Nestled between Germany, France, and Belgium resides my second home and the country that welcomed me with open arms for one of the best years of my life – the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Over the 2013-2014 academic year, I had the distinct honor of being a Fulbright Study/Research Grantee to Luxembourg. While I expected my experience in the Grand Duchy to be life-changing, I did not fully grasp how much the opportunity would positively impact me until I actually arrived and began interacting with professors, classmates, and others from across my host country.
The main element of my Fulbright proposal revolved around earning a Master in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the University of Luxembourg, a new beacon of higher education in the European Union that had been founded only ten years earlier. With plans to return to the United States following my Fulbright experience to pursue a dual MD/MBA degree, I arrived in Luxembourg eager to learn important entrepreneurial and innovation skills that I could adjust, as needed, and apply in my future medical career. However, upon entering the classroom for the first time, I knew that I would learn more than I had originally planned.
In class, we had 20 students representing 19 nationalities. This is incredibly diverse even by Luxembourg standards; indeed, nearly 50% of the population is not from the Grand Duchy. This diversity provided opportunities for endless debates and discussions regarding different aspects of business in each country but also cultures and customs in day-to-day life. These discussions were always carried out with great respect even though my classmates did not always arrive at the same conclusion. Further, it was a phenomenal experience to be lectured by world-class professors from outside of the United States. While the basic business theories and concepts are the same across the world, the approach to explaining and teaching varies, as professors stress the portions they feel are most important or relevant. Each day, I improved my listening skills and worked on developing confidence in a multicultural setting.
In addition to my incredible classroom experience, I interned at a local media and event startup called Silicon Luxembourg as part of my graduate degree program. I assisted in developing the firm’s long-term strategy directly with the company’s founder, became more tech-savvy with social media marketing and provided on-the-ground support for a number of events and initiatives. Further, I participated in many of the U.S. Embassy Luxembourg entrepreneurship initiatives. For example, I emceed a local high school startup competition. Also, I led a live talk show with a successful U.S.-based entrepreneur in front of a large crowd at a local lounge. These experiences allowed me to engage with many more people in my host community, and observe the passion people had for becoming entrepreneurs and new business leaders in the Grand Duchy.
Since returning to the United States, I continue to utilize the skills I honed in Luxembourg each day. The public speaking and leadership development opportunities I experienced in the Grand Duchy gave me confidence to pursue similar high profile leadership roles in the United States. For example, I recently ran for and was elected by medical students from across the country as the next national chair for the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Organization of Student Representatives (AAMC OSR). In addition, living in another country helped improve my communication skills amongst people from diverse backgrounds. As a current medical student and future physician, communication between myself and patients, regardless of their backgrounds, will be of utmost importance in order to ensure the best possible care is being delivered. Lastly, my Fulbright experience reinforced that I have the ability to adapt and take on opportunities and challenges even if they seem daunting. This will benefit me greatly as I aspire to address some of America’s greatest healthcare challenges during my career.
I am truly honored to have been a Fulbright U.S. Student and now to be a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador. The Fulbright Program taught me critical cross-cultural leadership skills. In addition, it helped me improve my listening, negotiating and self-resiliency skills. To this day, I stay in weekly contact with my friends from Luxembourg. They are friendships built by Fulbright, and they will last forever.
To those thinking of applying, I urge you to do so! Be yourself and let your passions shine through on your application. Good luck!
Have questions for David about his Fulbright experiences in Luxembourg and as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador? You can reach him at D.Bernstein.firstname.lastname@example.org.