MTP Change Journey participants — 360 degree group photo.
A few days ago I ended one of the best experiences that I had during my first year as a Fulbright Student. I participated in the Millennial Trains Project (MTP), a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel across the United States while developing a project about how museums engage with their communities.
The experience was so amazing that it’s impossible not to talk about for hours, but if I had to describe the trip in one word it would be “inspirational,” Why did I choose that word? Well I think that it describes the atmosphere that surrounded me during the entire journey.
During the trip I had the chance to meet marvelous young researchers that had similar questions about our society. We realized that despite our different cultural backgrounds we have similar goals in topics related to education, politics, civil rights, and community engagement, among others. Hearing their stories and being able to witness throughout the duration of the journey how they developed their projects to solve those problems, inspired me.
Fulbright MTP participant from Germany, Desiree Garcia, right, with fellow MTP participant, Leah Elizabeth Edwards, on Millennial Train Change Journey 2016.
Imagine walking around your city. All you see are evacuated stores falling apart, “for rent” signs dominating the view, yet knowing the chances for these spaces to be rented out are slim. Suddenly your memories take you back to a time when the stores were filled with people and all kinds of products. You remember how you, too, used to purchase your things here and you can still recall the smell and warmth of the stores, and the stories you were told by the store owners that were around for generations and knew the neighborhood and its people better than anyone. You find yourself smiling at that thought and then it hits you.
All this is no more. Main Street is dead.
Though I wished this was a fully fictional scene, I am sad to say that we are moving towards this quite quickly.
Fulbright-MTP Participant Mohammad Behroozian, from Afghanistan (right), engages in conversation with American MTP Participant Maceo Keeling from LA on board the 2015 Millennial Trains Project (MTP) journey
Mohammad Behroozian, a Fulbright Student from Afghanistan, was selected as the Grand Prize winner of the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) New Leaders Group award in recognition of his Fulbright-MTP documentary film project, “Heading South,” for its transformative impact on advancing and exploring cultural diversity between the United States and Afghanistan.
Below, Mohammad reflects on one interview to be included in his documentary.
My most recent Fulbright sponsored adventure involved traveling over 3,000 miles through the Southern United States.
While on the Fulbright-MTP journey, I traveled from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, making stops in San Antonio, Austin, New Orleans, Baltimore and Washington. I interviewed imams and videotaped Islamic centers to learn how they interact with their surrounding American communities. When I departed from my cold host city Boston, I knew the South was going to be warm, and I was prepared for it. What surprised me upon arrival in the South was the level of diversity and intercultural receptiveness I witnessed.
Fulbright-MTP participant Rodrigo Moran from El Salvador on board the Millennial Trains Project
For some reason, I have not been able to sleep lately. Maybe I miss the coziness of my room on the train. Maybe I miss the rocking motion and the sounds of the wheels on the tracks that lulled me into a profound sleep every night. Maybe I just miss all of my MTP friends…
Check: All of the above.
Besides the nostalgia I have been feeling, I hit the ground running as soon as we got off the train in Washington, DC. I started a summer internship in the field of international development at Creative Associates International, a company “providing outstanding, on-the-ground development services and forging partnerships to deliver sustainable solutions to global challenges.”
Fulbright-MTP Train Participant Saja Al Quzweeni from Iraq, left, interviews Skeets Rapier, the Director of Operations at The Renewable Republic, about his aquaponics, solarpowered organic farm. Photo by MTP Train’s Jenny Gottstein
My Fulbright-MTP project is surveying the best practices in urban agriculture across different American Cities. The anticipated outcome of this journey is to design a holistic model of urban farming that connects people with their land and each other. Urban agriculture will be utilized to offer not just food, but also a terrain in which people come together and build their community.
The project started in Los Angeles where I visited, Women Organizing Resources Knowledge Service or WORKS. The organization’s mission is to provide affordable housing with affordable food for lower-income communities, and for people with disabilities and illnesses. My interview with Channa Grace, President of WORKS, inspired me as she used her personal experiences to leverage the status of the disadvantaged. WORKS also invites people to change their lives and adopt healthy eating habits through growing their own produce.
Fulbright-MTP Participant, Nhlalala Mavundza, from South Africa explores the San Antonio, Texas Riverwalk. May 25, 2015
Throughout my time as a Fulbright Student, I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to interact with other Fulbright Students from around the world. Each time it is eye-opening and a learning experience to learn about places I’ve never seen, and people I’ve never met. Joining the Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project (MTP), I knew the experience would be similar and I would have an opportunity to learn about new places and different American cultures through the stories of the Millennials I would travel with by train.
When the trip began in Los Angeles, I experienced culture shock unlike the first one I experienced when I arrived in the United States in August 2013. I’ve been living in Ohio for the past two years, and it’s now my home. I compare everywhere I travel in the U.S. to Ohio and my home country, South Africa.