Tag Archives: Fulbright Alumni Ambassador

A Cowboy Rides the Rails Across Russia and Kazakhstan

By Ryan Bell, 2015-2016, Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow

Ryan Bell, 2015-2016, Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow to Russia and Kazakhstan, visiting the ranch he helped start in Voronezh, Russia. (Photo Credit: Michael Hanson)

The train was stopped at a border crossing between Russia and Kazakhstan. I opened my cabin door and saw three guards walking down the aisle. One carried an AK-47, another led a bomb-sniffing dog, and a third held a briefcase, presumably for processing each passenger’s immigration documents.

My passport and visas were in order; however, my cabin was not. The small table was crowded with my laptop, audio recorder, and notebooks. Camera equipment and clothing spilled out from my roller bag where it sat on one of the vacant bunks. A messy cabin would not make a good impression, so I hurried to tidy up before the guards reached my door.

(A Russian friend had let me in on a secret of traveling by rail: you can often get a four-person cabin all to yourself by reserving a bunk next to the bathroom. “It didn’t smell that bad,” she said.)

As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, I logged 33 travel days riding in a train car, zigzagging 23,780 miles across Russia and Kazakhstan. That’s just a few hundred miles short of matching the Earth’s circumference – 24,901 miles. Mobility was key for my research project Comrade Cowboys about farmers in Russia and Kazakhstan who were rebuilding their livestock industries with the help of cattle and cowboys imported from the United States.

Big Experience in a Small Country: Learning About and Supporting Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Luxembourg

By David Bernstein, 2013-2014, Luxembourg

David Bernstein, 2013-2014, Luxembourg (right), interviewing Mr. Rhett Power, a distinguished American entrepreneur, author, and business coach, during a talk show style event for local entrepreneurs and investors in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. (Photo Credit: Carolyn Turpin)

Nestled between Germany, France, and Belgium resides my second home and the country that welcomed me with open arms for one of the best years of my life – the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Over the 2013-2014 academic year, I had the distinct honor of being a Fulbright Study/Research Grantee to Luxembourg. While I expected my experience in the Grand Duchy to be life-changing, I did not fully grasp how much the opportunity would positively impact me until I actually arrived and began interacting with professors, classmates, and others from across my host country.

The main element of my Fulbright proposal revolved around earning a Master in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the University of Luxembourg, a new beacon of higher education in the European Union that had been founded only ten years earlier. With plans to return to the United States following my Fulbright experience to pursue a dual MD/MBA degree, I arrived in Luxembourg eager to learn important entrepreneurial and innovation skills that I could adjust, as needed, and apply in my future medical career. However, upon entering the classroom for the first time, I knew that I would learn more than I had originally planned.

Bringing the United States and India Closer Together: Discovering My Role as an Indian-American Fulbrighter

By Shayak Sengupta, 2015-2016, India

Shayak Sengupta, 2015-2016, India, sitting in front of output from WRF-Chem on his monitor, an atmospheric model maintained by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States. Sengupta used this model for his Fulbright research to simulate the atmosphere and air pollution over India and ran the model on HPC 2013, one of the fastest supercomputers in India located at IIT Kanpur.

“You grew up in the United States? But your Bengali is so fluent!”

“Why don’t you speak with an accent? Didn’t you have problems learning English?”

“It’s interesting that you came here. Don’t most people go to the U.S.?”

These are just some of the pleasantly surprising comments I heard throughout my experience as a Fulbright-Nehru Student Researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT Kanpur), where I studied air pollution control at Indian coal power stations. While India’s economy continues to grow at a tremendous rate and the country works to deliver electricity to millions of its citizens who do not have power, it still faces challenges related to poor air quality, especially in urban areas. During my Fulbright-Nehru grant, I conducted field visits to coal power plants and used computational models to understand how better air pollution control at these stations would affect ambient air quality.

Service Meets Self-Interest: A Disabled Veteran Does Research Abroad

By Michael A. Verlezza, 2014-2015, Canada

Michael Verlezza, 2014-2015, Canada, participating in an annual tradition – The Fulbright Canada Orientation Hockey Game at Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: Rebecca Lawton)

Not long after 9/11, I enlisted in the United States Army. Eight years and two deployments later, my outlook on life grim, I opted to separate from the military. Rudderless, I enrolled at Bridgewater State University with the aim of completing an economics degree, and after some success, I was invited to an informational meeting with a member of Fulbright’s outreach team. Lured largely by the prospect of free pizza, I attended a meeting that would reset my life’s course.

As a freshman, I had taken a Canadian history course, and coupled with my complete lack of language skills, Canada seemed the strategic choice. Initially, I pitched a proposal that had me studying international exchange rates. I was assured that this was boring (even by economists’ standards) and told to go back to the drawing board. Not long after, the VA’s report outlining the frequency of veteran suicide was published. As a disabled veteran myself, I began to wonder what American tax dollars were getting us if they weren’t ensuring the safety and care of my fellow vets.

My Canadian history professor set me up with the Principal of the Royal Military College, and I put together a proposal whereby I would study federal spending on Canadian and American veterans. In addition, I proposed I augment my analytical skills (and thus my research) by taking a Master’s of Mathematics and Statistics from Queen’s University in Ontario.

Street Kid Takes Flight: From Dark Streets to Northern Lights

By Zane Thimmesch-Gill, 2008-2009, Canada

zane-thimmesch-gill

Zane Thimmesch-Gill, 2008-2009, Canada, visiting Glacier National Park

I’m excited to announce that my debut book, Hiding in Plain Sight, was just nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. It follows a homeless female-to-male trans kid as he struggles to survive on the streets. The book is an important resource for adults trying to understand the inner lives of at-risk children, and an inspiring story for vulnerable youth who dream of escaping poverty and violence. It’s also a plain ole exciting adventure story. The book is available through Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo, Smashwords, and iTunes.

And I couldn’t have written it without the invaluable experience of the Fulbright Program.

As a young adult, I lived on the streets. After years of struggling with extreme poverty and violence, I managed to get through college and graduate school. Although it might sound weird, once I escaped the streets, I started to miss them; no matter where you come from there’s something comforting in the known.