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.
Fulbright-MTP participant Rodrigo Moran from El Salvador on board the Millennial Trains Project
For some reason, I have not been able to sleep lately. Maybe I miss the coziness of my room on the train. Maybe I miss the rocking motion and the sounds of the wheels on the tracks that lulled me into a profound sleep every night. Maybe I just miss all of my MTP friends…
Check: All of the above.
Besides the nostalgia I have been feeling, I hit the ground running as soon as we got off the train in Washington, DC. I started a summer internship in the field of international development at Creative Associates International, a company “providing outstanding, on-the-ground development services and forging partnerships to deliver sustainable solutions to global challenges.”
Urban agriculture is a thriving industry with unlimited potential. It is not just about food, it is, first and foremost, about people and their relationship to food and the environment. My Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project journey continued to flourish while I met creative and innovative urban farmers in each city.
Fulbright Student from Iraq, Saja Al Quzweeni, on board the Millennial Trains Project
In New Orleans, I visited the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). NOCCA is a regional, pre-professional arts training center that offers students intensive instruction in culinary arts, dance, media arts, music, theater arts, visual arts, and creative writing. The Culinary Arts Department offers a four-year course of study for talented students who aspire to be chefs. The Culinary Arts program was developed in collaboration with the Emeril Lagasse Foundation and is supported by Johnson & Wales University. The students are provided with the opportunity to work side by side with leading master chefs who serve as professional mentors.
Fulbright-MTP Train Participant Saja Al Quzweeni from Iraq, left, interviews Skeets Rapier, the Director of Operations at The Renewable Republic, about his aquaponics, solarpowered organic farm. Photo by MTP Train’s Jenny Gottstein
My Fulbright-MTP project is surveying the best practices in urban agriculture across different American Cities. The anticipated outcome of this journey is to design a holistic model of urban farming that connects people with their land and each other. Urban agriculture will be utilized to offer not just food, but also a terrain in which people come together and build their community.
The project started in Los Angeles where I visited, Women Organizing Resources Knowledge Service or WORKS. The organization’s mission is to provide affordable housing with affordable food for lower-income communities, and for people with disabilities and illnesses. My interview with Channa Grace, President of WORKS, inspired me as she used her personal experiences to leverage the status of the disadvantaged. WORKS also invites people to change their lives and adopt healthy eating habits through growing their own produce.
Fulbright-MTP Participant, Nhlalala Mavundza, from South Africa explores the San Antonio, Texas Riverwalk. May 25, 2015
Throughout my time as a Fulbright Student, I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to interact with other Fulbright Students from around the world. Each time it is eye-opening and a learning experience to learn about places I’ve never seen, and people I’ve never met. Joining the Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project (MTP), I knew the experience would be similar and I would have an opportunity to learn about new places and different American cultures through the stories of the Millennials I would travel with by train.
When the trip began in Los Angeles, I experienced culture shock unlike the first one I experienced when I arrived in the United States in August 2013. I’ve been living in Ohio for the past two years, and it’s now my home. I compare everywhere I travel in the U.S. to Ohio and my home country, South Africa.
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.