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.
The U.S. Department of State has selected the following six Fulbright Foreign Students to participate in the fourth Millennial Trains Project (MTP) installment across the United States as a special enrichment component of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. This year the six Fulbrighters will be split between two MTP journeys, Change and Unity, joining 44 American Millennial riders who will traverse the country gaining a deeper understanding of life in the United States and social entrepreneurship. The special enrichment activity will give participants an opportunity to explore a research topic of their choice in-depth, and strengthen their leadership and communication skills.
Throughout the two journeys, participants will be sharing their experiences through social media using #MTPtrain and #Fulbright and here on this blog. Follow along in real time!
CHANGE // AUGUST 1 – 7
PITTSBURGH >> CHICAGO >> KANSAS CITY >> ALBUQUERQUE >> LOS ANGELES
Desirée Barao Garcia is a Fulbright Student from Germany.
DESIRÉE BARAO GARCIA
Germany // Enhancing Small Businesses’ Performances
Desirée received her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering at the Technical University of Dortmund in Germany and is now completing a master’s of science in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at Columbia University in New York as a Fulbright Student. Her previous work experience includes various industries (automobile, logistics, consulting, steel, fashion, etc.) and companies of different sizes (from 3 to 35K+). She is currently the president of GradSWE and a Global Guide for One-to-World’s Global Classroom Project.
Desirée’s MTP project will research challenges facing small businesses to find national and international similarities so that small businesses around the world can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes and adjust accordingly. She will meet with small business owners across the United States to find out how they are performing, what challenges they face, and conduct research on what those businesses can do to perform better and stay in business long-term.
Photo of a sunset on-board the Millennial Trains Project by Fulbright-MTP Participant Magdalena Leszko, a Fulbright Foreign Student from Poland.
Ever since I came to this beautiful country, my dream was to travel across the United States. My professional goal was to learn as much as possible about dementia and ways of providing support to individuals who suffer from this disease. Both of my dreams came true thanks to the Fulbright-Millennial Train Project. During my journey across the Southern United States, I will be conducting interviews with older adults and listening to their needs and suggestions on how to design dementia-friendly communities. I also scheduled a few meetings with researchers who provided me with some feedback about my project, and inspired me to pursue my academic goals.
Being on the train with people I never met before, working under time pressures and facing unfamiliar situations, are all challenging. However, this experience has taught me an important lesson so far: leaders should always be outside of their comport zone since this is where real learning experiences occur. My first meeting with a researcher from the University of California, Los Angeles, was canceled a few hours before we were scheduled to meet. Even though I felt uncomfortable changing my plans, I took action and forced myself to leave my comfort zone. Instead, I interviewed older adults that I met at Los Angeles’ Union Station. Even though I was unprepared, the interview went well and I got lots of feedback. The Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project gives us many opportunities to challenge ourselves so we can experience personal growth.
Disclaimer: As I write these words, I am in the middle of Texas (between El Paso and San Antonio) after more than 15 hours of enlightening, intense and humbling learning experiences with the MTP class of 2015. So yes, I am extremely tired, but my desire to share these feelings goes beyond my body entering autopilot mode.
Fulbright-MTP Participant Pichleap Sok from Cambodia with Los Angeles mentor, Rebecca McLauchlan, co-founder and CCO of Rhubarb Studios that builds tech companies in downtown Los Angeles
I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity than the Fulbright-Millennial Train Project, which combines my love of traveling and what I am really passionate about: women in technology. I am very fortunate and honored to be one of the six Fulbrighters on this year’s Millennial Trains Project, joining other Millennial world-changers on board. I was so excited and couldn’t wait for this day to come.
To kick off my Fulbright-MTP project, I needed to arrange interviews with local women in technology. Therefore, I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone to make it happen. I started contacting women in tech organizations in Los Angeles, Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington DC. At first, I was so nervous and overwhelmed since I didn’t receive any replies.
The U.S. Department of State selected the following six Fulbright Foreign Students to participate in the third Millennial Trains Project (MTP) voyage across the United States — leaving from Los Angeles, California on May 21 and ending in Washington, DC on May 31— as an enrichment component of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. The six Fulbrighters will join 19 American riders on the MTP journey to gain an in-depth understanding of life in the United States and to strengthen their skills in leadership, social entrepreneurship, and communication.
Meet the six Fulbright participants:
Saja Al Quzweeni is a Fulbright Foreign Student from Iraq
Saja Al Quzweeni is a Fulbright Foreign Student from Baghdad, Iraq, currently pursuing a master’s in environmental science and policy at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Saja’s MTP project is an extension of research she completed last year at Growing Power, a nonprofit organization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that works in urban agriculture as an approach to increase food security in lower income and food desert communities. Small plots of land are used for intensive growing to offer healthy, affordable food to inner city communities, while merging agriculture and wise environmental practices to revitalize urban areas.