Fulbright Student Program Blog

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A Tree Grows in Williamson: Seeking Sustainability in Appalachia

By Sayed Masihullah Fakhri, Fulbright Foreign Student, Afghanistan

The Fulbright-Amizade trip to Williamson, West Virginia was one of the most thought-provoking experiences I had during my stay in the United States. I have often thought about the sustainability of a single industry supporting a local economy, such as Williamson’s dependence on coal. Through this experience, I had the opportunity to see first-hand these effects in an Appalachian town.

Before coming to the United States, I used to work for the Ministry of Mines & Petroleum (MoMP) in Afghanistan, where the coal sector dominates, although it continues to lose ground to more sustainable sources of energy. At the program orientation in Charleston, South Carolina, I began to hear about Williamson’s efforts to switch to sustainable power sources. Once in Williamson, that sentiment was corroborated in many conversations with the residents, who were keen to talk about the town’s changing energy policy and industry. I believe this will help me advise MoMP’s “mining roadmap” revision, and add a well-thought out plan to address community sustainability issues related to booming bulk commodities, as is the case in Williamson.

Furthermore, I was impressed by the Williamson residents’ strong social bonds. These bonds help the community care for each other in turbulent times. Alexis Batausa, a local resident who successfully improved his health through lifestyle changes, is an amazing example. His efforts to better his life impressed the whole community, and now others join him in running and other healthy activities.  Jessie Spaulding, another Williamson resident, also impressed me with his commitment to sobriety. Talking to him, I began to understand his desire to help other residents combat their substance abuse problems and follow a better path. These individuals demonstrate that one person can make a difference!

After seeing Williamson’s dedication to community, I searched for a way to maintain a lasting connection with the town. I wanted something to remind me of the amazing moments I spent with the genuinely nice people I met, including moments of serene silence on Second Avenue, where I had a veggie omelet. Thus, I came up with the idea of planting a red maple tree in a quiet corner of Williamson’s elementary school, and someday, I hope to go back and pay a visit.

Joining a Family: Mohammad Behroozian’s Fulbright Story

Heading South

Fulbright-MTP Participant, Mohammad Behroozian, in the dome car of the Millennial Trains Project Train.

Fulbright-MTP Participant from Afghanistan, Mohammad Behroozian, in the dome car of the Millennial Trains Project Train

Texas is usually warm, but today’s rain has lowered the heat. It also gives a pleasant scent to the air, the same relaxing scent that enriches Paghman’s air after it rains in Kabul. Writing from the second floor of the Millennial Trains Project is difficult because neither the vastness of these green farms nor the relaxed streets of Austin and its people walking their dogs are easy to overlook.

My name is Mohammad. Thanks to Fulbright, I started my master’s studies in television writing and producing at Boston University. Fulbright has now granted me the opportunity to travel through the Southern United States by train.

On this expedition, I join 24 other young professionals engaged in economic, social and political spheres of their countries to visit Los Angeles, Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington DC to research a topic of our interest.

Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project Participants

The U.S. Department of State selected the following six Fulbright Foreign Students to participate in the third Millennial Trains Project (MTP) voyage across the United States — leaving from Los Angeles, California on May 21 and ending in Washington, DC on May 31— as an enrichment component of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. The six Fulbrighters will join 19 American riders on the MTP journey to gain an in-depth understanding of life in the United States and to strengthen their skills in leadership, social entrepreneurship, and communication.

Meet the six Fulbright participants:

Saja AlQuzweeni is a Fulbright Forieng Student from Iraq completing a Master's in Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Saja Al Quzweeni is a Fulbright Foreign Student from Iraq

Saja Al Quzweeni is a Fulbright Foreign Student from Baghdad, Iraq, currently pursuing a master’s in environmental science and policy at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Saja’s MTP project is an extension of research she completed last year at Growing Power, a nonprofit organization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that works in urban agriculture as an approach to increase food security in lower income and food desert communities. Small plots of land are used for intensive growing to offer healthy, affordable food to inner city communities, while merging agriculture and wise environmental practices to revitalize urban areas.

Towards a Hopeful Future

Nangyalai Attal - 1

Nangyalai Attal, 2013-2015, Afghanistan, visiting the Grand Canyon (photo courtesy of Jonathan Foster)

As a Fulbright Student from Afghanistan, I have been pursuing a Master’s of Science in Human Resources Management at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California. While working for the United Nations in Kabul, I realized that a lack of technical human resources was – and is – one of the most pressing challenges facing the Afghan government and its private sector. Every year, millions of dollars from donors go unspent because Afghan institutions lack competent individuals to put development programs into practice. Additionally, the Afghan private sector continues to struggle in attracting human capital that would increase the number of domestic businesses. I decided that I wanted to be part of the solution to these problems and the Fulbright Program has provided me with an avenue to pursue this ambition.