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U.S. Fulbright

Being There: A Conversation on Collaboration in Barbados

May 11, 2016

Katherine Cloutier is a 2012-2013 Fulbright-mtvU alumna, currently finishing her PhD in ecological-community psychology. Her Fulbright-mtvU grant was a participatory research project that was done in collaboration with a sexual health education program and secondary school students.

Matt Saleh is a 2015-2016 Fulbright U.S. Student in Barbados whose research focuses on collaboration and service coordination among community service providers, government agencies, and secondary schools in school-to-work transition for youth with disabilities.

After learning of the overlap between our two Fulbright projects and experiences in Barbados, we decided to sit down and try to put some of the commonalities into words for the benefit of future Fulbright Students. On the shores of Accra Beach over refreshments at the Tiki Bar, we quickly got to work. 

Katherine Cloutier

Katherine with Lisa Thompson from PEPFAR (left); Katherine Cloutier, 2012-2013, Barbados, with previous U.S. Ambassador Larry Palmer; and dance4life partners Maisha Hutton, Leila Raphael, and Shakira Emtage-Cave (middle to right) at the 2012 World AIDS Day Event where the participatory action research project was presented by the secondary school students.

Katherine Cloutier: I came to Barbados through a series of planned accidents, I suppose. I remember walking into the office of the Fulbright Program Adviser at Michigan State University, my alma mater, and telling him, “I’m going to get that scholarship; it’s just a matter of when.” The next thing I knew, I was walking off a plane in Barbados on a humid September day in 2012, about to begin my year as a Fulbright-mtvU grantee. Two individuals from my host community partner, dance4life (a sexual health education and youth empowerment program), were waiting for me at the airport. I had never been to the Caribbean before, let alone this particular rock, but I felt so welcomed by these two. Here I am, years later, and I am back in Barbados, my second home.

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U.S. Fulbright

Success Happens in Concert, By Justin Hill, 2009-2010, Barbados

May 30, 2012















I came to Barbados on a Fulbright grant to conduct a study examining the risk and health-seeking behaviors of incarcerated men in Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds, St. Philip.  During my first trip to the prison, I was simultaneously excited and apprehensive.  I was apprehensive not so much because I was visiting a prison, but because I would be asking the men serving sentences there to trust me with their life stories and experiences.  I was anxious to see how they would react to my research questions which had taken months to prepare.  By the time I had been granted approval to conduct my research in the prison, I had developed a burgeoning appreciation for the impact my work could have.  After my first meeting with the HIV coordinator and prison psychologist, the two people who guided my direct involvement with the men in Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds, I was reminded of the importance of relationships – a lesson at the heart of my Fulbright experience.

Because of the HIV coordinator’s and psychologist’s support, the imprisoned men were curious and receptive to my work.  Everyone was curious to know who was the visiting American interested in learning about their lives.  While working in the prison, the HIV coordinator allowed me, along with some female graduate students, to lead discussions.  This helped me to build a rapport with several of the men whom I would later interview for my study.  

During the meetings before entering the prison, I spoke with experts from the Barbados Ministry of Health (MOH) and HIV/AIDS Commission, as well as the University of West Indies, Cave Hill.  From these conversations, I was able to connect the names I had researched in books and the Nation newspaper’s electronic archive with the people who were quickly becoming my friends, mentors and colleagues; from these relationships, I was able to build a network of colleagues who supported me professionally and socially.  

Nicole and Mikala, two consultants at the MOH, gave me an in-depth, crash course on qualitative research and provided articles on the how, why and when to use different research methods.  They also took me on tours of the island, invited me to dinner with their families and rescued me when a water main burst near my apartment leaving me without running water.  Several other colleagues opened up their homes and went out of their way to help me, so much so, that when I had discouraging meetings (i.e., my ideas got scraped and I had to go back to the drawing board), I was reassured by the knowledge that my friends would motivate me to push through my setbacks.

John Donne’s phrase “no man is an island, entire of itself” truly applied to my Fulbright experience.  I spent more than six months drafting, researching and thinking about the project I wanted to create, but applying for a Fulbright grant was not a solitary process.  My friends, colleagues and mentors (including the University of Chicago’s in-house Fulbright application review panel), gave their time and energy to ensure that my application materials were in good shape. 

Two years had passed after college before I applied for a Fulbright grant, and I ended up doing so because my best friend had also applied.  Relationships are, and were, central to making my Fulbright application successful!

My advice for applicants:

  • Imagine a project that reflects your interests and passions.  Take time to envision how your work will be conducted and what the results might be.
  • Seek support from professors, work colleagues and friends (particularly if they are Fulbright Student or Scholar Program alumni).
  • Think strategically about the in-country resources that will be available to you for your proposed research or as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.
  • Apply with the assistance of a Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) whenever possible.  If your school has an FPA, speak with him or her about the application resources available on your campus.

