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U.S. Fulbright

Navigating Your Identity Abroad

April 23, 2021

What does it mean to be an American abroad? Five Fulbright 75th Anniversary Legacy Alumni Ambassadors reflect and analyze how their personal identities affected their Fulbright experience.

Strengthening My American Identity

David N. Bernstein, MD, MBA, MEI
2013 Fulbright U.S. Student to Luxembourg

David N. Bernstein (right) is a Clinical Fellow in Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School. While on his Fulbright in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, David earned a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation from the University of Luxembourg. As part of his degree program, David interned at Silicon Luxembourg, a rapidly growing media and event planning startup designed to highlight the blossoming entrepreneurial spirit within the country.

“Everyone, the American is here!”

I had only been in Luxembourg for a few weeks in fall 2013, but I had already become a regular at Pitcher, a favorite local bar throughout the Grand Duchy. With a pint of Bofferding in hand, I would discuss my experience living in Europe, as well as what it was like to live in the United States, with a few of my closest Luxembourgish friends.

From business to education, and everything in between, my friends and I covered a lot of ground in our conversations. However, I began to realize an error in my approach. As a Fulbrighter, I had committed to representing the United States as a cultural ambassador. Thus, while my opinion was important, I had an obligation to share differing positions and viewpoints held by other Americans to share a complete picture of the United States.

As I reflect on my time in Luxembourg nearly a decade later, I realize that sharing and discussing varying perspectives on life and policy in the United States strengthened my identity as an American. Indeed, the power of the United States is in its rich diversity of people and ideas, as well as its endless opportunities. This idea was solidified sitting on a barstool with a beer in hand, surrounded by my Luxembourgish friends. While I consider myself a citizen of the world, I am forever proud to be an American.

 

Expanding the American Identity

Kristine Lin
2013 Fulbright U.S. Student English Teaching Assistant to South Korea

On her Fulbright, Kristine Lin (left) taught English to elementary students at Jeungan Elementary School in Cheongju, South Korea. During winter break, she used a Fulbright Korea Alumni Foundation Community Grant to support and lead an English camp, which focused on improving student understanding of American culture and traditions through hands-on activities.

Before my Fulbright, I was excited to immerse myself in Korean culture and experience as much as possible. I did not anticipate, however, having to explain my own identity while living abroad. Growing up in the United States, I was used to identifying myself as Chinese; when I arrived in South Korea, that changed.

Living outside of major cities with large foreign communities, I found myself explaining my American identity in response to quizzical looks from local Koreans. I was sometimes the first American they encountered, and I didn’t look like the blonde hair, blue-eyed person they expected.

Using my limited Korean language skills, I explained I was Chinese American, as my parents were born in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and I was born and raised in the United States. I soon took pride in being different than the “typical” American that many expected to see and turned it into a learning opportunity.

It became my mission to teach my elementary school students about the racial and cultural diversity in the United States, and I even recruited another Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to co-teach a winter camp on American culture. Using my racial identity to help teach students was never something that had occurred to me before. However, I found it to be not only an eye-opening experience for my students, but also an empowering experience for myself.

 

Davíd with El Chimboraso in the background, the largest volcano in Ecuador and the closest point to the moon on Earth.

Davíd en route to Quilotoa, a water-filled crater lake and the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Davíd posing next to his año viejo, an effigy made in his image as a loving joke by his friends, that was burned in the traditional Guayaquil New Year Festivals of 2014.

“Hey, We Are Here, Too”

Davíd Morales
2013 Fulbright U.S. Student ETA to Ecuador

Davíd Morales is a scholar, educator, and community activist interested in education as a tool for social change. He is currently a doctoral student and researcher in the Race, Inequality, and Language in Education program at Stanford University. He has taught language, culture, and critical thinking in public schools in San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco, and in Ecuador as a Fulbright U.S. Student ETA.

The first time I was called a fake American, a half-gringo, I laughed. It was a joke. It was fine. Actually, it was better than fine because I never really considered myself an American anyways, let alone a gringo.

We could get into the complexity of what they, I, we, the world, mean by “American” (as I write to you from one of the two continents baptized “America”s by European colonizers), but it is enough to mention that there is no doubt that the United States has monopolized this identifier.

As for gringo–let’s just say that when I was growing up in the Latinx community of Barrio Logan in San Diego, California, gringos were the white people who lived by the beach with the double garages and the 9-speed road bikes. So, you can imagine my laugh, my “if only they knew” smirk, when my students in Guayaquil—where I was doing my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship—would call me a “fake American,” a “half gringo.”

