Lin Shi, 2013-2014, European Union, with fellow Fulbrighters visiting Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on an excursion organized by the Council on International Educational Exchange; (from left to right) Samantha Lopez, Nathan Hoffmann, Drew Lerer, Maggie Balk, Myles Creed, Lin Shi, and Marco Rimanelli.
I was excited and grateful to be awarded the Fulbright-Schuman grant to the European Union back in 2013, which gave me an opportunity to immerse myself in two European countries for a nine-month period. That fall, I boarded a plane to Brussels to work as a researcher in Liège, Belgium for several months and then relocate to Rotterdam in the Netherlands for the second portion of my grant. My goal was to study the European Union’s public and private pension systems with the intention of eventually sharing my research findings back in the United States. (If you’re interested in more details about my research and experiences, please see my earlier post here.)
One thing that is so special about the Fulbright Program is that it’s not just an academic/teaching opportunity, but also a chance to be immersed in both the community of the host country as well as the broader, global Fulbright community. Since returning to the United States, I’m thankful that my connection to my mentors and friends in Europe have continued along with connection to the Fulbright community more broadly.
Are you interested in applying for a Fulbright U.S. Student grant and have questions about what it’s like to be a Fulbrighter in a particular country or field? Are you currently working on a Fulbright U.S. Student Program application? Are you a Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) who would like a Fulbright alum to present on campus and share information about what’s involved in applying to Fulbright and what the experience is like in-country? Reach out to a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador!
The 2017 cohort of Fulbright Alumni Ambassador bios are now available on our website along with each ambassador’s contact information. We encourage prospective applicants and FPAs to contact Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors for tips, testimonial and advice – all throughout the academic year. Good luck!
Gwyneth Talley, 2015-2016, Morocco (third from left), at the opening of a festival in Zagora, Morocco with Amal Ahmri and her tbourida troupe.
My Fulbright journey began with one distinct moment: My first Arabic class in 2009 where Tunisian Fulbrighter Beligh Ben Taleb, a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA), taught me my Alif–Baa–Taas (or my Arabic ABCs) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. It was Beligh’s first trip to the United States, first Ramadan in a non-Muslim country, and first American teaching experience. He would set a high bar for all the other Fulbright FLTAs to follow at the University.
I remember the class vividly, full of heritage speakers, curious students who wanted to work in government, and a few looking for a challenging language. Beligh took teaching Arabic in stride and encouraged us to participate in cultural activities by cooking traditional Arab meals, helping us translate songs, and dressing us up in Tunisian clothes. Aside from learning how to introduce ourselves, the most memorable phrase I remember Beligh teaching me was: “I ride horses.”
In the summer of 2010, I took my first trip to Morocco to study Arabic and French. I stayed with a horse training family, which would lead me to my graduate research in anthropology. While learning Modern Standard Arabic, my host family immersed me in Moroccan dialect and culture–specifically their horse culture. I also met the incoming Fulbright FLTA assigned to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Othmane Zakaria. He was born and raised in the city of Meknes where I was staying for the summer. We shared tidbits about our cultures, and I warned him to buy his winter coat in the States because Nebraska winters were not like winters in Morocco.
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.
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.
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.