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U.S. Fulbright

U.S. Fulbright

Creating Home Abroad and Breaking the Tourist Barrier

July 17, 2020

By Sarah McLewin, 2018 Fulbright ETA to Morocco

 

 

After accepting a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Morocco, I began to imagine exploring all Morocco has to offer—mountains, desert, beaches, and cities, each with a unique history and culture.

But once I arrived in my host city, Rabat, I found myself feeling hesitant to spend my weekends traveling. Instead, during my first few months there, I focused on creating a home in my neighborhood.

 

 

Creating My Rabat Home

As I settled in, I learned how to manage my teaching responsibilities and work towards my language goals. But there was also a long list of other things to figure out: Where would I copy materials for class? Or pick up a taxi? Make friends? Get a haircut?

 

 

Figuring out all of these things was a trial-and-error process. Eventually, I developed rhythms that were comforting and familiar. I got to know the vendors at the vegetable market by my house so that when I walked through the neighborhood, I felt like a member of the community. I found a perfect café where I could grade papers and practice Arabic with the waitstaff. I became a regular at a hair salon where I had interesting conversations about gender roles in Moroccan society. These daily rituals took me beyond tourist experiences and towards creating a community abroad.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy touring Morocco; I will always cherish the memories of drinking fresh orange juice while sitting in the cascades of a waterfall in Akchour, or walking through filming locations for Game of Thrones in Essaouira. However, I especially cherish Rabat because it was my Moroccan home.

 

How to Create Home Abroad

Creating home abroad can show you that new places do not have to feel foreign. The home you create in your new host country lays the foundation for a unique and authentic experience. Wherever Fulbright might take you, here are some practical tips on making it “home.”

  1. Talk to people – Whether with store clerks, neighbors, or fellow commuters, look for opportunities to create connections with people you pass regularly. The more connections you make, the more you will start to feel a sense that you belong.
  2. Build local roots – There’s something special about your first few weeks in your city. Delay regional trips so that you set up a strong routine in your new stomping grounds.
  3. Try familiar things in a new context – Participate in familiar activities far from home. As an avid salsa dancer in the U.S., I was pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant Latin dance community in Rabat. By joining a salsa studio, I made friends from Morocco, Spain, and France, making my Fulbright a truly global experience.
  4. Try new things – Use your Fulbright as an opportunity to embrace a new hobby, new ways of cooking, and new types of friends. While in Morocco, I found a small gym in my neighborhood that offered Tae Bo for women. I had never tried Tae Bo, but it became a great way for me to meet other women and get to know neighbors.
  5. Become a regular – Whether it’s a café, restaurant, salon, or market, find a place where you enjoy spending time and can visit regularly. By frequenting the same places, you’re more likely to meet people and establish lasting friendships.

 

 

Creating home abroad is a unique process for each person. Whatever it looks like for you, embracing your host country and the home you create will create memories more precious than any tourist excursion can offer.

Fulbright-National Geographic U.S. Fulbright

Exploring the Extraordinary in Your Ordinary

May 29, 2020

By Emi Koch, Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow to Vietnam, 2019-2020

My dad almost spit out his morning coffee. Puzzled, he cleared his throat.

“Em, are you… sure?”

It was June of last year and I was only thinking to apply for a Fulbright.

“It’s just a thought! I’m just looking into it.”

My words rushed together, the way they do when I get overly excited — which happens a lot. I have ADHD.

He cautiously took a second sip of coffee.

“I mean — isn’t a Fulbright really competitive? Like for people who… you know?“

I knew who he meant. The smart people. Valedictorians. Meredith, who took AP Physics in high school.

Acknowledging his question, I glanced back at my laptop with the “Getting Started” page on the Fulbright Student Program website staring brightly back at me. The thought that the U.S. State Department would pay me — me! — to travel to a foreign country and devote nine months of my life to collaborating with local residents with a shared curiosity for actionable, positive change seemed beyond my wildest dreams. But the only thing that seemed more impossible than me winning a Fulbright, was me not applying.

I knew my dad’s apprehension was well-informed by my past struggles and letdowns involving my grades, where I had to prove to others that I was capable and yes, even smart…just not in the conventional way.

