Benjamin Cohn, 2014-2015, Fulbright-mtvU Fellow to Ghana, interviewing rap artist Reggie Rockstone in Accra
The 10 months I spent in Ghana for my Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship were the most supportive and constructive of my life. Sure, I faced new challenges every day, even insurmountable ones occasionally, but between my home communities, the Fulbright Program, and the new relationships I made in Ghana, I have never been more prepared to take risks.
Prior to applying, I had always considered Fulbright to be for “other people” until, at a networking meeting, I was told to consider it by the Executive Director of the Fulbright Association, an independent U.S. alumni organization. Upon further investigation, I realized that Fulbright’s goals aligned with my own more than I ever expected. Traveling has played a large part in my development; being exposed to different experiences, worldviews, and perspectives has 100 percent changed me for the better. Senator Fulbright believed that to be true for individuals, and even more so for nations.
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.
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.