Browsing Tag


U.S. Fulbright

Of Mice and Dreams: My Path to Fulbright

October 26, 2017

Steven A. Vickers, Jr., 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Latvia, giving a lecture on American culture at Daugavpils University, Latvia.

One of my favorite animated films tells the tale of a mouse with a dream to become a chef. Everyone thinks him crazy, but he strives towards his goal and proves to himself and those around him that anyone can, indeed, cook. My journey to becoming a 2015-2016 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) to Latvia played out much the same. I am not what many would consider the “typical” Fulbright recipient. Many, including some professors, thought me crazy to even apply for the prestigious award. Well, I sure did prove them wrong.

You see, I did not graduate high school and immediately enter a university as is expected of my generation. My family could not afford the living expenses my scholarships failed to cover, and I could not shake my intense desire to serve my country. So, my path took me to Parris Island, South Carolina and the United States Marine Corps; that path came to an abrupt conclusion when I found myself medically unfit to continue serving. At that point, I did as my father before me and entered the police force. I enjoyed being a police officer, but I always regretted not getting a degree. The demanding schedule of a police officer made attending school incredibly difficult. I decided to end my police career, worked a few random jobs, and enrolled in Faulkner State Community College at the age of twenty-seven. When I completed enough credits, I transferred to Auburn University.

Continue Reading

U.S. Fulbright

May You Have the Courage to Fall Down and Get Back Up

May 7, 2014

Talya Lieberman, 2012-2013, Latvia (right), and her friend and accompanist Liga, after a recital for Museum Night at the Jewish Museum on May 18th, 2013 in Riga, Latvia

Not long into my Fulbright grant, I wrote down a list of concepts that I wanted to further integrate into my life—a sort of prayer, if you will, that was to be uttered as a daily reminder to center myself on my values. In it, I wrote, “May I have the courage to fall down and get back up.” I meant it metaphorically, of course, but alas, in the defining moment of my year, I got to learn what that really meant.

It’s not the story I expected to tell, and it’s probably not the most comfortable to read. Three months into my Fulbright Study/Research grant to Latvia to study Voice, I was invited to perform a recital at one of Riga’s coolest venues for Valentine’s Day – the Kalnciema Kvartals. I was really excited—it was a great opportunity that could only lead to more good things.

Then, I fell. On my way to the rehearsal, I slipped on ice, and fell. Big time. I hit my ankle against the wall, and broke it straight through. But fear not! This is a happy story, as what resulted was one of the most challenging but greatest lessons in the kindness of strangers, friends, and family, in patience, in resilience, and so much more.

Continue Reading