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Dyslexia (a learning disability in reading), Dyscalculia (a learning disability in math), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) that comes with a mean stutter  when public speaking. I was a sophomore in college, and up until that point in my life, I had simply believed that I was slow.

The first time I noticed it, I was five. While I was surrounded by my classmates stretching their hands high up in the air and shouting, “Me! ME!” so that the teacher might call on them first to reveal the coveted, correct answer to the subtraction problem, my hands were clenched tightly around the desk as if we were all about to blast off into the deep, dark unknown forever. I had no idea what was going on… only that so much was going on. Contrary to popular belief, people with ADHD don’t have trouble concentrating. We simply concentrate on everything all at once. The math problem, the other students, the staple shining on the floor and that weird pencil mark on the desk that looks like an acorn are all equally begging for our attention.

In school, this restlessness and attention to peripheral details presented a huge challenge that often resulted in poor grades, dismal SAT scores, and low self-esteem. Surfing was my escape. Sliding down the face of a wave, I knew exactly where I was — physically, mentally, and yes, even spiritually. Unlike the classroom, the ocean was this dynamic force that required my absolute, divided attention — to everything all at once. For the first time, my disabilities were capabilities; misfits that found themselves useful. Mystifying still, the ocean was what ultimately ushered me back into the classroom. I’m a social-ecologist, meaning I study the relationships people have with our built and natural environment. My focus is on the world’s millions of miles of coastlines and the many isolated, marginalized fishing communities that depend on ever-depleting marine resources. I’ve come to realize that my disabilities are like superpowers — if harnessed properly, they enable me to explore nuances — whether of a physical space, a word in a foreign language, or a feedback loop in a marine social-ecological system. These overlooked subtleties are where the problems hide… those details researchers seek in order to solve problems. In that ability to spot those details lies the ability to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Almost one year after being awarded a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship to Vietnam, I’m still pinching myself that it really happened. My dad spit out his coffee for a second time when I told him the remarkable news.

Before I arrived, people described Vietnam to me as overwhelming. If by that they meant overwhelmingly beautiful, industrialized, and karaoke-curious, I understand. During my time there, I immersed myself in a small-scale fishing community with a rapidly-developing tourism scene and rising sea level just north of Ho Chi Minh City. I lived in the back of a water sports center called MANTA. MANTA trains fishermen to become certified sailing instructors so that they can teach tourists how to sail, and how to use the power of wind energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. MANTA also provides fishermen with an alternative source of income, though this doesn’t mean that the fishermen stop fishing – that’s in their blood.

Since I lived inside a water sports center, I was fortunate to have stand-up paddle boards at my disposal. They were my go-to mode of transportation and earned me credibility among the fishermen for maneuvering my own water craft. I paddled out to sea and met them at their boats for interviews. Sometimes, they invited me on board for breakfast, and we would help ourselves to buckets of freshly-caught soft shell blue crabs, cracking open the not-so-soft shells with our teeth and slurping up the honeyed insides.

In my research, I listened to fishermen’s stories and explored the social and ecological impacts of low fish availability on the human security of ocean-dependent villages along the East Sea. Back on land, my colleagues included several children, ages four to sixteen — the sons and daughters of local fishing families. These kids accompanied me with waterproof cameras to document their lives. Despite the innumerable dissimilarities between my childhood and their own, I can’t help but identify with some aspects. These kids are smart. They are resourceful. I think they’re incredible. But many of them have been told they are not something enough to be successful, or they are too something to have real authority.

I wanted to wash all that social conditioning from their minds and tell them they are powerful. You, kid, are the superhero of your own life story. Our disadvantages, disabilities, discriminations, and disappointments do not define us, because we have the human right to make up our own definitions.

My research team and I explored the extraordinary in the ordinary. They helped me capture nuances in their images that are often unaccounted for in academic papers and news stories. As one fisherman said, the projects we did together were an opportunity for everyone to “big themselves up”… and that’s what Fulbright has meant for me.

U.S. Fulbright

How to Build a Fulbright Top-Producing Institution: University of Houston

May 22, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What makes a “Fulbright Top-Producing Institution“? In the coming weeks, a variety of institutions will discuss their efforts to recruit, mentor, and encourage students and scholars to apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student and U.S. Scholar Programs. We hope these conversations pull back the curtain on the advising process, and provide potential applicants and university staff with the tools they need to start their Fulbright journey. 

