Fulbright Student Program Blog

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World Refugee Day 2016: Revisiting Sharief El-Gabri’s Story and Community Engagement

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Sharief El-Gabri, 2010-2011, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Jordan, with Ahmed, one of the refugee high school students who helped run the sports facility in the Gaza Refugee Camp

In honor of World Refugee Day, we are re-posting Fulbright Alumni Ambassador and alumnus Sharief El-Gabri’s article describing his Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship responsibilities in Jordan as well as his involvement with the Gaza Refugee Camp. 

Are you a current Fulbrighter who has worked with or is currently working with refugees? Want to share your story? We’d love to hear from you! Contact us here.

If you are thinking about applying for a Fulbright grant, you need to consider how you plan to interact with your host community. After all, Fulbright’s core tenet is cultural exchange. Of course, show off your impressive research proposal or your comprehensive English teaching playbook, but your time as a Fulbrighter will likely be memorialized by serendipitous interactions with your community. Embrace those opportunities because you are prepared and have considered how you would like to carve out your Fulbright experience.

Looking back on my Fulbright experience in Amman, Jordan in 2010-2011, I really cherish my time outside of my primary English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) responsibilities. I had sufficient free time to engage in a substantive community engagement project. Outside of my ETA obligations and studying Arabic, I helped build a sports facility in the Gaza Refugee Camp.

Culture and Contrast in Fortaleza

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Missy Reif, 2013-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Brazil (center), performing with members of Oré Anacã

During my time as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Fortaleza, Brazil, it was apparent that my students at the Federal University of Ceará (UFC) had widespread access to American culture. They watched American TV shows and movies, listened to American music. Yet, despite living in the fifth largest city in the country, most of my students had never met an American before I arrived on campus. While this idea made me a little nervous at first, it was an amazing opportunity to show my students that life in the United States is more than American Pie.

ETAs in Brazil fill a number of roles on their university campuses. At UFC, my time was split between giving guest lectures and running my own extracurricular activities on campus. In two years, I led many conversation clubs where we played games and practiced English without the pressure of grades or assignments, and organized weekly cultural seminars on topics including religious and cultural diversity, sports, and American holidays and traditions. All of these activities provided students with opportunities to improve their English, and their confidence, in a fun and laid-back setting. While our activities sometimes focused on aspects of the language—workshops on slang and phrasal verbs were always a hit—I found that the students were most interested in in-depth discussions focusing on distinctions between the United States and Brazil.

Williamson: Vignettes from a Coal Town

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Nidhi Sen is Fulbright Student from India pursuing a joint degree master’s program in gender and sustainable international development at Brandeis University.

Driving around the central part of the Appalachian region in early spring, one is struck by the jagged, rocky hills and the bare-leaved trees. All along the winding roads, I saw old and rusting conveyor belts and mining equipment lying abandoned by the wayside. It was a stark reminder of what used to be considered the heart of a billion dollar coal industry and what sustained an entire culture and way of life for generations. It made me aware of how the burden of history looms large over this landscape and its people—one that even visitors like myself cannot escape from.

Arriving in Williamson a few days ago, I was initially struck by the absence of people on the streets and the lack of human activity. It was strangely new to me, and I fell into the immediate trap of comparing it to small towns in India and with familiar images of urban decay. But a few hours into my stay here and after interacting with the dynamic team of Sustainable Williamson, I realised that underneath its “sleepy” mask was a group of passionate and dedicated individuals who are trying to revive the local economy and revitalize the lives of the local community.

Have Questions About What It’s Like to be a Fulbright U.S. Student? Ask a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador.

Are you interested in applying for a Fulbright U.S. Student grant and have questions about what it’s like to be a Fulbrighter in a particular country or field? Are you a Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) who would like a Fulbright alum to present on campus and share information about what’s involved in applying to Fulbright and what the experience is like in-country? Reach out to a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador!

The 2016 cohort of Fulbright Alumni Ambassador bios are now available on our website along with each ambassador’s contact information. We encourage prospective applicants and FPAs to contact Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors for tips, testimonial and advice – all throughout the academic year.

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The Fulbright’s Quintessential Role in Furthering One’s Passion

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Annie Chor, 2012-2013, Spain, shaking His Majesty the King’s hand post-address

On October 24, 2014, King Felipe VI of Spain will honor the Fulbright Program with the 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in recognition of the Program’s educational and cultural exchange that has strengthened links and mutual understanding between the world’s citizens. The King, who is the former Prince of Asturias, will present the award at a grand ceremony in Oviedo, Principality of Asturias, in north-west Spain. 

 

In the following article, Fulbright alumna Annie Chor shares her story of meeting and addressing His Majesty the King of Spain about her Fulbright experiences on September 22, 2014.

UPDATE: Tune in today, Friday, October 24 at 12:30 p.m. EDT to watch King Felipe VI of Spain honor the Fulbright Program with the 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in recognition of how the Program has strengthened links and mutual understanding between the world’s citizens. More info and links to the livestream here: http://go.usa.gov/fsMV

Standing at the podium, preparing to address King Felipe of Spain, U.S. Department of State officials, IIE representatives, and fellow Fulbright students, I take a moment to pause and reflect on my journey thus far.

Post undergraduate studies, I worked in the financial sector in capital markets for several years. As I furthered my professional development, I continually felt an urgency to seek efficient solutions to meaningful change. I began to realize my passion was in finding innovative solutions that merged business and improved societies around the world. At this time, a Fulbright award helped me take that important leap to change and gave me the confidence and support to work towards my passion.