Top photo: Justin Hill, 2009-2010, Barbados, standing on the cliffs at Cove Bay, St. Lucy, Barbados

Middle photo: Justin Hill, 2009-2010, Barbados (center), with his colleagues Nicole and Mikala from the Barbados Ministry of Health at the Vashti Inniss Empowerment Center, Saint Michael

To learn more about Justin Hill’s Fulbright grant, click here to watch his video interview and hear him describe his experiences.

U.S. Fulbright

Discovering Secret Destinations on Fulbright, By Misha Granado, 2007-2008, Barbados

April 21, 2010

My Fulbright grant was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences I have ever had, and no words, pictures or videos can adequately capture its true essence. By building relationships internationally, Fulbright provides an opportunity for college graduates and professors and teachers to shatter any misconceptions held by Americans and host countries. As Martin Buber said, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” A Fulbright grant is a journey filled with “secret destinations” which one is unaware of at the beginning of his or her grant. There is a vast difference between experiencing a country for a few weeks as a tourist and living in a different country. An academic year overseas provides an opportunity to fully immerse oneself in a different culture, develop a new routine and identify favorite places. A Fulbright grant allows for meaningful friendships to develop and, in my opinion, they are the shortest route towards personal growth. Through this growth, one also gives others an example to do the same.

Living abroad disconnects us from life’s daily routines and the comfort and security that family, friends and networks can provide. So who are we once all of these things have been removed? How do we handle life’s issues when the usual buffers are no longer there? How do we adjust to a new environment in which we are foreigners? Through which eyes do we view our new world: astonished, intrigued or judgmental eyes? These types of experiences are “secret destinations” for Fulbrighters, for the manner in which one responds to being in a new environment has a direct correlation to one’s level of personal growth.

The Fulbright Program provides grantees a myriad of benefits: regional enrichment seminars, networking opportunities with other Fulbrighters, an opportunity to gain international experience and exposure in one’s field, and to establish professional networks, among other opportunities. Each of these benefits are extremely rewarding both personally and professionally, but it is the relationships with host country colleagues, housemates, mentors and friends that help promote the Fulbright Program’s goal of fostering mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries.

The Application Process

My campus Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) was my greatest asset while I applied. I met with my FPA weekly to discuss my project and help with completing my application. Additionally, one of my English professors served as a second reader to provide feedback on my application’s narrative flow. As I contemplated the focus of my Fulbright project, the best advice I received was to build on my previous experience (academic, professional and personal) and tell the story of how point A led to point B that finally resulted in my desire to apply to Fulbright. Sometimes, we tend to omit key details about our own stories because we are so familiar with them and erroneously believe the details are not significant. But these details are the threads that tie our personal stories together and allow an outside reader to grasp who we are and why our projects should be supported.

My Fulbright project sought to identify the breast cancer screening barriers which may hinder a woman from obtaining a mammogram. Adhering to the advice I received, this project became my story’s thread that connected elements of my previous experience together: the academic focus of my project was public health and psychology (which I had studied); I had research experience with breast cancer screening barriers under my belt (my mother is a breast cancer survivor); and finally, I have strong personal ties to the Caribbean.

How I Selected Barbados and Identified My Affiliation

I conducted a Google search and quickly ascertained that Barbados is the only Caribbean country with empirical epidemiological data about their population’s breast cancer incidence and mortality rates. Here are a few important questions to keep in mind while selecting a Fulbright country:

(1) Is there a need or interest in your research or project? Remember that the potential host country will review your application during the Fulbright selection process.

(2) Is there an institution, organization or individual familiar with your topic? This entity will become your advocate and may have access to information and opportunities that you may not be aware of.

Once I obtained the breast cancer incidence data, I contacted the researcher who conducted the study, articulated who I was, what I had accomplished and that I was applying for a Fulbright grant. Most importantly, I asked if he would collaborate with me. He read my proposal and provided a letter of support all within the same week.

My advice to Fulbright applicants is to research your potential location, contact people and to always demonstrate professionalism and kindness in all interactions. Follow up with a thank you note. In an era of high speed technology, people still appreciate handwritten cards. This gesture will definitely be remembered.

One of your application’s objectives is for you to stand out. What makes you and your project unique? Why should the Fulbright Program select you? How will your project impact and benefit the host country? What legacy do you plan to leave? Fulbright offers a plethora of benefits for you as a grantee, but it is up to you to determine how your host country will benefit from your time there and all the unique things you can bring. Convey this information in your application and good luck!

Top photo: Misha Granado, 2007-2008, Barbados (center), pictured with two high school students, was invited to present at a college fair that focused on university/college life in the United States.

Bottom photo: Misha Granado’s project mentors Angela Rose (left), Professor Ian Hambleton (center) and Professor Anselm Hennis (right) at The Chronic Disease Research Centre.