By Ben Rayder, Director of National Fellowships and Major Awards at University of Houston

Question: Your outstanding students are one of many factors that led to this achievement. What makes your students such exceptional candidates for Fulbright grants?

The students at the University of Houston (UH) are hardworking and reflect Houston’s incredible diversity. They bring real-life experience to their applications, whether they are working part-time to pay their tuition or are the first in their family to attend college. They also represent the many ways in which one can be an American. The University of Houston is the 5th most diverse school in the country, so our applicants are invariably some of the best representatives of the United States. I am constantly motivated to support these candidates and I believe that they inspire others with their stories.

 

What steps have you taken to promote a Fulbright culture on your campus?

Each year we kick off the new application cycle with a Fulbright Day and invite the IIE office in Houston to participate. This gives future candidates an initial opportunity to learn more about the program and pose application-related questions to a panel of Fulbright finalists who have not yet departed on their grants. I prefer that our candidates receive a student perspective in addition to everything that I have to share. I also send targeted emails to communications directors, faculty, department chairs, and others to spread the word about the Program. At a school of 46,000 students, building relationships with faculty and staff is important in order to reach as many students as possible.

 

How has your institution benefited from increased engagement with the Fulbright Program (reaching campus internationalization goals, international expose for your campus, etc.)?

One of the ways that UH has benefited the most from increased engagement with Fulbright is through faculty participation in National Selection Committees (NSC). After serving on NSCs, our faculty have a much better sense of the selection criteria and what makes for a strong candidate. Although these factors obviously vary by country, their experiences have helped immensely in informing the advising process and in conducting campus committee interviews. I encourage all FPAs to promote this opportunity to faculty, serve themselves, or observe an NSC.

 

Your advisory team of faculty and staff (FPA, Liaison, etc.) provided exceptional guidance throughout the rigorous Fulbright application process. What does this process look like on your campus, and what are some of the most important pieces of advice you give your Fulbright applicants?

At UH, I collaborate with a faculty liaison in the Honors College, Richard Armstrong, to organize campus committee interviews and advise students. His connections with faculty make it possible to populate committees with relevant and committed faculty from across campus. In the weeks leading up to the national deadline, we ask selected faculty who participated in the campus committee interviews to provide some final feedback to our candidates, since it can be a challenge for one FPA to advise dozens of applicants alone.

In addition to the customary pieces of advice that we give applicants (show, don’t just tell; explain how Fulbright fits into your larger trajectory; etc.), we encourage them to own the regional diversity that they bring to the program. As an NSC member and Fulbright alumnus, I can always appreciate when a student talks about how they will incorporate some regional flavor into their teaching lessons or research. People abroad are genuinely curious about Texas. Most of our students have grown up here and can speak to the nuances and stereotypes that are likely to make for great cultural exchange opportunities.

 

What advice do you have for other universities & colleges that want to increase the number of Fulbrighters produced by their institution?

Start recruiting early and celebrate success. The fellowships profession is no longer a cyclical one. Even before the majority of semi-finalists have been notified and the application portal has opened, I have already started to develop marketing materials, contact liaisons across campus, and promote Fulbright Day to students. In some cases, I am advising students on personal statements and statements of grant purpose in February. I am fortunate in the sense that many of our students live in the Greater Houston Area and can visit over the summer. However, this is not the case for many of my colleagues in the profession. Students naturally become distracted with other opportunities over the summer months, so it is helpful when I can identify candidates and start them on their applications in the spring.

This is the first time that the University of Houston has been named a Fulbright Top Producing Institution. In the previous three years, our total number of applicants has more than tripled and our total number of recipients has increased six-fold. The potential has always been there, but we needed some success stories to create more momentum for Fulbright at UH. Even before we reached Top Producing status, we celebrated every recipient and the benefits of applying for a major award. Word of mouth goes a long way. As more prospective candidates have seen their peers applying for and receiving Fulbright awards, we have seen the emergence of a tangible culture of success.

