“If you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, there is no telling how far you will go.” That is what Reiner Rohr, the Deputy Director of the German Fulbright Commission, told me and a small group of bright-eyed Fulbrighters upon our arrival in country. This just so happens to be some of the most important advice I have ever gotten, and it helped me utilize every single moment of my grant to the fullest.
My name is Jonathan Rabb and I was one of seven journalists awarded Fulbright’s Beginning Professional Journalists grants to Germany for the 2012-2013 academic year. This grant was created in 1996 to allow a select group of promising U.S. journalists to come to Germany to conduct research, improve their craft, and complete residencies at German media and news outlets. For my particular grant, I did multiple residencies in digital audience development and transmedia, including one at UFA LAB, a one-of-a-kind digital creative lab owned by the oldest and largest production company in Germany. At UFA LAB, I worked on developing new formats for online television and did on-air coverage in both German and English for “eNtR berlin,” a YouTube channel, on events ranging from Barack Obama’s historic 2013 visit to Berlin to re:publica, one of the world’s largest and most important conferences on digital culture.
I also was given the opportunity to travel with a select group of journalists around the country and visit almost all of Germany’s major media outlets, doing small meetings with them on technological innovations in European journalism. In addition, I was granted the opportunity to attend the Fulbright European Union and NATO Seminar, where I traveled, with a group of European Fulbrighters specializing in policy research, to Belgium and Luxembourg and attended private meetings at the European Court of Justice, NATO, the U.S. Mission to the European Union, and multiple embassies, talking with representatives about diplomacy and international law.
While I could fill volumes of blog posts with stories about all of the things I was able to learn, do, and see, what I want to highlight the most are the friendships and connections that I gained from Fulbright that have been essential to me to this day.
What separates the Fulbright Program from so many others is that, instead of being solely focused around one discipline like political science, engineering, media, or art, they take the most promising people from each of these disciplines (and more) and throw them together, so that everyone may learn from each other and create cross-disciplinary dialogues and ideas. I saw this in action every time Fulbrighters were brought together during the many conferences I was able to attend. I quickly developed a friend circle of policy analysts, scientists, art historians, and creators that I still have today. I know that eventually all of my friends from my Fulbright grant will become leaders in their fields, and that their trajectories are endless. It makes me happy to know that I can now call on these friends at a moment’s notice, and that they can call on me, as well. I have since traveled the globe with this group of friends and we have developed lifelong bonds.
If you want to become an extraordinary person, the best way to do it is by doing extraordinary things. It never hurts to do these extraordinary things with other extraordinary people by your side. Fulbright has allowed me to do this.