Browsing Tag


U.S. Fulbright

How I Built a Global Network through Music

August 25, 2017

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.

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U.S. Fulbright

Surrounded by Extraordinary People

December 3, 2015
Jonathan Rabb

Jonathan Rabb, 2012-2013, Germany, hiking in Marburg

“If you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, there is no telling how far you will go.” That is what Reiner Rohr, the Deputy Director of the German Fulbright Commission, told me and a small group of bright-eyed Fulbrighters upon our arrival in country. This just so happens to be some of the most important advice I have ever gotten, and it helped me utilize every single moment of my grant to the fullest.

My name is Jonathan Rabb and I was one of seven journalists awarded Fulbright’s Beginning Professional Journalists grants to Germany for the 2012-2013 academic year. This grant was created in 1996 to allow a select group of promising U.S. journalists to come to Germany to conduct research, improve their craft, and complete residencies at German media and news outlets. For my particular grant, I did multiple residencies in digital audience development and transmedia, including one at UFA LAB, a one-of-a-kind digital creative lab owned by the oldest and largest production company in Germany. At UFA LAB, I worked on developing new formats for online television and did on-air coverage in both German and English for “eNtR berlin,” a YouTube channel, on events ranging from Barack Obama’s historic 2013 visit to Berlin to re:publica, one of the world’s largest and most important conferences on digital culture.

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U.S. Fulbright

Jolli Meals: The Rise of Filipino Fast Food, By Laurel Fantauzzo, 2010-2011, Philippines

July 10, 2012

Whenever I told Filipinos I was researching Filipino fast food on a Fulbright grant, they would laugh twice. First, they would laugh at how funny and ludicrous my topic sounded. Then, they would laugh again, because fast food, and food in general, is such an obvious part of their everyday lives. Then they would start to tell me their fast food stories: their memories of the Jollibee commercial “I Love You Sabado,” their favorite McDonald’s order, their family celebratory traditions, their theories as to why certain foods were embraced by Filipino culture.

I noticed that when Filipinos talk about their cuisine, they’re not talking about only food. Embedded in every interview I conducted was a discussion of memory, of gathering, of a Filipino identity, shifting and constant all at once. It didn’t matter what station in life Filipinos occupied, whether they were drivers, businesswomen, CEOs, food experts, students, or housecleaners. Fast food has deep, daily, emotional and cultural implications for Filipinos, and they were eager to share their interpretations with me, a relative outsider. If I could name the simplest, deepest impact my presence had in the Philippines, it was as a listener. I could sense how important it was for Filipinos to feel heard, and I was honored to help represent their stories and relationships to fast food.

As I went through the process of scheduling interviews with Filipinos from various walks of life, I gained much more confidence as a nonfiction writer. It was helpful to have nearly daily practice at interviewing various food writers, food entrepreneurs, and everyday workers of all ages and walks of life. It also gave me a fascinating overview of Filipino society, a complex culture that is both welcoming and challenging in a variety of engaging ways. I sensed, too, that Filipinos were always happy for the chance to share with a dayuhan (foreigner) the story of their fast food cuisine, the diverse, accompanying narrative of which reflects the vibrant development and history of the Philippines itself.

If you’re a research/study applicant interested in the Philippines, look closely at what in your professional and recreational background makes you ready for the research you want to do. I’ve always been fascinated by what food represents beyond a functional meal, as far as the identity and the story of a people, and I wrote about restaurants and food during my post-undergraduate life in New York City. In my free time, I also volunteered at supper clubs and ran food events for an overseas charity. What about your background, interests, and daily work prepares you for your Fulbright research? Everyone has their own compelling narrative. The Fulbright Program is an opportunity for you to honor and build on it.

Photo: Laurel Fantauzzo, 2010-2011, Philippines, eats a quick ube ice cream cone in Quezon City, Philippines, as part of her research for Jolli Meals: The Rise of Filipino Fast Food

U.S. Fulbright Unknown

Seeing Through the Mirror, By Liz Lance, 2008-2009, Nepal

December 21, 2011

After visiting Nepal periodically since studying abroad there as an undergraduate, I returned on a Fulbright grant to work on a documentary photography project on beauty and body image in young women. I spent the next ten months interviewing and photographing my subjects, and although I worked independently, I still benefitted from a support network for encouragement and inspiration. Not long after returning to Nepal in September 2008, I began hearing about—a community of photographers and photography enthusiasts, Nepali and bideshi or foreigners, that met monthly for photography viewings and discussion. In short order, I spent the first of what was to be many Saturday mornings in the company of a dynamic group of primarily young Nepalis who were engaged in multimedia storytelling and other creative pursuits.

The connections I made through helped propel my work in fascinating directions throughout my Fulbright year. I traveled with Kathmandu musicians to Palpa District in Western Nepal, where I spent a few days with a young woman who ran a beauty parlor. I visited Dhaka, Bangladesh, with a contingent of Nepali photographers for the biannual Chobi Mela International Photography Festival. I met another engaged group of creative storytellers at VENT! Magazine, and with them, I taught a two-day photojournalism workshop to about 15 Nepali photographers.

By the end of my grant year, when I had completed five multimedia stories on different women, I presented my work to the community and engaged in a layered discussion on beauty and femininity with a packed house of Kathmanduites. was all that I was looking for and more: not only a supportive and inspirational community, but also a series of open doors that facilitated the growth of my project in unexpected and fulfilling ways. Beyond the scope of my work, also introduced me to a number of Nepalis who would come to be great friends.  I even helped introduce two friends who will marry in the coming year!