I was born in the United States to migrant parents from Mexico in search of the elusive “American Dream.” I have navigated this country as a brown boy and a brown man; my Indigenous ancestors account for the pigmentation of my skin that I was ashamed of, along with my language, and culture. I wanted to be white, with everything that being white entails.

After I finally got to learn about my people’s history and culture in high school—the struggles they faced and movements they led, their brilliance and resiliency—I became empowered and sought to reclaim and embrace my identity– a counter-identity to the essentializing “American” identifier.

But after a couple of months, a couple more jokes, and a couple more skeptical comments about whether I could teach English because I am not really an American, it suddenly dawned on me. It happened when I was asked to teach a lesson on Thanksgiving. It’s not just about turkey, mashed potatoes, and laughter around the dinner table every fourth Thursday of November. It is also about broken treaties, pain, remembering, and mourning of one’s ancestors and land. It is not just about a standardized and monolingual version of English, it is also about a fluid, dynamic, and ever-evolving way of using English, inspired by many other languages and ways of understanding the world.

It dawned on me I am, and have been part of, this American experience. So have my parents, so have my friends, so has my community, and so have many others who do not fit the typical American image that is exported throughout the world.

It became important for me to stand in front of my classes and proclaim: “Hey, we are here, too,” and these have been our erased experiences. It became important for me to remain a bit longer with Fulbright—now as an Alumni Ambassador—and to encourage others like me to do the same.

 

Addressing Immigration Through Personal Experience

Cristobal “Cris” Ramón
2008 Fulbright U.S. Student to Spain

Cris Ramón (back right) is a senior policy analyst with Bipartisan Center’s Immigration Project. On his Fulbright, Cris Ramón studied the legal rights of immigrants, specifically analyzing the legal impact of seven sentences issued by the Spanish Constitutional Court against the Ley Orgánica 8/2000, a reform of Spain’s main immigration law.

As the son of Salvadoran immigrants and student of Spanish immigration policy, I saw that Spain, and many European countries, struggled with welcoming and integrating immigrants, and that immigrants in Spain and Europe also dealt with xenophobia and racism.

While on my Fulbright in Spain, my family’s experience in the United States allowed me to speak to different audiences about the benefits of immigration and effective immigration policy. I helped people in Spain understand the complexities of the immigrant experience and the importance of societal integration through welcoming communities. I also spoke with policymakers about the importance of humane migration, using my mom’s story of receiving legal status through the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act to note that pragmatic, humane policies can produce better outcomes.

Although I will never know if my conversations changed any minds or policy outcomes, it allowed me to move forward with my career as an immigration policy analyst who produces better policies for addressing the challenges and opportunities that immigration presents to the United States and Europe.

 

Strengthening My Identity in A Foreign Context

Vince Redhouse
2015 Fulbright U.S. Student to Australia

Vince Redhouse (left, with the U.S. Ambassador to Australia), the 2015 Anne Wexler Fulbright Scholarship in Public Policy recipient, studied at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where he completed an MPhil in Philosophy under the supervision of Robert E. Goodin. Vince’s thesis focused on the topic of political reconciliation between settler states and their indigenous citizens.

I am a member of the Navajo Nation. Throughout my Fulbright in Australia, I was challenged again and again as to what that meant and why that should matter.

Most of the time, these challenges made sense. My Fulbright research concluded that Indigenous peoples ought to be able to secede and that their respective colonial states should support their choice.

Sometimes, though, the challenges were less academic. Those challenges often came in the form of slurs and insults hurled on the streets or while riding public transport, or from people who simply felt like they deserved an explanation to satisfy their curiosity.

I ignored those particular challenges. Explaining one’s ethnicity and background is not a position that minority peoples like to be placed in. Sometimes, though, it’s good to place ourselves in that position so that we can truly educate others. In doing so, we might just discover new things about ourselves.

Throughout my Fulbright, I subjected my identity to the rigors of foreign worlds and foreign ideas, and, in the end, my identity is stronger for it.

Foreign Fulbright U.S. Fulbright

Fulbright Impact in the Field: Global Health & COVID-19 Reunion Panel – Lessons Learned and Key Takeaways

February 8, 2021

“We know that infections: they don’t have borders, they don’t have governments. They don’t care about presidents, they don’t care about our political system. We have to do this together.”
-Igor Stoma, MD, PhD; 2017 Fulbright Visiting Scholar from Belarus to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Overview

Since the emergence of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), Fulbright participants and alumni have been working tirelessly to uplift, innovate, and find solutions to challenges facing our communities and world.