U.S. Fulbright

How to Build a Fulbright Top-Producing Institution: Appalachian State University

May 15, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What makes a “Fulbright Top-Producing Institution“? In the coming weeks, a variety of institutions will discuss their efforts to recruit, mentor, and encourage students and scholars to apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student and U.S. Scholar Programs. We hope these conversations pull back the curtain on the advising process, and provide potential applicants and university staff with the tools they need to start their Fulbright journey. 

By Joanie Andruss, assistant director, Nationally Competitive Scholarships at Appalachian State University

Question: Your outstanding students are one of many factors that led to this achievement. What makes your students such exceptional candidates for the Fulbright Program?

I’ve found that our students tend to seek out diverse combinations of academic, service, and leadership activities, which contribute to what makes them such exceptional candidates for the Fulbright Program. Caroline Webb, an English Teaching Assistant in Timor-Leste, embodies this. She majored in psychology, had a passion for American Sign Language, was highly involved in campus as a Student Leadership Consultant, collaborated with faculty on research, studied abroad, was a teaching assistant, played a range of Appalachian instruments, and was a member of an interdisciplinary living-learning community known as the Watauga Residential College. This list of noteworthy accomplishments isn’t unique only to Caroline, but represents the range of involvement that many of our students engage with on our campus.

 

What steps have you taken to promote a Fulbright culture on your campus?

Our campus’s involvement with the Fulbright Program includes sending U.S. Students, Scholars, and Teacher Exchange participants, as well as hosting visiting Scholars-In-Residence. In late 2017, a group of faculty, staff, and administrators convened to form a Fulbright Week planning committee. This first group set the tone for the following years, and Fulbright Week events have become a regular part of campus programming each spring. During our Fulbright Week, we host receptions celebrating past and prospective Fulbright Scholars and Students, and offer a series of programming and advising for applicants. This serves as a kick-off event for continued support throughout the application cycle and year for faculty, staff, and students.

Efforts in promoting a Fulbright culture on our campus have also been enhanced through involvement in the 2018–19 Fulbright Program Advisor Development Initiative. This two-part training provided an in-depth opportunity to develop a more nuanced understanding of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, further engage faculty, staff, and students across the multiple Program options, and offered additional opportunities to engage with Fulbright on our campus through outreach visits and faculty referrals to serve on National Screening Committee panels.

 

How has your institution benefited from increased engagement with the Fulbright Program?

Appalachian State University has had a successful history of engagement with the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, being named a top producer in that category four times since 2010. Appalachian encourages and supports its faculty members in applying for Fulbright awards because the university’s leadership recognizes the benefits of the program. This engagement provides faculty the opportunity to share academic knowledge with colleagues and students in other countries and to bring new knowledge, global understanding, and connections back to our campus community.

More recently, our institution recognized the need to further support students in their own pursuits of nationally competitive awards. This resulted in the creation of the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships, which offers outreach, mentorship, and advising throughout the entire application and selection process for a range of competitive awards, including the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Within the first Fulbright application cycle after the creation of the office, we had four finalists, with three ultimately accepting the award for the 2019–20 grant year. This earned us the distinction of Top Producing Institution for Fulbright Student Programs.

From the student and applicant perspective, the process of applying for Fulbright U.S. Student awards has also had a significant impact on their connection with our institution and their preparation for their futures after graduation. A current Fulbright semi-finalist described that going through the application process gave her “even further appreciation for and faith in my alma mater.”

 

What advice do you have for other universities and colleges that want to increase the number of Fulbrighters produced by their institution?

My advice might be most relevant for universities and colleges with a small number of previous Fulbright U.S. Student recipients. These institutions therefore have limited examples of successful peers. Prior to the 2019–20 Fulbright year, only five Appalachian students had received a Fulbright award during the program’s history. So one of my challenges starting out was to encourage students to redefine what they thought Fulbright was and who it was for. I sought students who might not normally attend an information session, but could be great candidates for Fulbright if only they could start envisioning the program as a possible opportunity. I also worked to correct misperceptions of why we had so few prior recipients — not because our students weren’t competitive, but because they weren’t aware of the opportunities or didn’t have history with the award that other campuses might have. I tried to help applicants envision themselves as being part of a cohort that could change that reality and provide an inspiring model to those that would come after them.