In all of this immersion into the community of Kathmandu artists, I began to think less and less of myself as an American among Nepalis, and more as photographer among other photographers. But I think the impetus for that was as much a reflection of how I was being treated by my Nepali friends and colleagues as it was how I felt about living in Nepal on my Fulbright grant. My Nepali slang had sharpened enough that I no longer needed constant translation for their colloquial shorthand, my Nepali friends were passing around the same viral YouTube videos that my friends back home would send me, and we were all updating our statuses and posting photos on Facebook (when not suffering from Kathmandu’s crippling rolling blackouts). Though we came from vastly different cultural upbringings, we looked to the same sources for creative inspiration and “geeked out” in eerily similar ways over technical achievements in Photoshop and FinalCutPro. As is often the lesson in cultural exchange, we were more alike than we were different (though they had decidedly better food).

Over a year earlier, back home in San Francisco, I spent three months researching and honing my Fulbright proposal; foregrounding the issue––beauty and body image––I was examining and stressing the contribution I would make to their domestic and international understanding. Though I will never know the specific reasons why I was awarded a Fulbright grant, I think one of my proposal’s strengths was the public nature of my proposed work. A journalistic project naturally lends itself well to projecting an issue into the public discourse that allows for meaningful cultural exchange.  And while every project need not become journalistic, nor every journalistic project be funded, an application that includes a specific and organic avenue for sharing it with your community at home and abroad is likely to appear stronger. I was also able to craft a successful proposal because of my friends’ input. I sent a draft around to four or five people who gave me very specific feedback.  I was able to incorporate their suggestions, such as restricting my project proposal to elements that were reasonable to achieve in a ten-month period because I began working on my proposal so far ahead of the deadline.

As I reflect back on my Fulbright experience of almost two years ago, I realize the most rewarding aspect of it was how unexpected it was. When I was preparing my Fulbright application, I never imagined myself connecting to a creative community in the way I would end up doing largely because I didn’t know one existed. But by following a tip from a few friends, my Fulbright experience transcended my original two-page proposal in more ways than I could have imagined.

Photo: Liz Lance, 2008-2009, Nepal, interacts with students during a photojournalism workshop she taught with VENT! Magazine in June 2009

Questions for Liz about her Fulbright experinces?  Email her at

U.S. Fulbright

Unexpected Rewards: Pursuing Media Studies and Volunteering in Botswana, By April Simpson, 2010-2011, Botswana

September 2, 2011

I didn’t intend to go to Southern Africa on a Fulbright last year to work on HIV/AIDS.  The purpose of my sojourn to Gaborone, Botswana, was to research the development of online news media and to teach media studies classes at the University of Botswana.  But my resolve to invest in both my academic and extracurricular lives brought me to Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence, the first on the continent to focus exclusively on pediatric-HIV.

Through a volunteer gig writing articles for UNICEF-Botswana, I was introduced to the Baylor clinic, which is treating Botswana’s first generation of HIV-positive children to reach adulthood. Soon after I started, I also became a volunteer for the clinic’s Teen Club.  I helped to facilitate monthly meetings and interviewed the group’s young leaders, who shared personal stories of losing their parents to AIDS and felt stigmatized because of their status.

Despite some incredible challenges, many of these young people vowed to realize their goals and inspired me with their strength and honesty.  They could be themselves at Teen Club because unlike most teenagers, they all understood the burden of taking medications at the same time each day.  Many of them feared what might happen if their crushes or closest friends learned of their status and they typically shared this information with few people.  Practicing safe sex was crucial, but how do you tell a boyfriend or girlfriend that you’re HIV-positive?  I gained a wealth of professional experience, a deeper understanding of the challenges facing Botswana, and a greater appreciation for the value of community as I worked closely with and observed young people who were forced to build their own.

That was probably the best part of my Fulbright year — an experience that involved becoming more engaged with my local community – an experience I wasn’t looking for, but one that ended up having a great impact on my life.  If you’re about to depart on your own Fulbright grant, I encourage you to consider how you can invest in your academic and extracurricular lives.  I bet you’ll be at your best — as a student and as a professional — when you’re investing in both.

For those of you preparing to apply for a study/research grant, consider the following:


Can the study/research project you’re proposing be done anywhere else besides the country to which you are applying?  If so, why does it have to be carried out there?  In my proposal, I pointed specifically to government documents as well as to public and private investment in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), supporting Botswana’s goal of becoming a regional ICT leader.


What’s happening in your proposed Fulbright country that makes this project relevant right now?  Why is this important?  I observed that the University of Botswana’s Media Studies Department was revamping its curriculum to prepare students for a future in online journalism and that there was very little documented research on new media in Botswana.


Why are you best suited to complete your proposed Fulbright research and project?  What have you done in the past that makes this project a logical next step for you academically or professionally?  Before my Fulbright grant, I worked in newsrooms as a reporter and web producer, and started a blog for a nonprofit organization promoting gender advocacy and media training in Cape Town, South Africa.  I aspire to become a leader in the field of international media development.

Photo: April Simpson, 2010-2011, Botswana, at a Gaborone Nursery and Tea Garden shortly before First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at a women’s leadership lunch