The Fulbright Impact in the Field panel series, which is open to the public, provides a digital space for Fulbright alumni experts to share their insights, expertise, and Fulbright’s impact on local and global communities. The Fulbright 75th Anniversary Special “Fulbright Impact in the Field” Reunion Panel on Global Heath & COVID-19 on January 29, 2021 reunited our original panelists from the May 2020 event for a follow-up discussion.

 

Meet the Panelists

Participating Fulbright alumni, who are physicians and scientists, shared updates about their experiences combatting the pandemic over the past year. They discussed changes in coronavirus treatment, lessons learned about the virus, the current state of vaccine production and distribution, and more.

Moderator

Imre Varju, MD, PhD, MPH, CHES (2016 Fulbright Visiting Scholar from Hungary to Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School) – Dr. Varju is a medical scientist and health communications specialist who is interested in sharing how to accurately communicate risk and public health developments.

Panelists

Serena Dasani, MD, MBA (2013 Fulbright ETA to Indonesia) – Dr. Dasani is an anesthesia resident physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and has conducted research quantifying the financial impact that COVID-19 had on U.S. hospitals.
Javier Jaimes, DVM, MS, MBA, PhD (2014 Foreign Fulbright Student from Colombia to Cornell University) – Dr. Jaimes is a virologist working in research and education. He is currently studying the pathogenesis of the SARS-Co V-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 emergency.
Igor Stoma, MD, PhD (2017 Fulbright Visiting Scholar from Belarus to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) – Dr. Stoma is Chancellor and Professor of Infectious Diseases at Gomel State Medical University in Belarus who consults on the treatment of the most complex cases of COVID-19.
Charlotte Summers, PhD, MRCP, FFICM (2013 Fulbright Visiting Scholar from the United Kingdom to University of California, San Francisco) – Dr. Summers is an academic critical care physician at Cambridge with a passion for translating basic science into therapies for critically ill patients.
Benjamin tenOever, PhD (2014 U.S. Scholar to Institut Pasteur and Ecole Normale Superieure in France) – Dr. tenOever is Director of the Virus Engineering Center for Therapeutics and Research (VECToR) at Mount Sinai and is involved in an international consortium to develop vaccines and antivirals against Novel Coronavirus (SARS-Co V-2).

 

Key Takeaways

During the discussion, panelists reaffirmed the importance of:

  1.  Public health planning and management for faster response to emergencies, including pandemics
  2.  Accurate and timely health communication to combat misinformation
  3.  Solving complex problems via international collaboration and engagement

 

After an unprecedented period of research, vaccine testing, and new solutions to public health challenges, the panelists look forward to increased focus on:

  1.  Encouraging empathy among the general population
  2.  Promoting basic scientific literacy
  3.  Improving healthcare equity and access around the world

 

To watch the panelists dive into these relevant discussions, click here.

To learn about upcoming Fulbright Impact in the Field panels and other Fulbright 75th anniversary events, sign up for the newsletter.

FLTA Foreign Fulbright Fulbright-National Geographic Reach the World U.S. Fulbright

2020 Fulbright Year in Review

December 21, 2020
From the COVID-19 pandemic, to a watershed movement in racial and social justice, 2020 has brought more change than many could have imagined.
As we look forward to a new year, the Fulbright Program is proud to share some of the ways Fulbrighters demonstrated leadership and innovation in the United States and around the world in our 2020 Fulbright Year in Review.

U.S. Fulbright

Connecting Indigenous Communities: Native American Heritage Month Q&A

November 18, 2020

This Native American Heritage Month, we’re highlighting the contributions of outstanding Fulbrighters who live the Fulbright mission through the ways in which they express their identities and their goals. In this Q&A, Fulbright Student Alumni Ambassador Vince Redhouse shares his experiences in Australia, where he learned about the relationship between Indigenous communities and the law.

Vince Redhouse, 2015 Fulbright U.S. Student in Philosophy to Australia

Vince Redhouse, the 2015 Anne Wexler Fulbright Scholarship in Public Policy recipient, studied at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where he completed an MPhil in Philosophy under the supervision of Robert E. Goodin. Vince’s thesis focused on the topic of political reconciliation between settler states and their indigenous citizens. In addition to his master’s program, Vince tutored for a course on Indigenous Culture through ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, was a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Canberra’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance, gave a TEDx presentation, and through support from both the ANU and the Lois Roth Endowment, visited Utopia, an indigenous community in the Northern Territory, where he was able to learn firsthand some of the issues Indigenous Australians face.