Some concrete approaches include:
• Establishing an on-campus review process with earlier pre-application elements, such as a low stakes intent to apply “deadline” or first draft “deadline” that encouraged prospective applicants to move through each of the stages in smaller, more manageable pieces.
• Tracking students that either had indicated some initial interest in Fulbright or who had worked with me on other awards, such as the Gilman International Scholarship, and then targeting them specifically, saying I thought they could be a good candidate for Fulbright.
• Helping students examine which particular Fulbright award was the right fit for the right reasons.
• Developing an on-campus review process that emphasized a supportive experience for students with a diverse committee of faculty and staff, many of whom were prior Fulbright alumni themselves or perhaps future Fulbright U.S. Scholar applicants.
• Conducting post-application assessments to measure students’ perspectives on how the process impacted key learning outcomes, then communicating those outcomes to the next round of prospective applicants: “Yes, Fulbright is competitive, but this will be a valuable process regardless of the outcome.”

We now find ourselves being recognized as a Top Producing Institution for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. I attribute the work focusing on developing student self-efficacy in tandem with tangible advising practices and application procedures to have made a lasting impact. This all happened within a context of support from university leadership, a Nationally Competitive Scholarship Advisory Board, and an enthusiastic and engaged group of faculty, staff, and students campus-wide.

U.S. Fulbright

Educational Opportunities for Recently Returned Fulbrighters

May 4, 2020

By The Fulbright Program

Learning is a life-long pursuit, and life often presents individuals with unexpected challenges.

The Fulbright Program is pleased that, in response to the global pandemic, the U.S. higher education community is showing its support to Fulbrighters impacted by the global pandemic. We are grateful that a number of institutions have announced new benefits, including extending deadlines, waiving application fees, and offering financial assistance for recently returned Fulbrighters.

These benefits are meant to help Fulbright alumni continue their education and pursue their personal and professional goals. At the same time, Fulbrighters will enrich these institutions by bringing their curiosity and leadership skills to collaborate, engage, and build mutual understanding on campus and across the globe.

We’re proud to highlight the institutions which have special opportunities for returned Fulbright alumni. A current list of all participating institutions can be found here.

FLTA Foreign Fulbright Fulbright-National Geographic U.S. Fulbright

Looking Forward

April 30, 2020

“Working as a team to try to find a solution to this problem” – 2015 Fulbright U.S.-France Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chair and U.S. Scholar alumnus Dr. Benjamin J. tenOever continues to collaborate internationally with Marco Vignuzzi’s laboratory at the Institut Pasteur to test FDA-approved drugs in order to treat COVID-19 symptoms.

For more than 70 years, the Fulbright model of living and learning together with people of different cultures has helped forge lasting connections worldwide and has brought people and nations together to work toward common goals. This mission is more vital today than ever, and we thank the Fulbright community—participants, alumni, advisers, university and host partners, and staff at Fulbright commissions, embassies, implementing partners, and more—for coming together to take on today’s unprecedented challenges.

Malaysia ETA alumna Rachel Jacoby stays connected with her cohort, which supports their local communities across the United States through Feeding the Frontline, an organization that raises money and delivers meals to medical staff and workers fighting COVID-19.

Looking for innovative ways to create medical supplies, Fulbright Visiting Scholar Dr. Aulia Nasution, with students and colleagues of Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS) Department of Engineering Physics, made a prototype of a low-cost ventilator using an open-sourced Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We express our gratitude to Fulbright participants and alumni engaged in the fight against the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Fulbrighters are healthcare workers, scientists, inventors, policy makers, journalists, academics, entrepreneurs, teachers, and professionals of all backgrounds. Fulbrighters are leaders, innovators, experts, and trailblazers. Fulbrighters are creative, compassionate, resilient, and generous. Fulbrighters are simply extraordinary, and we are so proud of the many ways they are taking action.

As Pakistan combats the COVID-19 pandemic, alumni Dr. Muhammad Moiz and Rana Muhammad Umer helped establish the country’s first drive-through testing facility in Karachi.

As we look forward to the future, we will begin posting stories from our Fulbright alumni, written prior to COVID-19. We hope they will continue to inspire and educate as we navigate the future together.