, but you will be able to share the knowledge you gained as a Fulbrighter with everyone you connect with throughout your life.

Middle Photo: Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial

Questions for Nathaniel about his Fulbright experience?  Feel free to email him at

U.S. Fulbright

The Dutch Method for Improving Army Aeromedical Operations: Highlights from a Fulbright Fellow in Engineering, By Nathaniel Bastian, 2008-2009, The Netherlands

April 7, 2011

Fulbright Fellow to MEDEVAC Pilot; Nathaniel D. Bastian, 2008-2009, The Netherlands

After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, I headed to the Netherlands in August 2008 to begin my Fulbright grant pursuing a master’s degree in econometrics and operations research at Maastricht University. As a Fulbright Fellow, I researched and developed a model to help Army medical planners optimize aeromedical evacuation helicopter positioning and improve air ambulance systems.

I will never forget my first course. We started with chapter thirty-four of a textbook in which I hadn’t learned the material from the first thirty-three chapters. This introduction to the Dutch education system proved to be quite humbling. Nonetheless, my interaction with Dutch students and professors greatly enriched my experience because they were intelligent and hard-working team players. Maastricht University uses an innovative, unique teaching approach known as Problem-Based Learning, where students work and learn in small tutorial groups as opposed to lecture halls. By closely interacting with both Dutch and international students, I learned how to exchange knowledge and information effectively, analyze complex problems, collect pertinent data, and formulate and present collective solutions. This exposure to the Dutch learning method challenged me to be personally responsible for my education and created an environment that allowed me to become a more effective researcher.

Aside from working with Dutch students and professors, I immersed myself in Dutch culture by participating in events such as Carnival (a week-long festival in Maastricht involving locals wearing costumes, singing and dancing in the streets to live music) and Koninginnesdag (a day of national unity in Amsterdam where people wear the color orange and celebrate the Queen of the Netherlands’ birthday). Besides these fun cultural events, my travels to places such as historical battle sites in Nijmegen, tulip gardens at Keukenhof, stinky cheese factories in Gouda and museums in Amsterdam truly helped me to develop a profound understanding of Dutch culture.

Not only did these experiences change my perceptions of Dutch culture, but I believe my interactions with the Dutch whom I worked with and met changed their perceptions of Americans. As my Fulbright Program took place during our riveting 2008 presidential election and the global economic recession, I had many intriguing conversations and debates with the Dutch about American foreign policy, economics and health care. Additionally, I made lasting impressions as a soldier, officer and aviator in the U.S. Army because I shared my various experiences in the military.

From my experiences as a Fulbright Fellow, here is some advice for future applicants:

  • Formulate a research proposal on a topic about which you are most passionate. Incorporate how your findings will make a difference stateside and abroad.
  • Select reference writers who truly know your personality, intellectual aptitude and leadership ability.
  • In your personal statement, share your life story and how it relates to your proposed research.
  • Seek guidance from mentors, and be prepared to work through many essay revisions.

Trying Dutch clogs on for size; Nathaniel D. Bastian, 2008-2009, The Netherlands