Tag Archives: Community Engagement

Teaching in the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Mexico

By Melissa Montalvo, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Mexico

Melissa Montalvo, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Mexico (far right), with Universidad Tecnológica de Jalisco’s English Language Conversation Club students after a great discussion on American culture

A year has passed since I completed my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. As I reflect on this anniversary, I recognize that my Fulbright year had an immense impact on my personal and professional direction. I thought I knew what to expect from my Fulbright year. After all, I was a former student of International Relations, a USC Global Scholar. I had already lived abroad as an exchange student in Paris, France, and had spent weeks volunteering in Mexico and Peru. I knew what to anticipate from a year abroad, right? It turns out that I was very wrong. Every single day of my Fulbright award brought something new and unexpected. Never did I expect to have such an eye-opening experience. From the first day at orientation meeting my fellow Fulbrighters, to forming friendships with my mentors at the Universidad Tecnológica de Jalisco, to meeting local tapatíos (a word to describe the people from Guadalajara), I created lasting memories.

In Guadalajara, also considered “the Silicon Valley of Mexico,” I encountered a forward-thinking city buzzing with technology and innovation. This is not exactly the vision I had of Mexico before arriving. All I knew of Mexico was folklore, border towns, and tourist resorts. I was surprised that so many young Mexicans I met were engineers, techies, and self-described ñoños (nerds). They worked at HP, Intel, Oracle, or a slew of Mexican startups like VoxFeed and CityDrive. It also seemed that everyone I met pursued passion projects outside of their 9 to 5 jobs, such as running Airbnbs and online businesses. I wanted to emulate these intelligent, proactive, and hardworking people in my life.

Plants, People, and the Mother City

By Tanisha M. Williams, 2015-2016, South Africa

Tanisha Williams, 2015-2016, South Africa, at Boulders Beach visiting the iconic beach penguins

Welcome to the Mother City. These are the first words you read walking out of the airport in Cape Town, South Africa. No one could have prepared me for that feeling, stepping onto the soil of the Motherland for the first time. My emotions were complex and overwhelming, but the feeling of excitement and sense of belonging stood out.

My Fulbright grant was two-fold, conducting research for my doctoral dissertation and giving back through outreach and other STEM-based initiatives. I spent my Fulbright year researching the impacts of climate change on indigenous flora throughout South Africa. The first half of my research was used to collect seed and propagate over 1,500 Pelargoniums, a highly-diverse genus of flowering plants, at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Wellington, Bellville and Cape Town campuses). These plants are now growing in reciprocal transplant gardens at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town, Western Cape and at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape. Growth and development data will help me understand the effects of genetics, the environment, and the interaction between these two processes that aid in Pelargonium adaptation to different environments. Understanding plant adaptations to their environment sheds light on how plants will respond to the unprecedented rates of climate change.

Soccer, Not Football: Sports Help Fulbrighter Experience Cultural Exchange

By Nabeel, 2016-2018

Growing up, I started playing soccer in my neighborhood. We didn’t have proper soccer fields or uniforms, but we enjoyed playing with friends. Since that early beginning, I’ve always enjoyed playing soccer wherever I am. Before becoming a Fulbrighter, I took English classes in the UK, where I played with my classmates. Now, here at the University of Denver, I am the soccer team captain.

Sport is a unique way of connecting with people who have similar interests. I made many friends from different parts of the world including the United States, Brazil, Norway, Nigeria, Iran, Chad, India, and Nepal by playing soccer in Denver. My soccer teammates are special friends to me, with whom I feel we have many things in common. I think soccer is the most common sport in the world and many students love to play it, which makes it a great tool of cultural diplomacy that connects people from different nations and cultures.

My friends here in Denver have taught me that in America, football is not soccer. I think everywhere else in the world, people call it football, but Americans call it soccer. This has not only taught me about American culture but others as well. I always chat with many of my teammates about soccer in their home countries and about other cultural, social, and political topics. They also ask me about the Arab world, and I try to answer any questions they have. On our team, we’re constantly participating in cultural exchange.

Memories of Magnitude: Reflections on My Fulbright Experience in India

By Benjamin Simington, 2015-2016, India

Benjamin Simington, 2015-2016, India (left), with several sadhus from different Kabir Panthi monasteries. They visited the famous Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain together during the Kumbha Mela pilgrimage.

Memory came to be a major theme of my research, along with my personal experiences with the Fulbright Program in India. My initial research project was titled Mahant with a Message: A Study of Sant Vivek Das Acharya. I wanted to focus on the life, religious activity, and socio-political vision of Sant Vivek Das Acharya, the head of the Kabir Chaura monastery of the Kabir Panth. The Kabir Panth is a monotheistic religious community in India rooted in the teachings of the medieval Indian poet-saint Kabir. The community has an emphasis on ideas of tolerance, personal spiritual practice, and the equality of all human beings.

As I continued with my research, the importance of ideas of memory became more and more salient. I eventually shifted my focus to look at how Kabir is remembered in the Kabir Panth through ritual, the space of the monastery, and through the poetry of Kabir in everyday conversation. The way that Kabir’s poetry functioned as a form of remembrance had great personal significance for me. Studying this facet of memory allowed me to experience the poetry of Kabir in a way that was not simply abstract. I was able to internalize it. Memory remains a vital part of the religious experience of the members of the community.

How I Built a Global Network through Music

By Benjamin Cohn, 2014-2015, Fulbright-mtvU Fellow to Ghana

Benjamin Cohn, 2014-2015, Fulbright-mtvU Fellow to Ghana, interviewing rap artist Reggie Rockstone in Accra

The 10 months I spent in Ghana for my Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship were the most supportive and constructive of my life. Sure, I faced new challenges every day, even insurmountable ones occasionally, but between my home communities, the Fulbright Program, and the new relationships I made in Ghana, I have never been more prepared to take risks.

Prior to applying, I had always considered Fulbright to be for “other people” until, at a networking meeting, I was told to consider it by the Executive Director of the Fulbright Association, an independent U.S. alumni organization. Upon further investigation, I realized that Fulbright’s goals aligned with my own more than I ever expected. Traveling has played a large part in my development; being exposed to different experiences, worldviews, and perspectives has 100 percent changed me for the better. Senator Fulbright believed that to be true for individuals, and even more so for nations.