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Foreign Fulbright

Upcycling My Fulbright Experience : Making Host Community Connections

May 11, 2018

Michael Saidani, 2017-2018 Fulbright Visiting Researcher from France, volunteering and teaching French language to students at a community church in downtown Davis, California

Although most of my time as a Fulbright Visiting Researcher at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) was dedicated to working on my research project focused on the circular economy, I have always believed that the Fulbright Program should be an exciting cultural exchange experience. During my award, I participated in some amazing outdoor activities such as hiking and traveling around the United States, particularly in California. But I’d like to share how I have been involved on my host campus and in my local community to contribute in return – no matter how small – to some of the benefits I’ve received by being a Fulbrighter in the United States.

A few weeks after my arrival at Davis, I proposed offering a French Language class to a downtown community church for adults who wanted not only to speak French, but also to learn more about French culture. As it was a beginner class, I taught my students how to introduce oneself, have a basic conversation, and about French geography. With no prior French language teaching experience, it was a great opportunity, and I received good feedback from my students, who were happy to work with an actual native French speaker.

During Fall Quarter, I volunteered as an Upcycling Intern at the UC Davis Aggie Reuse Store. Because the UC Davis campus is very green and engaged in sustainability activities, I wanted to find a way to be a part of those activities directly. Being an intern allowed me to promote reuse and upcycling on campus by demonstrating how to make new things out of old ones, an activity that aligned nicely with my PhD thesis related to the circular economy.

Michael Saidani, 2017-2018 Visiting Researcher to France, at the UC Davis Aggie Reuse Store

One month before returning to France, during the Fulbright Foreign Student Enrichment Seminar in St. Louis, Missouri, I engaged in a different kind of community service involving half a day of landscaping for the Great Rivers Pathways association, which is working to connect downtown St. Louis to the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River via a new green path for pedestrians and bikers.

By sharing this small part of my Fulbright story, I would like to encourage other Fulbrighters – current and future – to embrace their entire Fulbright experience by connecting with their local host communities during their awards. By doing so, grantees can advance the Fulbright Program’s mission to meaningfully increase mutual understanding between the people of their own countries and the people of the United States.


Christiane Hilaire: The Transformative Impact of a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant

December 25, 2013
Christiane Hilaire

Christiane Hilaire, 1958-1959, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from France (photo courtesy of Bloomfield Hills High School and Penny Shaw)

During my sophomore year at Bloomfield Hills High School in Michigan in 1959, I was blessed by having Christiane Hilaire, a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant, as my French teacher. While I was already fascinated by the peoples and cultures of the world, as I had had two pen pals, in Germany and Japan, since age ten. It was Christiane, though, who inspired me and helped me center my education and career toward an international focus.

For an adolescent of fifteen, Christiane, at age twenty-three, became an easy role model. I was captivated by her unique looks and her mannerisms that appeared different and intriguing to me. I loved the way her English had that certain charm of non-native speakers who often translate directly from their native language.

She shared with her students not only the grammar and vocabulary of our textbooks, but personal stories of the village where she grew up. She taught us French songs, showed French movies, and explained history and customs that were meaningful to her. In short, she had a talent for teaching.

In the spring of that year, I read an article in Holiday Magazine about the city of Grenoble, France, including its university. I immediately wrote for information about programs. In the package that arrived, I was notified that I had already been accepted! What a thrill for a sixteen-year-old. It was an intensive French language program for international students. I asked my father if he would pay for me to go to Grenoble for my freshman year of college and he agreed!

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FLTA U.S. Fulbright Unknown

My Experience with the Fulbright Application, By Justin Silvestri, 2007-2008, France ETA

May 15, 2009

Trying to remember the exact moment I decided I wanted to go back to France produces a blur of memories: my return to college, Christmas dinner, whenever I wrote, read, or spoke French. But, I’d like to think that I made that decision the moment I stepped off the plane. What motivated me to make that decision was a growing desire to learn more. I felt that, during my three months studying in Rennes as an undergraduate, I had only seen a glimpse of the world that France had to offer. By the time my French reached a level where I comfortably express myself for extended periods of time, there was only one month left before I had to return to the United States.So, in the months that followed my return, I asked my professors what programs could provide me the opportunity to return to France and discover what I had tantalizingly seen just beyond that horizon. Their answer was unanimous; the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

At first, I was encouraged to apply for a Fulbright Full Research or Study grant to France. My professors pushed me to develop a project over the summer and submit a proposal that following fall. Although I appreciated their advice and took it to heart, there was something that held me back. This reluctance was likely born out of my need for independence, a stubborn insistence that I make my own path. As I did my research on the various programs that the Fulbright U. S. Student Program offered, I noticed that France offered Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships for Americans with B.A. degrees or equivalent to teach in French high schools. Being an aspiring professor of European history, the chance to teach in France seemed too good of an opportunity to pass by. Now, I had a goal and a path to get me there.

The application process for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program was labor intensive but, nevertheless, a labor of love. I began the application process early that September and soon discovered that it was an art, not a science. Many applicants, I believe, can be easily overwhelmed or distracted by concerns over GPA, the name of their respective schools and the weight that they carry, or the signatures that are written at the bottom of their letters of recommendation. What I think many overlook is that the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is much more interested in you, your character, your talents, and your dreams rather than the names and numbers that you are associated with. Use your statement of purpose and your narrative statement to convey your personality and your talents. Your application is meant to be a portrait, a mini-biography designed to give a brief taste of who you are. If you are truly guided by passions and allow them to be visible in your application, then you will know that you have produced something worthwhile and that others will recognize this too.

Picture: Justin Silvestri at the Lycée Évariste Galois, Class Presentation during Carnivale, 2008.