In the words of Ammar Mohammed, a Fulbright Foreign Student from Yemen:
A gorgeous sunrise in Portland awakens the Millennials to embark on our train journey. I was ready and excited to get on the train. I have been daydreaming about this day for the past two weeks.
This whole journey was beyond my expectations. I never dreamed about traveling so far by train. The breathtaking scenes to Seattle, on the first leg of our journey, were just mesmerizing. The Millennials aboard are also a unique aspect of the train. Everyone is so invested in their projects and I am grateful to be a part of such a rich and diverse leaning environment. During the social hours, I engage in discussions with the American participants and my Fulbright counterparts. We speak about being pioneers and leaders and how diversified the meanings of those terms are; culturally and personally.
Prior to embarking by train, I visited the On-The-Move Community Integration group in Portland. I was stunned by the great effort the volunteers and participants are doing to integrate into the society. This organization, which works with the developmentally and intellectually disabled, has taken integration one step further. Instead of inviting the community to the organization, they go out to meet with the community and participate in outdoor activities.
In Seattle, another chapter of beauty and learning was unlocked. We began the morning at WeWork with mentors from Amazon Web Services and Citizen University. What I took away from Mr. Eric Liu Founder and CEO of Citizen University is that, “Rigid individualism never builds a community.” This really resonates with me as I believe collaboration is a crucial part of building strong, effective and diverse communities.
Then I visited the Northwest African American Museum. Indeed, the visit exceeded my expectations. The relatively small but eye-opening museum showed how African Americans in Seattle merged with the local society through sports, arts and music. I saw original sporting outfits, musical instruments, and portrayals of the champions of social justice and equality; including Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy. Even though we had quite little time in Seattle compared to the rest of #MTPtrain stops, it was rewarding to see and learn from the city.
Day three in Whitefish, MO, is just magical. When I applied to the Fulbright Foreign Student Program viewing the U.S. map and looking for universities, I never thought I’d visit Montana. Fulbright-MTP Train Project that dream come true.
We kicked off with breakfast at Montana Coffee Trader and set out to Glacier National Park. I saw landscapes that took my breath away. The glaciers, greenery, trees, high mountains, and wildlife conjure up an excitement to explore the beauty of nature and the drive to sustain this God-sent gift. At our barbecue dinner, we also had a couple of great mentors who spoke about how they challenged themselves to live on their own produce. One of the mentors, spoke about the concept of shifting interests. What matters the most is feeling good about what one is doing, which really gives a sense of satisfaction about one’s life.
The train leaves in six hours at 4:40 a.m. heading to St. Paul, Minneapolis, where I will be interviewing a Mr. Waleed Madhi, a Fulbright Alumni and a PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Minnesota who has a special interest in Critical Race Theory and African Yemenis. I look forward to interviewing him to advance my MTP project. I am full of hope, excitement and passion as the train rolls on to explore more of the United States and the topics of leadership and entrepreneurship.