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Fulbright Alumni Ambassasdor

U.S. Fulbright

Memories of Magnitude: Reflections on My Fulbright Experience in India

September 20, 2017

Benjamin Simington, 2015-2016, India (left), with several sadhus from different Kabir Panthi monasteries. They visited the famous Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain together during the Kumbha Mela pilgrimage.

Memory came to be a major theme of my research, along with my personal experiences with the Fulbright Program in India. My initial research project was titled Mahant with a Message: A Study of Sant Vivek Das Acharya. I wanted to focus on the life, religious activity, and socio-political vision of Sant Vivek Das Acharya, the head of the Kabir Chaura monastery of the Kabir Panth. The Kabir Panth is a monotheistic religious community in India rooted in the teachings of the medieval Indian poet-saint Kabir. The community has an emphasis on ideas of tolerance, personal spiritual practice, and the equality of all human beings.

As I continued with my research, the importance of ideas of memory became more and more salient. I eventually shifted my focus to look at how Kabir is remembered in the Kabir Panth through ritual, the space of the monastery, and through the poetry of Kabir in everyday conversation. The way that Kabir’s poetry functioned as a form of remembrance had great personal significance for me. Studying this facet of memory allowed me to experience the poetry of Kabir in a way that was not simply abstract. I was able to internalize it. Memory remains a vital part of the religious experience of the members of the community.

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U.S. Fulbright

Fulbright: Completing the Puzzle

July 3, 2017

History Estill-Varner, 2015-2016, Dominican Republic (center), with a group of community members at a Deaf sporting event hosted at the Olympic Stadium in Santo Domingo.

The anticipation leading up to my departure for the Dominican Republic as a Fulbright U.S. Student Study/Research award recipient is something I remember vividly. While I dreamt of the ways that my research would have an impact on my host community, I had no idea that it would also end up having an impact on me. Some may call it serendipity, others may call it a blessing, but I now realize how the Fulbright “piece” was the perfect fit to the “puzzle” of my soon-to-be professional life.

I began constructing my puzzle in high school by taking sign language classes and added another piece during college through an intensive Spanish immersion program in Costa Rica. Due to these experiences, I chose to double major in American Sign Language/English interpretation and international studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Yet, as I progressed in my undergraduate career, I struggled to see how these pieces fit together. How was it possible to apply a language that is uniquely American to the international community? When my professor approached me about an opportunity to apply for a Fulbright award, I knew this was my chance.

Shortly after I heard about Fulbright, I worked as an intern in the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education. Over the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to meet members of the Dominican Deaf community. To my surprise, I discovered that American Sign Language and Dominican Sign Language were not that different after all. Suddenly, something that I had previously thought restricted me professionally to the United States, gave me an international connection to the Dominican Deaf community and a foundation for a Fulbright proposal.

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U.S. Fulbright

World Oceans Day 2016: Revisiting Marvin Alfaro’s Story and Research

June 8, 2016
Marvin Alfaro

Marvin Alfaro, 2011-2012, Australia, operates a conductivity, temperature and depth measuring instrument on board the Aurora Australis in the Southern Ocean

In honor of World Oceans Day, we are re-posting Fulbright Alumni Ambassador and alumnus Marvin Alfaro’s article describing his Fulbright research studying the Antarctic Polar Front and Global Climate Change: Impacts and Implications.  Are you a current Fulbrighter studying oceanography and/or related fields and want to share your story? We’d love to hear from you! Contact us here.

Australia is perfectly situated on the planet for me to pursue my atmosphere-ocean interaction studies. As an undergraduate meteorology major with a special interest in the Southern Ocean, I worked with oceanographers on projects analyzing the strength and location of ocean currents using remote sensing capabilities from satellites. After graduating, I became interested in combining the remote sensing data from satellites with high-resolution data retrieved on board a nautical research trip into the Southern Ocean. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provided just the type of opportunity I needed to pursue this unique cultural and research experience.

Initially, I expected life in Australia to be very similar to the culture and lifestyle I knew in the United States. But as a Latino and native New Yorker, I was in for a big surprise.

As a Fulbright Student, I lived with and learned from locals, allowing me to see the world through an Australian’s southern-Pacific lens. My Fulbright lasted a year, but the learning will last forever. In Australia, I realized how important Latin American cultures and cuisine are in my everyday life in the United States. Sydney is largely influenced by Asian cultures—Latin American influence is minimal. Before I arrived, I thought of surfers, beautiful beaches, and Sydney’s famous Harbor Bridge and Opera House. They were wonderful parts of my experience, but the Fulbright Program allowed me to experience everyday Australian life, not just see Australian landmarks.

