Clockwise from left: Shayak Sengupta, 2015-2016, India, Emily Yedinak, 2013-2014, Chile, Yuriy Veytskin, 2013-2014, Australia, and Gwyneth Talley, 2015-2015, Morocco
On-Campus interview season is coming up! This can be a nerve-wracking time for those of you applying to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program through your college or university. Try not to worry, though – the interview is a way to add a “face” to your Fulbright application and get helpful feedback.
You’ll hit submit on the Embark Online Application before your campus deadline, your on-campus Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) will schedule an on-campus interview, and you will then have the chance to explain and defend your project. This interview is an additional element to your application when your campus committee rates and recommends you. After the interview, your FPA will re-open your application, allowing you to adjust it before the final national deadline. As Fulbright U.S. Student Alumni Ambassadors, we’ve been through this process before and have created a Q & A about campus interviews to help you prepare.
Gwyneth Talley, 2015-2016, Morocco (third from left), at the opening of a festival in Zagora, Morocco with Amal Ahmri and her tbourida troupe.
My Fulbright journey began with one distinct moment: My first Arabic class in 2009 where Tunisian Fulbrighter Beligh Ben Taleb, a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA), taught me my Alif–Baa–Taas (or my Arabic ABCs) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. It was Beligh’s first trip to the United States, first Ramadan in a non-Muslim country, and first American teaching experience. He would set a high bar for all the other Fulbright FLTAs to follow at the University.
I remember the class vividly, full of heritage speakers, curious students who wanted to work in government, and a few looking for a challenging language. Beligh took teaching Arabic in stride and encouraged us to participate in cultural activities by cooking traditional Arab meals, helping us translate songs, and dressing us up in Tunisian clothes. Aside from learning how to introduce ourselves, the most memorable phrase I remember Beligh teaching me was: “I ride horses.”
In the summer of 2010, I took my first trip to Morocco to study Arabic and French. I stayed with a horse training family, which would lead me to my graduate research in anthropology. While learning Modern Standard Arabic, my host family immersed me in Moroccan dialect and culture–specifically their horse culture. I also met the incoming Fulbright FLTA assigned to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Othmane Zakaria. He was born and raised in the city of Meknes where I was staying for the summer. We shared tidbits about our cultures, and I warned him to buy his winter coat in the States because Nebraska winters were not like winters in Morocco.
Michelle Grocke, 2014-2015, Nepal, harvesting bitter buckwheat crops between September and October. While at first she had to beg her host family to help, after a few days, every family in the village wanted her assistance as they quickly realized she was actually quite helpful!
For my Fulbright U.S. Student grant, I travelled to an area of Nepal that many locals and scholars alike call “the most remote district of Nepal.” Nestled high in the Himalaya, the villages in Humla District lie between 9,000 – 12,500 feet, and are not connected to the rest of the country by any roads. Humla is both ethnically and linguistically split as Nepali-speaking Hindus live in the south, while Tibetan-speaking Buddhists live in the north. The traditional diet of the ethnic Tibetans in Humla consists of local grains such as barley and buckwheat, a few roots and tubers such as the potato and daikon radish, and a high volume of yak butter tea. Given their nutrient-dense diet, Humlis have never suffered from diet-related disease such as diabetes and hypertension.
All of this is changing. The first “dirt” road in Humla is currently under construction, and is providing easy access to a market in China (formerly Tibet) where Humlis are now purchasing enriched, processed foods such as ramen noodles, white flour, and soda. The goal of my research was to assess how this new market access is impacting villagers’ health, specifically in terms of their food security, diet and nutrition, and subjective well-being.
Always accompanied by my local research assistant, who now has become like a younger brother to me, I walked five days from the District capital to reach my first field site village.
Evy Vourlides, 2013-2014, Greece
I lived in the neighborhood of Koukaki—below the Acropolis and just a short walk from Panteion University, my academic home during my nine months as a Fulbright U.S. Student in Greece. The small details of my daily life in Athens were unexpectedly tremendous. I had a Greek bank account, a lease, and a phone contract. This meant learning firsthand the experience of waiting in line at the bank, signing contracts, and paying bills as (albeit temporary) a member of Greek society. Greeting the baker down the street, who knew me by name, cracking a passing joke with the beet vendor at the community market, practicing yoga on a rooftop with a beautiful group of new friends under a closing day’s sky—these memories continue to bring me deep joy and reflect the great love I have developed for Greece. These details are what the Fulbright Program is about because they lead to something greater.
Senator J. William Fulbright headed efforts for the Fulbright Program after the Second World War. He believed that educational and cultural exchanges would lead to intimate intercultural understanding, and could promote peace of global proportions.
Understanding and empathy inevitably result from working, studying, and carrying out daily tasks in a new place, amongst a new group of people, for a prolonged period of time. This becomes a space where discussion and, ultimately, diplomacy can flourish.
Michael Roman, 2010-2011, New Zealand, at the New Zealand Fulbright Commission in Wellington
In 2010, I had the honor of receiving a ten-month research grant to study the lives of I-Kiribati living in New Zealand. The I-Kiribati are citizens from the Republic of Kiribati, a small Micronesian country located in the Central Pacific Ocean. Their islands, consisting mostly of low-lying coral atolls, rise just inches above sea level, and are under severe threat from higher tides and stronger storms. The purpose of my study was to gain an understanding of migrant experiences in New Zealand, in preparation for possible large-scale relocation due to climate change.
I first went to Kiribati as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2000 and was “adopted” by an amazing host family. In 2005, some members of this family moved to New Zealand. There, they lived amongst a large community of I-Kiribati migrants. I lived with my family throughout my Fulbright year and gained an intimate view of their lives in New Zealand. I experienced their joys, sorrows, and challenges on a very personal level. They were not the only ones facing challenges though. Back in Kiribati, our friends and family were struggling with surmounting impacts from climate change.
Shebana Coelho, 2006-2007, Mongolia, experiencing adventures in eagle wrangling on the road to Terelj, outside of Ulaanbataar.
I know there was a time when Mongolia didn’t feel like another home, before I went there on my Fulbright grant, before 2006. But I can’t remember it. Every time I speak Mongolian, it feels like a homecoming. I spoke it last on December 21 at the Embassy of Mongolia in Washington, DC. I said, “Sain bain uu, bi Shebana baina,” “hello, I’m Shebana,” to the group of about seventy people who had gathered to hear my multimedia presentation about being on the move in Mongolia. It was co-organized by the Embassy of Mongolia and the Mongolian Cultural Center, based in Arlington, Virginia.
I went to Mongolia looking for nomads, I said in my presentation, but I also found the city, Ulaanbataar, Mongolia’s capital where I took intensive language lessons. My time in Mongolia ranged between learning the language in the city and living with nomadic families in the “yag hoodoo,” the countryside proper. Each season, I went to a different Mongolian province: Eastern Mongolia, during calving season in the spring; the green north, where I learned sheep herding in the summertime; the Gobi Desert, for autumn adventures in camel herding; and Western Mongolia, with Kazakh families during the winter. I recorded nomadic families at work, rest, and play, and returned with tons of audio and photos including interviews, ambient sounds, and songs.