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U.S. Fulbright

Service Meets Self-Interest: A Disabled Veteran Does Research Abroad

March 8, 2017

Michael Verlezza, 2014-2015, Canada, participating in an annual tradition – The Fulbright Canada Orientation Hockey Game at Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: Rebecca Lawton)

Not long after 9/11, I enlisted in the United States Army. Eight years and two deployments later, my outlook on life grim, I opted to separate from the military. Rudderless, I enrolled at Bridgewater State University with the aim of completing an economics degree, and after some success, I was invited to an informational meeting with a member of Fulbright’s outreach team. Lured largely by the prospect of free pizza, I attended a meeting that would reset my life’s course.

As a freshman, I had taken a Canadian history course, and coupled with my complete lack of language skills, Canada seemed the strategic choice. Initially, I pitched a proposal that had me studying international exchange rates. I was assured that this was boring (even by economists’ standards) and told to go back to the drawing board. Not long after, the VA’s report outlining the frequency of veteran suicide was published. As a disabled veteran myself, I began to wonder what American tax dollars were getting us if they weren’t ensuring the safety and care of my fellow vets.

My Canadian history professor set me up with the Principal of the Royal Military College, and I put together a proposal whereby I would study federal spending on Canadian and American veterans. In addition, I proposed I augment my analytical skills (and thus my research) by taking a Master’s of Mathematics and Statistics from Queen’s University in Ontario.

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U.S. Fulbright

The Strands Coming Together: An Indian-American in Mumbai

July 27, 2015
Aditya - 1

Aditya Voleti, 2011-2012, India (orange umbrella), joins some IIT-Bombay students in doing some monsoon exploration of the mountains of Matheran surrounding the city of Mumbai, India

My Fulbright year can be described as the culmination of all the disparate strands of my academic career and personal identity. I was an Indian-American double-major in Mathematics and Sanskrit; so it made sense to go to Mumbai (also known as Bombay) and live for a year as an American expatriate in India translating Sanskrit mathematical texts into English.

My application came together through constant talks with professors, their connections, their connections’ connections and so on. I advise potential applicants to tap into their professors’ networks as well. Through my professors, I was connected with a Sanskrit mathematician to host me at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and with editors who used their deep research and Fulbright knowledge to make my application a winning one.

While I could have gone to one of over 140 different countries on a Fulbright grant, tying my application to India was a conscious decision. Living in Bombay with an independent income, in my own room, while making friends at a university could not have been a more radical departure from my previous experiences in the country, where I was chauffeured around by my family and mainly interacted with my cousins. As one of several Indian-American Fulbrighters, I was able to bring a different, and crucial, element to the cross-cultural exchange. If you find an opportunity in your heritage country, consider it seriously.

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