U.S. Fulbright

Fulbright Profile: U.S. Student Program Alumna Maaza Mengiste Shares Her Work with Girls Rising, Fulbright Experiences, and Advice for Applicants

June 23, 2014
Maaza Mengiste, 2010-2011, Italy

Maaza Mengiste, 2010-2011, Italy

Can you tell us about your work on Girl Rising, and how that project came about?

I am one of the nine writers involved with the Girl Rising project. I heard about the film when I was (ironically) in Italy on my Fulbright Fellowship. I received an email from director Richard Robbins, telling me a bit about the documentary’s mission to focus on girls education worldwide and highlight girls who are trying to overcome obstacles and go to school. He asked me if I’d be interested in taking part and writing a section for Ethiopia and I jumped at the chance. I was born in Ethiopia and my mother did not get the chance to go to college, and my grandmother and great-grandmother were married at extremely young ages. I felt I had a personal investment in the issue of girls education in Ethiopia and the particular focus of that segment: forced early marriage and how it harms girls in every way you can imagine.

What are a few of the most memorable moments from your Fulbright experience?

There are so many. Meeting other Fulbrighters, getting lost everywhere and discovering unexpected parts of Rome. Traveling through Italy and doing research in archives. Having people come up to me in surprising moments and share personal stories that were exactly what I was searching for in archives. Meeting Italians who are now lifetime friends; the Fulbright changed my life professionally and personally. Its impact is immeasurable and will be long-lasting. 

How did you originally hear about the Fulbright Program?

It has always been a dream to apply and be accepted. I can’t even remember how I heard about it, but I went to an orientation when I wanted to apply and found more information that way. 

Do you have any tips for creative writing applicants to the Fulbright Program?

Have a solid and manageable book idea. Be able to explain why your project is important and why NOW is the time you need to do it. Then, just apply.

What are your next projects beyond Girl Rising?

I’m in the process of finishing the book I was researching while on the Fulbright. After that, I plan to get some sleep! And I’m already thinking of my next project…can I apply for another Fulbright? (Smile)

To learn more about Maaza and her work, click here.

The Fulbright Program supports USAID’s Let Girls Learn campaign! Click here to learn more and join the cause.

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