Fulbright Student Program Blog

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The Power of the Fulbright Network

My journey began after I left the Japanese Ministry of Defense, where I’d worked for nine years, to become a Masters student at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, on a Fulbright fellowship from 2009 to 2011. I chose SAIS to study international security and to expand my network with security experts in DC, which is the center of politics. This experience opened doors for me to meet esteemed professionals and continues to influence my career.

Mihoko at her commencement from Johns Hopkins University

I have always been interested in international security and wanted to study it in a global environment, in a second language, to learn from a different perspective. Since I didn’t know when I’d ever get to live outside my own country again, I wanted to take advantage of my time in D.C. to get to know many people and their cultures. When I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, I made two goals. The first was to make international friends. The second was to publish at least one article in English before graduation.

An American classmate and Fulbright alum had me over to her parents’ home in Chicago for Christmas in 2009 and 2010. Another American classmate (also a Fulbrighter alum) invited me to her parents’ home in upstate New York to celebrate Thanksgiving in 2010. This was my first traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. Their hearty welcome and friendship definitely made my time in the United States memorable and special.

Cybersecurity began to attract attention in the United States when I was a student. One of my classmates, an editor for a policy journal, was looking for a contributor to write an article about Asian cybersecurity, and asked me if I knew anyone who could write about the topic. I told her that I could, and this marked a turning point in my career. She helped me publish a blog which became my first English piece on cybersecurity.

After graduation from SAIS, I had one more year to stay in the United States on my Fulbright visa to do academic training. Since I wanted to earn more professional and academic experience, I did two fellowships at Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies (now Pacific Forum), a think tank based in Honolulu, to research Japan-US cybersecurity collaboration.

A SAIS colleague who graduated one year ahead of me joined a cybersecurity firm and introduced me to his colleagues who does research on Asia. My publications were helpful to prove my interest in cybersecurity. Since most Japanese news articles about cybersecurity are never translated into English, I started to share English summaries with my colleagues when I was with Pacific Forum.

Right before my second fellowship at Pacific Forum ended, I went to see a friend, an American Fulbrighter alum, to say goodbye. At the time I was thinking about being jobless soon, and I was quite scared. He shared his experience after earning his PhD and encouraged me to aim high and stay positive, even in challenging circumstances. I was reminded of the power of the Fulbright network and was encouraged to persevere not just to find the right job for me, but also to help others through our international network.

It has been almost seven years since the end of my Fulbright fellowship at SAIS. I am still involved in global cybersecurity policy, and write and speak about it all the time. While my career path has turned out to be different than the traditional Japanese path of staying in one organization, it also enabled me to be adventurous, travel all over the world, meet people, and make so many international friends.

A few years ago, I bumped into a woman who helped me with my Fulbright visa process at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in 2009. She was doing her PhD then and her research focus now includes cybersecurity. This is the beauty of Fulbright: getting to know a diverse group of passionate people and learning from each other.

To those who are interested in the Fulbright Program but are hesitant for any reason, I cannot emphasize this enough: Go for it! Don’t be afraid to be different. Your journey will be full of adventures, Fulbright passion, and friends.

Faces of Southern Tech Women

Fulbright-MTP Participant from Cambodia, Pichleap Sok (left), interviews Sia Karamalegos, an instructor at Tech Talent South in New Orleans.

Fulbright-MTP Participant from Cambodia, Pichleap Sok (left), interviews Sia Karamalegos, an instructor at Tech Talent South in New Orleans.

“It’s been a great ride so far, but rest assured, the best is yet to come,” said Patrick Dowd, founder and CEO of the Millennial Train Project (MTP). I couldn’t agree more. Even though the train journey came to an end, our individual journey had just begun.

It feels so good to be home again. It feels so good to take a long shower in a non-moving bathroom. It feels so good to be back in my own bed. But, why do I feel so nostalgic for strangers I spent just 10 days with, places I spent less than 24 hours in — and the uncomfortable top bunk, where I continuously hit my head on the ceiling?

It all began with an email offering me a spot on the Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project 2015 journey. One of my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions happened to be traveling to at least 10 cities across America, but being so busy with school barely afforded the time for it. Knowing that I got to travel to six cities across the United States on a train made me jump for joy.

Meeting Makaila

Fulbright-MTP Participant Mohammad Behroozian, from Afghanistan (right), engages in conversation with American MTP Participant Maceo Keeling from LA on board Millennial Trains Project (MTP) 2015 journey.

Fulbright-MTP Participant Mohammad Behroozian, from Afghanistan (right), engages in conversation with American MTP Participant Maceo Keeling from LA on board the 2015 Millennial Trains Project (MTP) journey

Mohammad Behroozian, a Fulbright Student from Afghanistan, was selected as the Grand Prize winner of the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) New Leaders Group award in recognition of his Fulbright-MTP documentary film project, “Heading South,” for its transformative impact on advancing and exploring cultural diversity between the United States and Afghanistan.

Below, Mohammad reflects on one interview to be included in his documentary.

My most recent Fulbright sponsored adventure involved traveling over 3,000 miles through the Southern United States.

While on the Fulbright-MTP journey, I traveled from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, making stops in San Antonio, Austin, New Orleans, Baltimore and Washington. I interviewed imams and videotaped Islamic centers to learn how they interact with their surrounding American communities. When I departed from my cold host city Boston, I knew the South was going to be warm, and I was prepared for it. What surprised me upon arrival in the South was the level of diversity and intercultural receptiveness I witnessed.

Heading South

Fulbright-MTP Participant, Mohammad Behroozian, in the dome car of the Millennial Trains Project Train.

Fulbright-MTP Participant from Afghanistan, Mohammad Behroozian, in the dome car of the Millennial Trains Project Train

Texas is usually warm, but today’s rain has lowered the heat. It also gives a pleasant scent to the air, the same relaxing scent that enriches Paghman’s air after it rains in Kabul. Writing from the second floor of the Millennial Trains Project is difficult because neither the vastness of these green farms nor the relaxed streets of Austin and its people walking their dogs are easy to overlook.

My name is Mohammad. Thanks to Fulbright, I started my master’s studies in television writing and producing at Boston University. Fulbright has now granted me the opportunity to travel through the Southern United States by train.

On this expedition, I join 24 other young professionals engaged in economic, social and political spheres of their countries to visit Los Angeles, Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington DC to research a topic of our interest.

Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project: Preface

Disclaimer: As I write these words, I am in the middle of Texas (between El Paso and San Antonio) after more than 15 hours of enlightening, intense and humbling learning experiences with the MTP class of 2015. So yes, I am extremely tired, but my desire to share these feelings goes beyond my body entering autopilot mode.