MTP Change Journey participants — 360 degree group photo.
A few days ago I ended one of the best experiences that I had during my first year as a Fulbright Student. I participated in the Millennial Trains Project (MTP), a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel across the United States while developing a project about how museums engage with their communities.
The experience was so amazing that it’s impossible not to talk about for hours, but if I had to describe the trip in one word it would be “inspirational,” Why did I choose that word? Well I think that it describes the atmosphere that surrounded me during the entire journey.
During the trip I had the chance to meet marvelous young researchers that had similar questions about our society. We realized that despite our different cultural backgrounds we have similar goals in topics related to education, politics, civil rights, and community engagement, among others. Hearing their stories and being able to witness throughout the duration of the journey how they developed their projects to solve those problems, inspired me.
Fulbright MTP participant from Germany, Desiree Garcia, right, with fellow MTP participant, Leah Elizabeth Edwards, on Millennial Train Change Journey 2016.
Imagine walking around your city. All you see are evacuated stores falling apart, “for rent” signs dominating the view, yet knowing the chances for these spaces to be rented out are slim. Suddenly your memories take you back to a time when the stores were filled with people and all kinds of products. You remember how you, too, used to purchase your things here and you can still recall the smell and warmth of the stores, and the stories you were told by the store owners that were around for generations and knew the neighborhood and its people better than anyone. You find yourself smiling at that thought and then it hits you.
All this is no more. Main Street is dead.
Though I wished this was a fully fictional scene, I am sad to say that we are moving towards this quite quickly.
Richa Narula, 2015-2016, Nepal (center), with her fellow “Unity” Millennial Train Project Fulbright participants Christian Mpody, 2015-2017, Togo(left), and Laura Jimenez Morales, 2015-2017, Mexico (right)
Upon receiving an email about applying to this year’s Millennial Train Project (MTP), I knew that it could potentially be an opportunity of a lifetime. Exploring the United States with Americans while on a train seemed like an amazing idea, and I was so fascinated about the concept. But it took me quite a long time to finalize what project I actually wanted to do during the ten day journey. The idea for my current MTP project came from a recent conference (which I was able to attend, thanks to Fulbright ) I attended and presented on organizational preferences towards particular natural resources versus others. I had observed this kind of bias back in my home country, Nepal, but dismissed after coming to the United States. I thought that the biases would just be understood as another “developing country” issue. But that was not the case. I felt challenged after this conference to research the causes of such preferences and their effects on sustainability. I was looking for an appropriate opportunity for pursuing this research, but even when the application for the MTP was announced, the idea did not strike me immediately. I took some time to think and decided that this was the appropriate opportunity to pursue this research, and the project “Perception Differences and Effects in Sustainability” was thus initiated.
The MTP journey has been the perfect way to enhance my one year in the States. Because of MTP, I have explored many places that I never would have seen.
Throughout this year, I have generally been surrounded by other fellow Fulbright friends, and it was my keen desire to see how Americans perceive different national and international issues that we talk about amongst ourselves. During this trip, I am surrounded by amazing Americans from all walks of life with their own fascinating stories of hard work, success and failure. Listening to them passionately talk about the positive changes that they want to make in the world through their projects — words are not enough to explain that experience. It feels good to know that there are many Millennials who are trying to make the world a better place, in all the ways they can. I already know, within only five days of my trip, that I have made friends for life!
Christian Mpody, 2015-2017, Togo, departing for Los Angeles on the “Unity” leg of this year’s Millennial Train Project
My Fulbright journey in the United States has been a huge revelation to me concerning some topics that I would have never thought about before I started my grant. One of them is the constant struggle between social and market justice, in a context in which the notion of individualism is beloved by constituents across the nation. Related to that struggle is an issue that I’ve become particularly interested in: the crisis of gun violence in America. In learning about the crisis during my Fulbright grant, I’ve heard debates about whether only individuals should be blamed for gun violence, or if the gun industry and the government should be blamed instead. It appears to me that the answer to the issue lies more in value judgments and advocacy than in scientific evidence. In other words, epidemiological evidence has not been the absolute foundation upon which changes have been implemented. When I write that, I remember a mentor who once said, “science pursues truth whereas practice pursues values.”
When I learned about this year’s Millennial Trains Project (MTP), I felt it would be a unique opportunity for me to gain some trans-regional perspectives on gun violence prevention. My MTP project objective is to challenge Millennials to engage in gun violence prevention advocacy–and any other “changes” that go towards the “shared values” held by a community. I do not want to speculate about the extent to which evidence-based practice has become “hypothetical.”
View from the “Unity” Millennial Train on the way into Denver, Colorado (photo courtesy of Laura Jimenez Morales)
When I first heard about the Millennial Trains Project (MTP), I knew right away that I wanted to apply, but did not have a specific project in mind. One of the MTP requirements was to develop a project that linked five different cities (in my case, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Milwaukee and Detroit) together. Because I am doing my PhD in Mass Communications and Media Studies on my Fulbright grant, and my research focuses on Spanish speaking media in the United States, I wanted to find a way to bring these two things together. I figured that all of the cities on the second MTP journey, Unity, had a significant Hispanic population, so I decided to work with that. Having recently become interested in the subject of millennials and their declining interest in broadcast television in Mexico, I realized that this was an issue which could be looked at from a different perspective and applied to the current situation in the United States. In order to be able to better analyze this issue, I proposed to do a series of surveys of Hispanic millennials. In these surveys, I asked questions about their television viewing habits and preferences. I wanted to see if Hispanic millennials in the United States were interested in watching television in Spanish, and what the reasons behind that may be.
Desiree Barao Garcia, 2015-2017, Germany (right), on the “Change” leg of the 2016 Millennial Train Project journey
I want you to think about this statement: “Amazon is just a start-up, they have a long way to go.”
Do you agree with it? Well, I don’t. Yet this is exactly Amazon’s understanding of themselves. They state that their revenue currently only accounts for 1% of the world’s retail volume, i.e., they have big goals of taking over the world and are just beginning to do so. And, they are not the only ones. For years now, big companies and larger businesses have been taking over entire industries causing a power imbalance that eventually benefits very few shareholders while, in my opinion, disadvantaging employees and customers, often harming families, and communities as a whole.
From a customer perspective, larger companies eventually gaining the power of monopolies or duopolies will raise prices beyond what may be affordable for the average person. Enabled to set prices, they will choose profit maximizing prices rather than watching out for customers who may not have sufficient financial ability to pay. And while this situation currently applies mostly to luxury goods, knowing that the greater part of the retail industry is being taken over by large companies, I fear that this will – in the future – also be the case for basic suppliers.