Icela Quintero, 2014-2016, Panama, working at the Panama Canal as a vessel enters the Upper Chamber of the Cocolí Locks, in southbound transit (Atlantic Ocean-Gatun Lake-Pacific Ocean)
Since November 2016, I have been part of the group of engineers that oversees the control systems for the new locks of the Panama Canal. It is my dream job, and a position I would not have were it not for the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. As a Panamanian, working at the Panama Canal is a responsibility, our pride and joy, and lifeblood of our country. The Panama Canal is an integral part of our history and future, and it is our duty to keep it operative. I don’t do my job for myself, but for every Panamanian. I am reminded of this key motto I now live by daily, one which the Fulbright Program cemented in me. We are to be elements of change, and as long as I am in a position to do so, I will.
I never expected to become a Fulbrighter, but life takes us on mysterious paths. I became one in a most unexpected way. I was traveling in Europe with a group of 52 Latin American students. Among them were two future Fulbrighters; one Mexican and one Uruguayan. At that point, I realized I wanted to do more for my country, and my traveling companions explained how the Fulbright Program would give me the opportunity to do so. What I did not know was that participating in Fulbright would change my life in more ways than I ever imagined.
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.
Yuriy Veytskin, 2013-2014, Australia, visiting Ayers Rock at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
It was August of 2012 when I first heard about the opportunity that would change my life. How I heard about it was rather direct and unromantic: a simple email from the Fulbright Program Adviser at North Carolina State University, my alma mater, listing all of the science-related Fulbright Programs available that year. I had heard about Fulbright before, but the idea of applying for a grant in the middle of my PhD program seemed daunting and unrealistic. Setting all doubts aside, I figured I would ask my adviser for more information and take it from there. Little did I know, this would be the start of two months of dedicated, and at times frantic, application writing in order to meet the internal university and national deadlines. Unlike some other applicants, I started my application quite late and only had about five weeks to submit all of my materials by the internal campus deadline. Unfazed, I worked diligently for hours to complete my Fulbright application while also taking my graduate courses. For my affiliation letter, I cold emailed a few scientists in my potential host country, Australia, hoping that they might forward my request to the appropriate contacts. The affiliation letter I received ended up being highly detailed and focused, signed by my three prospective advisers, and was likely a major contributing factor to the success of my application.
After going through countless iterations of my Statement of Grant Purpose and Personal Statement with the assistance of my Fulbright Program Adviser, I was able to submit my application by the internal university deadline.
Mathieu S. Davis, 2013-2014, South Africa (center), with his Grade R class at Ikaya Primary School in the township of Kayamandi, just outside of Stellenbosch. Every Friday, he would meet with these children to teach them English and play games in collaboration with their classroom teacher. In return, they taught Mathieu Xhosa. Whether it was ‘1-2-3 Red Light’, ‘Duck-Duck-Goose’ or a chaotic game of football (soccer), a great time learning and playing together was had by all.
My Fulbright in Stellenbosch, South Africa, was divided into two primary areas: research and community outreach. The research portion of my fellowship focused on knee replacement implants and the different tribological properties of current materials used in these devices. For this project, I had to build a device that functioned as a pin-on-plate wear tester, which would generate particles over the course of time that could be measured using simple distillation techniques to determine the degree of wear particles produced. My research aimed to determine the most effective combination of materials to limit debris and particle accumulation during extensive wear testing. I also performed additional research in gait analysis as a means of biometric identification. For this project, I had to come up with a novel statistical and repeatable method that could determine through statistical principles, the likelihood that two gait profiles are similar or different. This expertise was utilized by the South African Police Department as a potential identification tool of a crime suspect.
Emily Yedinak, 2013-2014, Chile
If you were anything like me, you may have heard that a Fulbright grant is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but that the application process is rigorous and very competitive. Perhaps you are filled with a lot of questions. You may even, like me, be filled with self-doubt. And for that reason, I want to share a small piece of my story.
Fulbright changed my life and I mean it changed my life in a colossal, momentous, and fantastic way. I didn’t know that when I stepped off the plane in Santiago, Chile, I was embarking on the biggest adventure of my life. I had read books about Chilean culture and history in preparation for my departure, but no book would have told me the depth of kindness I found in my peers as I slowly crawled, stumbled, and fell head-first into my Chilean life. I also would have never realized how difficult it was going to be adjusting to an entirely different world. But the incredible thing that I discovered was there were always people willing to help and guide me. The Chileans I met not only accepted me, but treated me like family – whether it was taking care of me when I was sick, helping me grocery shop and cook dinner after I had dislocated my shoulder, or lending me money when my wallet was stolen. The connections I made transcended cultural boundaries.
Emmanuel Johnson, 2013-2014, United Kingdom, working in the lab
On September 10, 2013, I arrived in London, England at the King’s Cross tube station. As I left the station, I was hit by a cold breeze which quickly reminded me that my initial assumption about the weather in England was wrong.
I arrived in Birmingham, England a week later to begin my master’s program in robotics on a Fulbright grant. From day one, I was welcomed by students from various cultures. In the States, I was accustomed to meeting students from around the country, but in Birmingham, I met students from countries around the world – a few I knew nothing about. The exposure to different cultures challenged my views daily. I questioned my thoughts on dress, ideals, biases and ways of living. In the United Kingdom, the weather, fashion, food and dialect were different. I was naïve to think that because the British spoke English, the cultural elements wouldn’t be much different than those in the United States. I was constantly reminded of the difference between the two countries: when I rode the lift (British word for elevator), rode the tube (London subway) and had to get a jumper (British word for sweater) to keep warm.
The main focus of my Fulbright grant was to pursue a master’s in robotics and conduct research in human robot interaction. My research explored ways in which a robot can use gestures to provide feedback to a student during a learning activity.