 

1. Tell us a little about your path to Fulbright. Who or what inspired you to apply?

Vince: My path was different than most. I am a first-generation college student and prior to my junior year of college, I had never heard of Fulbright! I was fortunate that one of my advisers recommended the program to me. There were two things that inspired me to apply: 1. An interest in the relationship between foreign Indigenous people and their settler colonial government; and 2. The opportunity to see if academia was right for me.

 

2. Tell us a little about your Fulbright research topic and project. What did a typical day as a Fulbrighter look like for you?

Vince: My Fulbright was for a two-year research degree: a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Philosophy at the Australian National University. My initial proposal was to examine and apply contemporary deliberative practices to see whether they could be used to dispel the false beliefs that societies hold about Indigenous peoples. What my proposal ended up being, however, was a normative evaluation of how political reconciliation could occur between Indigenous peoples and their settler colonial states. Ultimately, I argued that for political reconciliation to end legitimating settler colonial states, Indigenous citizens must be able to exit the process and reclaim their lands, should reconciliation fail or prove undesirable.

My research process was fairly routine: I commuted to my office(s) and did research at my computer most of the day. My university has an incredible tradition of taking tea twice a day, and I took advantage of that. It was a great opportunity for me to get feedback from professors and other students of all philosophical backgrounds in a friendly and casual environment. I also gave several research presentations, including a talk at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra and a TEDx talk, and was a pro bono tutor (i.e. graduate assistant) for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture course taught by ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research. I was also a visiting research fellow at the University of Canberra Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance. From time to time, I was also able to meet and discuss issues with indigenous leaders and activists throughout the country—even spending a couple weeks in a remote indigenous reserve—as well as with members of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Indigenous Affairs team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caption: Vince at TEDxFulbrightCanberra, and with former U.S. Ambassador to Australia John Berry.

 

3. How did your identity play a role in your Fulbright experience?

Vince: My identity as a Navajo was absolutely crucial to my Fulbright experience. A lot of the experiences I described above were available to me solely because I was an Indigenous person from the United States. The Indigenous peoples of Australia were just as eager to learn from me as I was from them! For example, I was invited to tutor a course in Aboriginal history and culture in order to share my experiences as an Indigenous person from the United States. Similarly, I was invited to spend time on a remote Aboriginal reserve, where I saw firsthand the impact of Australia’s Indigenous education policies. I was able to share my own experiences about U.S. educational approaches on Indian reservations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caption: Vince having dinner and hanging out with his philosophy friends.

 

4. What is your biggest takeaway from your Fulbright?

Vince: That indigenous communities across the world should be working together. We share so many historical similarities and are working to fight so many of the same battles every day. I truly believe that if we work together and learn from each other that we can do more than just persevere, we can thrive!

 

Caption: Vince (center back) sharing a meal with co-workers from the University of Canberra’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance.

 

5. What impact did your research or studies make in your career and local communities?

Vince: My Fulbright experience has had a tremendous impact on my life. It spurred me to go to law school and focus on Federal Indian law, but it also encouraged me to redouble my volunteer efforts working with Native American youth in the southwest United States. Currently, I run a professional alumni mentoring and scholarship program for Native students at the University of Arizona. Since taking over the program, I’ve been able to recruit a larger alumni community to mentor Native students and raise more scholarship funds for our students. My volunteer work collaborates with administrators to create mutually beneficial policy, and my experiences in Australia gave me the confidence to navigate and advocate in that arena.

 

6. How can native/indigenous students be supported and included in international education?

Vince: Fulbright should be more persistent about reaching out to Tribes, Tribal colleges, and international Indigenous communities about Fulbright opportunities. These connections are important not just for promoting Fulbright, but also for helping Indigenous students once they are abroad. Although Fulbright played a role in helping me make connections with Indigenous peoples in Australia, those connections were always indirect (e.g., a Fulbright alumnus introducing me to someone). Given Fulbright’s expansive alumni network and name recognition, I would like to see it strive to make those connections more directly.