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U.S. Fulbright

Engaging with Your Host Community During Fulbright

April 16, 2015
Sharief -1

Sharief El-Gabri, 2010-2011, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Jordan, with Ahmed, one of the refugee, high-school students who helped run the sports facility in the Gaza Refugee Camp

If you are thinking about applying for a Fulbright grant, you need to consider how you plan to interact with your host community. After all, Fulbright’s core tenet is cultural exchange. Of course, show off your impressive research proposal or your comprehensive English teaching playbook, but your time as a Fulbrighter will likely be memorialized by serendipitous interactions with your community. Embrace those opportunities because you are prepared and have considered how you would like to carve out your Fulbright experience.

Looking back on my Fulbright experience in Amman, Jordan in 2010-2011, I really cherish my time outside of my primary English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) responsibilities. I had sufficient free time to engage in a substantive community engagement project. Outside of my ETA obligations and studying Arabic, I helped build a sports facility in the Gaza Refugee Camp.

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U.S. Fulbright

Baking Ereba, Building Community

April 2, 2015
Kia Hall

Kia Hall, 2011-2012, Honduras, baking Ereba in Ciriboya, Iriona, Honduras

During the 2011-2012 academic year, I had a Fulbright U.S. Student grant to Honduras. My research was about the women who bake cassava bread in the Afro-indigenous Garifuna community. In the Garifuna language, cassava bread is called ereba (uh-ray-buh). I studied how the women are using culinary tradition of ereba making as a means to economic development. Below is a picture of me trying to actually bake some ereba, which is harder than it looks.

In Honduras, I was also a cultural ambassador. Through my research I met a Garifuna woman, Lina Hortensia Martinez, who buys ereba in the villages and sells flavored cassava chips in the city. I built a bilingual website for her organization. You can take a look at

As a doctoral candidate in International Relations, my Fulbright experience launched my research career, and I have presented my findings throughout the country and in Latin America. My Fulbright experience was also life changing and deepened my understanding of development issues and challenges. Previously, many of them were only scholarly concepts before they came to life in my community experiences. I am forever indebted to the communities of Ciriboya, Punta Piedra and Cusuna, in the Iriona region of Honduras, where I was based during my 10-month stay.

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Fulbright in Motion U.S. Fulbright

Meet the 2015 Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors!

December 22, 2014

Back row, left to right: Bryan Furman, Senay Kahsay, Nathan Taylor, Amaka Cypriana Uzoh, Julie Baer, Megan Echols, Patrick Kramer, Joshua Martin, Derrell Acon, Allie D. Surina; Front row, left to right: Armaan Siddiqi, Ilana Robbins Gross, Aditya Voleti, Stephanie Herzog, Joanie Andruss, Tiffany Burd, Kristine Lin, Christina Aguila, Radhameris Gomez Gabriel (not pictured, Larena Nellies-Ortiz and Taylor Bernard)

On Wednesday, December 10, 21 newly selected Fulbright U.S. Student Program Alumni Ambassadors met in Washington, DC to receive training on how to promote and recruit for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Staff members from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the Institute of International Education (IIE), along with previous Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors, shared tips on giving an effective presentation and emphasized the unique, important role that Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors play in inspiring diverse students, Fulbright Program Advisers, college administrators – and anyone interested in the program – to learn more about it and the power of educational and cultural exchange.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Alumni Ambassador Program was established in 2008 to identify, train and engage a select group of approximately 15-25 Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni to serve as representatives, recruiters and spokespersons for the Fulbright Program. They are selected annually through recommendations from Fulbright Commissions, U.S. Embassy staff, area managers, the Fulbright Student Program Outreach Division and approved by the Fulbright Program’s sponsor, ECA. Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors come from an array of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, states, fields of study, institutions and have participated in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program in all world areas.

Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors represent the program’s rich diversity and play a key role in increasing knowledge about Fulbright opportunities. They provide testimonials about their Fulbright experiences at conferences and campus presentations, and offer application tips in written articles, webinars and at special events throughout the United States.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program relies on the Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors to share with potential applicants what the Fulbright experience is really like and how to successfully address the challenges of living abroad while meeting the Fulbright Program’s ultimate goal – to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

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