A Detroit worker mural by Diego Rivera
Having had some time to reflect on my Fulbright Millennial Trains Project experience, I have to say that it all seems like a blur. If I had to choose one word to describe it, I would say overwhelming, in the best way. It was overwhelming (and incredibly inspiring) being around so many people with so many ideas and plans. It was overwhelming to travel such a long distance in such a short amount of time. It was overwhelming to process so much new information each and every day. Even off the train, I continue to be overwhelmed by the experience, and hope to eventually be able to process and digest it, bit by bit. I know that many of the lessons I learned, and the advice I received, will continue to come to mind whenever I need it; I know that it will be stored in there for years to come.
One day, while on the back vestibule of the train, I spoke to some of the other participants about how I wished I could keep some moments alive forever so I could replay them when I needed to recall the way I felt that day, in that moment. Several of them agreed, but someone spoke of the importance of letting go, about how what makes these moment precious is the fact that they don’t last forever, because they are not meant to. I think that is important advice in trying to process this experience. I had so many encounters, so many conversations, learned so many lessons, that I know I will not be able to remember everything that happened. So, I have to trust that the right things will stay in my consciousness, and that they will be there when I feel the need to look back on them. As for the rest, I feel comfortable letting it go.
Fulbrighter Jarod Yong (right), Malaysia, with Millennial Trains Project Founder and Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumnus Patrick Dowd (left).
If I were to summarize my MTP journey into one word, it would be “affirmation.”
Prior to my Fulbright, I was a teacher at a secondary school deep within the jungles of Borneo. My students were children from one of the most marginalized people groups in my country. During those six years, I designed and initiated multiple education programs which aimed to holistically develop my students in ways that their homes or the school could never do.
Being a guest to the U.S., I am naturally curious about education programs that exist for children from marginalized communities in this country. Therefore, my project during the MTP journey involved visiting and learning from organizations working to bridge education disparities for at-risk communities in the U.S.
Christian Mpody, 2015-2017, Togo, departing for Los Angeles on the “Unity” leg of this year’s Millennial Train Project
My Fulbright journey in the United States has been a huge revelation to me concerning some topics that I would have never thought about before I started my grant. One of them is the constant struggle between social and market justice, in a context in which the notion of individualism is beloved by constituents across the nation. Related to that struggle is an issue that I’ve become particularly interested in: the crisis of gun violence in America. In learning about the crisis during my Fulbright grant, I’ve heard debates about whether only individuals should be blamed for gun violence, or if the gun industry and the government should be blamed instead. It appears to me that the answer to the issue lies more in value judgments and advocacy than in scientific evidence. In other words, epidemiological evidence has not been the absolute foundation upon which changes have been implemented. When I write that, I remember a mentor who once said, “science pursues truth whereas practice pursues values.”
When I learned about this year’s Millennial Trains Project (MTP), I felt it would be a unique opportunity for me to gain some trans-regional perspectives on gun violence prevention. My MTP project objective is to challenge Millennials to engage in gun violence prevention advocacy–and any other “changes” that go towards the “shared values” held by a community. I do not want to speculate about the extent to which evidence-based practice has become “hypothetical.”
View from the “Unity” Millennial Train on the way into Denver, Colorado (photo courtesy of Laura Jimenez Morales)
When I first heard about the Millennial Trains Project (MTP), I knew right away that I wanted to apply, but did not have a specific project in mind. One of the MTP requirements was to develop a project that linked five different cities (in my case, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Milwaukee and Detroit) together. Because I am doing my PhD in Mass Communications and Media Studies on my Fulbright grant, and my research focuses on Spanish speaking media in the United States, I wanted to find a way to bring these two things together. I figured that all of the cities on the second MTP journey, Unity, had a significant Hispanic population, so I decided to work with that. Having recently become interested in the subject of millennials and their declining interest in broadcast television in Mexico, I realized that this was an issue which could be looked at from a different perspective and applied to the current situation in the United States. In order to be able to better analyze this issue, I proposed to do a series of surveys of Hispanic millennials. In these surveys, I asked questions about their television viewing habits and preferences. I wanted to see if Hispanic millennials in the United States were interested in watching television in Spanish, and what the reasons behind that may be.
Yanoa Carrasco, 2015-2017, Peru, in front of one of the Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen “Shuttlecocks” sculptures at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri
Greetings from the 2016 Millennial Trains Project (MTP). You may be wondering what MTP is. Well, let me explain. It’s a train journey across the United States for a diverse group of young leaders and innovators. Thanks to the Fulbright Program, I am having a great trip experience and making new friends: millennials from different parts of the United States and two other Fulbright Foreign Students, one from Germany and the other from Malaysia.
I’m currently doing a master’s degree in museum studies at New York University, so when I learned about the MTP, I decided to apply to conduct research about community engagement in museums. Through my project, I want to create an awareness of the importance of collecting, preserving and interpreting local and/or regional history. One of the best ways to do this is to involve a local community and create engaging activities that will allow them to discover and interpret the world around them. Institutions like museums and cultural centers are currently evolving into spaces of knowledge and personal reflection; places where communities can go and discuss specific topics while creating their own narratives about them.
The goal of my MTP journey is to explore different participatory and engaging experiences offered by museums in order to spread the word about those activities and inspire others to create similar programs all around the world.
The U.S. Department of State has selected the following six Fulbright Foreign Students to participate in the fourth Millennial Trains Project (MTP) installment across the United States as a special enrichment component of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. This year the six Fulbrighters will be split between two MTP journeys, Change and Unity, joining 44 American Millennial riders who will traverse the country gaining a deeper understanding of life in the United States and social entrepreneurship. The special enrichment activity will give participants an opportunity to explore a research topic of their choice in-depth, and strengthen their leadership and communication skills.
Throughout the two journeys, participants will be sharing their experiences through social media using #MTPtrain and #Fulbright and here on this blog. Follow along in real time!
CHANGE // AUGUST 1 – 7
PITTSBURGH >> CHICAGO >> KANSAS CITY >> ALBUQUERQUE >> LOS ANGELES
Desirée Barao Garcia is a Fulbright Student from Germany.
DESIRÉE BARAO GARCIA
Germany // Enhancing Small Businesses’ Performances
Desirée received her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering at the Technical University of Dortmund in Germany and is now completing a master’s of science in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at Columbia University in New York as a Fulbright Student. Her previous work experience includes various industries (automobile, logistics, consulting, steel, fashion, etc.) and companies of different sizes (from 3 to 35K+). She is currently the president of GradSWE and a Global Guide for One-to-World’s Global Classroom Project.
Desirée’s MTP project will research challenges facing small businesses to find national and international similarities so that small businesses around the world can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes and adjust accordingly. She will meet with small business owners across the United States to find out how they are performing, what challenges they face, and conduct research on what those businesses can do to perform better and stay in business long-term.