U.S. Fulbright

Making the Grade: Five Things Every Applicant Should Know About the Fulbright U.S. Student Program Review Process

October 15, 2020

By Fulbright Program Staff

Congratulations on submitting your Fulbright application! Now what? Have you ever wondered what happens to your Fulbright application after you hit “submit”? In this post, we’ll shed light on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program’s technical review and National Screening Committee (NSC) processes, illustrating how an applicant becomes a Fulbrighter.

 

1.  First things first… Technical Review

After you hit “submit,” Fulbright Program staff first conducts a technical review of your application materials. Therefore, it pays to thoroughly review country descriptions and eligibility criteria at the beginning of your application journey to ensure that you meet all requirements. Check out our handy application checklist to make sure you don’t forget to include any application materials, too.

During our technical review, we double-check your biographical data, citizenship, transcripts, letters of recommendation, project plans, and more for eligibility and completeness. Make sure that ALL required materials are successfully uploaded and viewable in your online application portal—you won’t be able to add missing documents later! (Hint: Be sure to view and save a PDF copy of your application before submitting—you’ll have both a copy of your application for your records and be able to confirm that all documents are successfully submitted and readable!)

After confirming an application is eligible and complete, it is moved to the National Screening Committee (NSC) for review.

 

2. The NSC: The Reviewers (and What They Are Looking For)

During “NSC Season,” almost 200 committees meet to review and discuss all successfully submitted applications. Each application is sent to a committee of three reviewers a.k.a. NSC members, for a transparent, merit-based review process.

Who exactly are these reviewers? The individuals that review your application are typically university professors with expertise in either a) your academic/professional field, or b) the country or world region where you propose undertaking your Fulbright. Many are Fulbright alumni, while others have been recommended by Fulbright Program Advisers or other NSC members. Reviewers reflect the diversity of the U.S. higher education community and include panelists from minority-serving institutions (MSIs), Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), and other underrepresented institutions.

Each committee reviews approximately 60-70 applications in advance of a meeting, scoring each submission based on specific review criteria. While all programs and applicants are unique, NSC reviewers look for well-researched, feasible research and community engagement projects, adequate academic and personal preparation for the proposed country or award, and personal attributes and qualities that illustrate a positive and passionate cultural ambassador of the United States to the world. Be authentically you!

 

 

 

 

3. NSC Review Day

Throughout November and December, NSC reviewers gather for review meetings. Committees consist of three reviewers and one staff facilitator who directs the flow of the meeting, answers reviewers’ questions about the Fulbright Program, and records results. At these meetings, reviewers discuss each application using a collaborative approach and are welcome to adjust their scores based on their conversation. At the end of the meeting, final scores are tabulated by the staff facilitator, determining which candidates the committee recommends for further consideration during the host country review process.

 

4. Time & Consideration: The Breakdown

As you may have gathered, the NSC process is a massive undertaking! In 2019, 525 NSC members reviewed approximately 10,400 applications at 175 committee meetings in 6 different cities. From start to finish, more than 11,000 hours are spent screening, reviewing, and scoring each application. And that’s before the in-country review process!

 

 

5. The Decision

Based upon the NSC process, applications are designated as “Recommended” or “Non-Recommended.” All applicants are notified of their application’s status, and recommended applicants become “Semi-Finalists!” Recommended applications are forwarded to their respective Fulbright host countries for an additional round of selection, taking into account Fulbright Commission and U.S. Embassy priorities. During this period, Semi-Finalists undertaking research or graduate degree programs may be asked to submit letters of acceptance or affiliation from their proposed institution, so it’s important to receive all necessary documents as soon as possible. In some cases, host countries may also choose to contact Semi-Finalists for short phone or video chat interviews, in order to get a better sense of the person behind the application.

After months of concentrated effort by both applicants and Fulbright Program staff, host countries will share final application notifications on a rolling basis between February and May. Successful applicants are sent an award offer, and are officially known as “Finalists.” Qualified applicants not selected as Finalists may become “Alternates,” or potential awardees that may receive an award offer, should additional funding become available. Non-selected applicants are encouraged to celebrate their Semi-Finalist status, and reapply for the next award cycle. Even those who are not selected should feel extremely proud of their efforts, and know that many parts of the application can be applied to future endeavors beyond Fulbright, such as applying to graduate school.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program application process is undoubtedly long. We hope this article provides some clarity into the process, and helps you create the best application you can. In writing, editing, and discussing your candidacy with friends, mentors, Fulbright Program Advisers, and other individuals, you may gain greater insight into your passions, your reasons for pursuing a Fulbright, other transferable skills you possess, and insight into our world. Our best wishes for a successful application and bright future!