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U.S. Fulbright

Experiencing Life, Business and Education in Mexico

July 23, 2014
Joshua Rodriguez

(Left to right) 2013 Binational Business Internship grantees Joshua Rodriguez, Alex Honjiyo, Christopher Bergan, and Jeff Macdonald traveling through the Yucatan

When I was first asked to write a piece for the Fulbright Student Program Blog, I was at a loss for words. How could I possibly describe such a life-changing experience? If a picture is a worth a thousand words, then how many words is a year living abroad? Simply put, Mexico has taken my breath away.

As I went to the theater this past weekend, I saw an advertisement that encouraged tourism in Chiapas. The slogan was great, “Chiapasiónate. I started to think to myself if I had to create an advertisement for tourism in Mexico, what would it be? Would it start with the incredible beaches of Zihuatanejo and Cancún? Or, should I start with the Mayan ruins in the Yucatán and Chiapas? I could focus on the gorgeous neoclassical churches in San Miguel de Allende, Querétaro and Guanajuato. But how could I forget the cosmopolitan city that is Mexico City?

Honestly, this blog post cannot suffice to explain my love affair with Mexico. Mexico has 32 UNESCO world heritage sites. It is the birthplace of the New World. The food is out of this world. Mexico is the political, economic and social gateway into Latin America.

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U.S. Fulbright

Extraordinary Opportunity for a Non-traditional Student: One Family’s Fulbright to Mexico

May 21, 2014
Esther Francis

Fulbright U.S. Student Esther Francis with her daughter Matayah after performing a traditional Veracruz dance for Mother’s Day at Alberto Correa, a public elementary school in Mexico City

I dare say I’m not the typical Fulbright U.S. Student. I started taking college classes early—at age 14—and finally finished almost 13 years later. As a non-traditional student and single mother, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program afforded me opportunities that may have otherwise been beyond my reach, or would have perhaps taken another thirteen years to achieve. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

My Fulbright year was my second time living and studying in Mexico. My daughter and son, then ages four and seven, accompanied me while studying Spanish in Guanajuato as a Gilman recipient. When I returned to Park University after my Gilman, the Fulbright Program Adviser at my university immediately picked up on my interest in pursuing further overseas studies. She told me about Fulbright and walked me through the different types of grants. I knew immediately that the Fulbright Binational Business Internship in Mexico was my ticket. She told me the first Park student to receive a Fulbright grant was another non-traditional student who was just finishing up her own grant. Coincidentally, I knew her and had grown up with her daughter. “If she can do it,” I thought, “so can I.”

I received my Fulbright placement as a Human Resources Analyst for the United Nations Association in Mexico (AMNU). Deport-es para Compartir (Sports for Sharing), AMNU’s flagship program, is a program which aims to form better citizens from childhood by encouraging children to participate in their community and to act as change agents on the local level. I coordinated recruitment processes, redesigned the employee performance evaluation, and drafted the department’s first Policies and Procedures Manual. Each task required extensive collaboration with program staff and I had to adapt to a new culture both personally and professionally. Those times when I joined the operations team in the field working directly with children and education staff were particularly rewarding. The grant also included graduate courses at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, which supplemented my educational and cultural experiences.

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U.S. Fulbright

Designing and Connecting with La Ciudad de México

September 11, 2013
Nancy Guevara

Nancy Guevara, 2011-2012, Mexico, enjoying the view above Mexico City

I am Mexican-American, born on the border between the countries to two immigrant working-class parents. My ancestry in Mexico not only drove me to want to learn more and experience living in Mexico, but also drew me to examine both sides of my identity and the mutually beneficial process of cross-cultural communication. Mexican-Americans and Mexican immigrants are great bridges for creating mutual understanding between the United States and Mexico, who continue to influence each other today.

When I was thinking about applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program Study/Research grant, I knew I was interested in humanitarian design in order to address pressing social issues. I wanted an opportunity to explore the creation of imagery, artifacts, and educational tools to create awareness and dialogue. I knew that I wanted to travel to a place where I was proficient in the language, where I could understand not only the definitions of the words that were spoken to me, but the personality and soul in which these words and conversations were being spoken. As such, Mexico was a perfect fit.

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Attending SXSW? Learn how the Fulbright Program is the first social network.

