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U.S. Fulbright

Success Happens in Concert, By Justin Hill, 2009-2010, Barbados

May 30, 2012















I came to Barbados on a Fulbright grant to conduct a study examining the risk and health-seeking behaviors of incarcerated men in Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds, St. Philip.  During my first trip to the prison, I was simultaneously excited and apprehensive.  I was apprehensive not so much because I was visiting a prison, but because I would be asking the men serving sentences there to trust me with their life stories and experiences.  I was anxious to see how they would react to my research questions which had taken months to prepare.  By the time I had been granted approval to conduct my research in the prison, I had developed a burgeoning appreciation for the impact my work could have.  After my first meeting with the HIV coordinator and prison psychologist, the two people who guided my direct involvement with the men in Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds, I was reminded of the importance of relationships – a lesson at the heart of my Fulbright experience.

Because of the HIV coordinator’s and psychologist’s support, the imprisoned men were curious and receptive to my work.  Everyone was curious to know who was the visiting American interested in learning about their lives.  While working in the prison, the HIV coordinator allowed me, along with some female graduate students, to lead discussions.  This helped me to build a rapport with several of the men whom I would later interview for my study.  

During the meetings before entering the prison, I spoke with experts from the Barbados Ministry of Health (MOH) and HIV/AIDS Commission, as well as the University of West Indies, Cave Hill.  From these conversations, I was able to connect the names I had researched in books and the Nation newspaper’s electronic archive with the people who were quickly becoming my friends, mentors and colleagues; from these relationships, I was able to build a network of colleagues who supported me professionally and socially.  

Nicole and Mikala, two consultants at the MOH, gave me an in-depth, crash course on qualitative research and provided articles on the how, why and when to use different research methods.  They also took me on tours of the island, invited me to dinner with their families and rescued me when a water main burst near my apartment leaving me without running water.  Several other colleagues opened up their homes and went out of their way to help me, so much so, that when I had discouraging meetings (i.e., my ideas got scraped and I had to go back to the drawing board), I was reassured by the knowledge that my friends would motivate me to push through my setbacks.

John Donne’s phrase “no man is an island, entire of itself” truly applied to my Fulbright experience.  I spent more than six months drafting, researching and thinking about the project I wanted to create, but applying for a Fulbright grant was not a solitary process.  My friends, colleagues and mentors (including the University of Chicago’s in-house Fulbright application review panel), gave their time and energy to ensure that my application materials were in good shape. 

Two years had passed after college before I applied for a Fulbright grant, and I ended up doing so because my best friend had also applied.  Relationships are, and were, central to making my Fulbright application successful!

My advice for applicants:

  • Imagine a project that reflects your interests and passions.  Take time to envision how your work will be conducted and what the results might be.
  • Seek support from professors, work colleagues and friends (particularly if they are Fulbright Student or Scholar Program alumni).
  • Think strategically about the in-country resources that will be available to you for your proposed research or as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.
  • Apply with the assistance of a Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) whenever possible.  If your school has an FPA, speak with him or her about the application resources available on your campus.

Top photo: Justin Hill, 2009-2010, Barbados, standing on the cliffs at Cove Bay, St. Lucy, Barbados

Middle photo: Justin Hill, 2009-2010, Barbados (center), with his colleagues Nicole and Mikala from the Barbados Ministry of Health at the Vashti Inniss Empowerment Center, Saint Michael

To learn more about Justin Hill’s Fulbright grant, click here to watch his video interview and hear him describe his experiences.

U.S. Fulbright

The Role of the Spanish Constitutional Court in Shaping Immigrants’ Rights in Spain, By Cris Ramón, 2008-2009, Spain

May 11, 2011

In September 2008, I arrived in Madrid to study the legal rights of immigrants in Spain.  Much like Ireland and Italy, immigrants’ rights have become a major political and legal issue in Spain given the recent growth of its immigrant population.  For my Fulbright project, I analyzed the legal impact of seven sentences that the Spanish Constitutional Court issued against the Ley Orgánica 8/2000, a reform of Spain’s main immigration law.  The reform, which was introduced by center-right Partido Popular in 2000, stated that immigrants could not exercise certain constitutional rights such as the right to public assembly.  In 2007, the Court declared these provisions unconstitutional because they deny individuals Constitutional rights guaranteed to all.

My research focused on determining whether these sentences prompted legislators to further expand immigrants’ rights in additional law reforms.  I interviewed immigration attorneys, law professors, politicians from Spain’s main political parties, and non-governmental organization and labor union representatives.  I intended to understand how judicial and political concerns had shaped the original law.  I discovered that while legislators fulfilled the Court’s mandate to remove the unconstitutional provisions, political concerns regarding the Spanish economic crisis led them to restrict other fundamental rights to control the influx of immigrants.  In other words, political factors continued to limit immigrants’ legal rights despite the Court’s efforts to expand them.

In addition to my research, I worked with six fellow Fulbrighters, also studying immigration in Spain, to organize a conference titled, From Emigration to Immigration: Seven American Perspectives on Immigration in Spain.  It was a success on several levels.   We had a standing room only crowd, and an engaging discussion took place about how the United States and Spain can help each other improve their ability to assimilate immigrants.  Planning and executing this conference was definitely one of the highlights of my Fulbright grant!

The most fulfilling aspect of my time in Spain, however, was that my appreciation of immigrant aspirations, like those that inspired my parents to move to the United States, deepened based on conversations that I had with Spaniards I met and with whom I worked.  Since most probably hadn’t previously interacted with the American son of Salvadoran immigrants, these interactions became an opportunity to explain how my family’s story reflected the common immigrant aspiration to move to the United States in search of a better life.  Some Spaniards shared their own family’s emigrant history during and after the Spanish Civil War.  These conversations helped me to understand how powerful shared or similar experiences can be in connecting people.  My Fulbright grant has not only helped me feel more connected to Spain’s history of emigration and immigration, but also to my family’s own story.

Two pieces of advice for applicants pursuing study/research grants:

  • You’re a young professional with no immediate plans to attend grad school?  Apply!

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program welcomes applications from all individuals who are U.S. citizens and have at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, including young professionals who aren’t in grad school or currently enrolled in an academic program.  If you want to carry out research in a specific country, review the Fulbright Country Summaries to see if the country to which you’re applying prefers applicants who haven’t completed a graduate degree.  Also, make sure to get in touch with your alma mater to find out if they would be willing to assist with your At-Large application. Many college and universities will also accept alumni applicants for the on-campus competition.

  • With a little effort, finding a host affiliation is absolutely possible.

Fulbright applicants without a research affiliation in their chosen country can be creative about finding one.   My undergrad professors and I did not have any academic contacts with law professors in Madrid, so I went through the faculty sites of every major university in Madrid and emailed a copy of my preliminary proposal to professors specializing in immigration law.  I received a response from my future advisor, Diego, within 24 hours.  While this specific approach won’t work everywhere, it is one of many possibilities for making contacts abroad.

Photo: Cris Ramón, 2008-2009, Spain (top row, right) with six fellow Fulbrighters who collaborated on the From Emigration to Immigration: Seven American Perspectives on Immigration in Spain conference: (Top row, left to right) Jesse Feinberg, Marisa Diaz, Oscar Perez de La Fuente (Professor of Philosophy at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid), Alexandra Hinojosa; (Bottom row, left to right) Nicole Nfonoyim, Peter Holderness, and Michelle Dezember.

Questions for Cris about his Fulbright experiences?  Feel free to email him at