Today, the Fulbright Program wishes the Americans with Disabilities Act a very happy 27th anniversary! Fulbright strives to ensure that its participants reflect the full diversity of U.S. society and societies abroad.
Applicants with disabilities are encouraged to apply and can learn more about resources and opportunities at https://www.eca.state.gov/fulbright.
Please also visit the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange at http://www.miusa.org/ncde, a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by Mobility International USA, for more useful information on applying.
History Estill-Varner, 2015-2016, Dominican Republic (center), with a group of community members at a Deaf sporting event hosted at the Olympic Stadium in Santo Domingo.
The anticipation leading up to my departure for the Dominican Republic as a Fulbright U.S. Student Study/Research award recipient is something I remember vividly. While I dreamt of the ways that my research would have an impact on my host community, I had no idea that it would also end up having an impact on me. Some may call it serendipity, others may call it a blessing, but I now realize how the Fulbright “piece” was the perfect fit to the “puzzle” of my soon-to-be professional life.
I began constructing my puzzle in high school by taking sign language classes and added another piece during college through an intensive Spanish immersion program in Costa Rica. Due to these experiences, I chose to double major in American Sign Language/English interpretation and international studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Yet, as I progressed in my undergraduate career, I struggled to see how these pieces fit together. How was it possible to apply a language that is uniquely American to the international community? When my professor approached me about an opportunity to apply for a Fulbright award, I knew this was my chance.
Shortly after I heard about Fulbright, I worked as an intern in the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education. Over the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to meet members of the Dominican Deaf community. To my surprise, I discovered that American Sign Language and Dominican Sign Language were not that different after all. Suddenly, something that I had previously thought restricted me professionally to the United States, gave me an international connection to the Dominican Deaf community and a foundation for a Fulbright proposal.
Sheila Xu, 2016-2017, Italy, attending her first visit at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a Fulbright event
Italy is one of the top vacation destinations in the world. The whole country is an outdoor museum, steeped in ancient history and customs. The food and weather are world-renowned. Even spoken Italian has a musical rhythm to it. One would think moving to Italy would be la dolce vita, or “living the sweet life”.
However, living in Italy on a Fulbright grant as a deaf person (Cochlear Implant user with both oral and sign language skills) certainly has its own trials and tribulations. I came to discover that the experiences and perspectives of a typical deaf Italian and American are very different. One notable difference is our languages. In the United States, American Sign Language (ASL) is the language of deaf Americans. But almost nobody in Italy knew ASL! So, it was time for me to learn Italian Sign Language, or Lingua dei Segni Italiana (LIS), so I could communicate with deaf Italians. In fact, I am proud to say I am now able to give a presentation in LIS to an audience of LIS signers when giving seminars about the American Deaf culture and its people.