March 6, 2012

This Sunday, March 11 in Austin, Texas, the Fulbright Program will present a panel within the very popular SXSW Interactive track entitled “Fulbright: How the 1st Social Network Adapts to Social Media.”  The panel will be moderated by Meg Neff, Public Affairs Assistant, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Vijay Renganathan, Senior Program Officer, the Institute of International Education, Doug Mitchell, Fulbright Scholar Specialist to Chile and Katie Day Good, Fulbright-mtvU Student to Mexico, 2008-2009, as panelists.  To learn more, please visit the SXSW schedule of events.

Like last year, the Fulbright Student and Scholar Programs will be represented by a booth during the tradeshow from March 12-15.  We hope you will stop by and learn more about Fulbright’s involvement in SXSW!

U.S. Fulbright

Learning About Mexican Migrant Culture and Photography – A Fulbrighter’s Story, By Kathya Maria Landeros, 2007-2008, Mexico

August 24, 2011

My Fulbright adventure began with a three-day orientation held in Mexico City. It was not only an introduction to this dynamic city but also an introduction to my colleagues and fellow Fulbrighters. Assembled in Mexico City for the orientation was a diverse group of scholars, artists, scientists, researchers and business professionals. Our fields were equally diverse and included agriculture, anthropology, ethnomusicology, painting and sociology, to list only a few, and yet we were all united by a common interest – Mexico.

My research took me to Mexico’s central states where I photographed migrant culture in an area with high rates of historic migration. As a first generation Mexican-American, it was a familiar topic to me, but I had never lived in Mexico as an adult. Previously, I spent three years photographing Mexican-American culture in the United States, but now I wanted to see how migration had changed the towns’ landscapes to and from which many people migrated over several decades. Some of my fellow Fulbrighters were also interested in immigration research, and this allowed me to learn more from my peers.  In addition, I enrolled in a class on local and regional development at the Universidad de Guanajuato, my university affiliation.  The course gave me an opportunity to discuss with the professor and local students how underdeveloped areas prompted their populations to migrate to Mexico’s urban centers and to the United States.

There were several things I did that made my stay more enjoyable and helped me to feel like I was part of a community. I participated in local “talleres,” or workshops, and learned about some traditions such as making sugar candy for the Day of the Dead celebration. I tutored a student interested in photography and even tried my hand at tae-kwon-do. I quickly decided martial arts weren’t my thing, but I had to appease my curiosity after walking by the class, day after day, on my way down to the “mercado” or market. I traveled frequently to local communities, and my affiliations often helped with my initial introductions to them. Other times, I had to introduce myself to strangers, meet people on the local bus or in eateries and “pensiones,” and do my research on the ground. I can’t be shy as a photographer, but it also helped that many people were so welcoming – inviting me, a stranger, into their homes and allowing me to document their lives. Reflecting on my time in Mexico, I realize that it had been important for me to plan my Fulbright proposal meticulously on paper. The opportunity to photograph some events occurred only once, such as the winter holidays and “fiestas” when migrants return to their hometowns. Yet my plan of action would not have succeeded had I not been curious to learn from those around me and open to some degree of serendipity.

I also see that my time in Mexico was instrumental to my creative and professional growth as a photographer. Currently, I am enrolled in an MFA program in photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design where I am still working on projects that involve migrant culture. The Fulbright Program allowed me to dedicate myself, for the first time, entirely to this photographic endeavor. Imagine being given the opportunity to practice your craft on a daily basis. Prior to this, I had held many odd day jobs, balancing my photographic aspirations with the reality of having to pay for rent and other household expenses (not to mention film in my camera). I know many artists in similar situations and it is easy to get discouraged. The Fulbright Program was a much-needed affirmation of my photographic skills and an opportunity to pursue my project.  Aside from my persistence in working on my project, there were many things that I felt were stacked against my favor and that initially kept me from applying for a Fulbright. I was not a recent college graduate. I had changed my career path in my mid-twenties to pursue photography and was self-taught. I was only beginning to develop my resume as a photographer. I was fortunate, however, to have a dear friend who encouraged me to apply and made me realize that the Fulbright Program could offer an opportunity for professional development – especially in the creative and performing arts. I encourage those who are in a similar situation, those who share some self-doubt, absolutely to apply.

My advice to applicants applying for a study/research grant (including artists and writers):

  • Start the application process early and don’t be discouraged by it. The application can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be if you give yourself, and others assisting you, enough time. It doesn’t hurt to contact references and potential affiliations early on and ask for initial support – even if it is only to inform them of your interest in applying. Giving yourself ample time allows for more time to edit and revise your application and to ask for support. Questions are sure to arise.  If you are currently enrolled in an institution, or even a recent alumnus/na, the first person you should contact is your Fulbright Program Adviser.  As you get deeper into the application process, you should also feel free to contact the Fulbright U.S. Student Program Area Managers with any country-specific questions.
  • Attending an information or guidance session is extremely useful in getting an initial grasp on the proposal process and program requirements and will help you to identify and avoid common mistakes. There are also many online resources you should consult and may find helpful, such as the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website, this blog, podcasts, webinars and videos.
  • Cover the five Ws and one H in your proposal (who, what, where, when, why and how). This sounds elementary, but your project needs to be spelled out clearly to reviewers. You have two pages to convince them that what you are proposing can be done in an academic year, so make every word count.
  • Similarly, be sincere and specific about your intentions. The best proposals convey a sense of why the project can and should be carried out in the host country, and why you are the person to work on the project.
  • Affiliations that are well-researched have the potential to offer you much needed support, especially considering how quickly time will pass during your grant period.  They will serve as a point of entry for your research or to your local community, and it is in everyone’s best interest to have well-defined goals and expectations.
  • Remember that the Fulbright Program is about building mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other nations. It was helpful for me to read about Senator J. William Fulbright and the program’s history. Think about the fellowship as an exchange: an opportunity to contribute something positive to your host community in return for the hospitality and generosity that you are sure to receive.
  • Lastly, don’t give up if you don’t receive the Fulbright on the first time. Many people I’ve met applied several times before receiving a grant. There are many resources to help answer questions about the application process, including the folks who work for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, me and the other Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors. Good luck!

Top photo: Kathya Maria Landeros, 2007-2008, Mexico (center), in San Gertrudis, Mexico with some of her photographic subjects

Middle photo: Partial overview of Guanajuato’s buildings nestled in the mountains

Bottom photo: Kathya Maria Landeros, 2007-2008, Mexico, walking through a common “callejon” or narrow street, in search of a place to rent during her Fulbright year

To see more of Kathya’s photos, click here.

Questions for Kathya about her Fulbright experiences?  Feel free to email her at

U.S. Fulbright

Rock ‘n’ Roll Fulbright: Thoughts from a Fulbright-mtvU Alumna

June 8, 2011

Katie was a 2008-2009 Fulbright-mtvU Fellow to Mexico. She currently lives and plays music in Chicago, while pursuing a PhD in Media, Technology, and Society at Northwestern University.

Have Hobbies. Will Travel.

Two years have passed since my Fulbright-mtvU project wrapped up in Mexico.  Today, I’m thrilled to be jumping back on the blogging bandwagon as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador. Here, I won’t be talking (much) about Mexican music, but I will be trying to translate my experiences into news you can use for your own Fulbright goals.

As an alumni ambassador, I chat with a lot of prospective applicants about my Fulbright year. The best part of this gig is watching students’ surprised looks when I share the details of my project. Quite often, people can’t believe I played in a mariachi band and called that research. To tell you the truth, sometimes I can’t either.

Most people know that Fulbright grants allow people to carry out scholarly work abroad. Few, though, are aware of just how crazy-fun that can be. Hobbies and personal interests, it turns out, are a big factor in the success of Fulbright projects around the world. Yet too often, they go unmentioned in applicants’ essays.

Ever wonder why the application guidelines talk about “Community Engagement”? This criterion exists to ensure that grantees don’t go abroad just to work, but also to meet and connect with people, share ideas and snacks, and generally have a good time. Here, your hobbies are huge assets. Whether it’s rock climbing, hula-hooping, or something work-related but social in nature, consider how it might lead to new friendships abroad. Remember that your personal interests, like your research, can serve as bridges for building mutual understanding, Fulbright’s main goal.

Now, the case of the Fulbright-mtvU may be something of a freebie – most applicants for this music-focused grant are already huge fans of the phenomenon they’re proposing to study, so drawing a connection between research and Community Engagement is often fairly straightforward. In my project, for instance, it was my passion for folk music that powered my research, and vice-versa. I sang in a choir, interviewed indie rock musicians, and attended Mexico’s equivalent of country music camp. Other grantees whose projects are less fieldwork-oriented, however, may draw from their interests in different ways. Soccer tournaments become an avenue for meeting people outside the lab. Poetry slams provide a welcome change-up from studying manuscripts in archives.

Fulbrighters carry out international research through a dynamic mix of academic training and personal passions. So when you’re designing your dream project, don’t leave out your hobbies. Instead, ask how they might become a resource for connecting you—and your work—to the people around you when you travel abroad.

Katie (with guitar) and the student Mariachi ensemble of La Casa de la Música Mexicana in Mexico City