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U.S. Fulbright

Wind, Solar, and Sloths: A Recap of 10 Months in Peru

August 29, 2017

Hai-Vu Phan, 2016-2017, Fulbright Public Policy Fellow to Peru, visiting a solar energy plant near Tacna, Peru. (Photo credit: Maximo Meza)

As a 2016-2017 Fulbright Public Policy Fellow to Peru, I have served as a technical assistant within Peru’s energy regulatory agency, the Supervisory Organization for Investment in Energy and Mines (Osinergmin), for ten months. I am also concurrently a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California, where my interest and dissertation research focuses on renewable energy policies.

During my tenure at Osinergmin, I have helped my office publish a special report on the energy consumption ladder and a book on renewable energy. Additionally, I assisted on a number of internal projects, including academic chapters and articles, reports, institutional memoranda, and a research paper. I also conducted a weekly English conversation seminar for my colleagues. Lunch breaks and downtimes gave me the opportunity to speak with my coworkers about Peru’s energy situation and my own research. Aside from my formal work, there were also many opportunities for me to connect and make lasting friendships with my coworkers.

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Enrichment Foreign Fulbright Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project

Hope Towards a Collaborative Future

September 6, 2016
MTP Change Journey participants -- 360 degree group photo.

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.

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Enrichment Foreign Fulbright Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project

Change Participants

August 8, 2016

Yanoa Carrasco, 2015-2017, Peru, in front of one of the Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen “Shuttlecocks” sculptures at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri

Greetings from the 2016 Millennial Trains Project (MTP). You may be wondering what MTP is. Well, let me explain. It’s a train journey across the United States for a diverse group of young leaders and innovators. Thanks to the Fulbright Program, I am having a great trip experience and making new friends: millennials from different parts of the United States and two other Fulbright Foreign Students, one from Germany and the other from Malaysia.

I’m currently doing a master’s degree in museum studies at New York University, so when I learned about the MTP, I decided to apply to conduct research about community engagement in museums. Through my project, I want to create an awareness of the importance of collecting, preserving and interpreting local and/or regional history. One of the best ways to do this is to involve a local community and create engaging activities that will allow them to discover and interpret the world around them. Institutions like museums and cultural centers are currently evolving into spaces of knowledge and personal reflection; places where communities can go and discuss specific topics while creating their own narratives about them.

The goal of my MTP journey is to explore different participatory and engaging experiences offered by museums in order to spread the word about those activities and inspire others to create similar programs all around the world.

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U.S. Fulbright

Ni de Aquí Ni de Allá (“Not From Here or There”)

December 10, 2015

Carmen Román, 2015-2016, Peru, sitting in front of the chapel at Hacienda Arona in Cañete

Friday night I was invited to the U.S. Embassy in Lima for a live viewing of the soccer match between the United States and Peru. I was expecting a small gathering but as I walked up to the Embassy, I noticed a long line outside. I asked the guy at the end of the line what the line was for, and he responded: “To view the soccer match!” I lined up behind him. He turned around and said, “You need an invitation.” I assured that him I had one.

Apparently, 180 people had been invited, including the national press and local students learning English. As I passed through security, I could hear the vibrant sounds of the Batucada playing in the background and of course, I did a little samba–– an upbeat dance of Brazilian origin performed during Carnival parades.

As I walked in, I felt like a queen. This was the place were my parents had come more than twenty-five years ago to ask for a Visa to purse their American dream. I remember hearing about bank statements and other paperwork they had to bring; I imagined my dad sitting, nervously awaiting his turn. And now, here I am more than two decades later, walking the same grounds as an American, invited to this private event.

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U.S. Fulbright

Pursuing the Cradle of Gold, By Christopher Heaney, 2005-2006, Peru

June 24, 2010

The notebook was palm-sized with a fading yellow leather cover and fell open in my hand as I took it from the box full of other journals filled with the same spidery scrawl. My heart pounded as I flipped through its pages to the crucial month: June 1915, when the explorer Hiram Bingham’s dreams of excavating Inca cities died. And there, in angry handwriting that all but cut through the page, a Peruvian intellectual named Luis E. Valcárcel recorded what he really thought of the Yale Peruvian Expedition, which had exported Machu Picchu’s artifacts to New Haven, Connecticut. I had applied for a Fulbright study/research grant to Peru in the hope that I could find sources that might let me reconstruct Valcárcel’s challenge to the expedition. To find his actual journal – I was moved beyond belief.

Four years later, that feeling of good fortune – that rare privilege of cutting through the official version to get at the raw emotions of the past – has not faded. Just two months ago, I was lucky enough to publish a popular history based on my Fulbright research in Peru. Titled Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu, the book explains how Bingham’s search for the last cities of the Incas helped ignite modern Peru’s passion for pre-Columbian history and incited a furious controversy over whether or not artifacts should be exported from their country of origin. The experience has been incredibly positive, but it hardly matches those moments in Peruvian libraries when I was a Fulbrighter, when kind archivists pulled me aside and suggested that I look in that box or this journal for the answers I sought. I wrote the book, in part, as a thank you to my local collaborators, to share their work beyond Peru and explain just why Yale University and Peru were still arguing over the spoils of Bingham’s expeditions.

As I write these words, I’m back in Lima again, this time as a graduate student in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin, continuing on my chosen career path as a writer and historian. And though I’ve been fortunate, I also know that I got to Peru on Fulbright for some key reasons – sometimes contradictory – shared by other successful applicants who received study/research grants.

1. Let your project choose you. I apologize if that comes off a little Zen. What I mean is, don’t apply solely because it’s the country you’ve always had pinned up on your bedroom wall or because it would be a cool place to research. Instead, think about what you have to give, the key questions that you feel like only you can ask, and then find the place that most needs those questions answered – the only place where those questions can truly be answered. If you do feel a deep connection to the site, all the better – but what makes your application stand-out – whether you’re a graduating senior. a graduate student or a young professional – is the matching of your sensitive questions to the site, your demonstration that you are the best person to ask them in that time and place. At their best, Fulbright projects are urgent, original, sensitive, and deeply serious about their goals and their modern relevance – be it historical analysis, choreography, or learning about local water management. That said…

2. Temper that passion with responsibility. Do your homework. There are questions that are poorly timed, but there are also questions that are so well-timed that they will put you or your project at risk. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, don’t spend months writing and crafting before talking to your Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) (if you’re applying At-large and not through an FPA, you should still seek out advice from professors, teachers colleagues, etc.) or experts in the country or finding a host institution. Immediately begin making contacts, bouncing ideas off them, making sure that what you want to do is feasible or desired by the host country and institution, laboratory, conservatory, NGO, etc. – and then write. Your application will bear the marks of that collaboration. It will serve a local purpose. It will show that you have already created the relationships that will carry you through if you get to the country and realize that your specific idea is no longer feasible. Which leads me to …

3. Be open beforehand and adaptable once you’re on the ground. Projects do change. Another country’s Fulbright Commission director once told me that she’s surprised when they don’t. Your questions should provoke new questions, which should then change what you’re trying to learn or contribute. Although your application should demonstrate how well-thought-out and sincere your idea is, it should also show that you are not dogmatic – that you’re not looking to confirm old answers, radical or conservative. Be sensitive. Sit and listen. Keep a journal or blog. Realize that what you’re meant to deliver might not be an academic product, but a creative or social one, and vice versa.

4. Understand – and remember – how this project fits into your larger goals. The application process is only the beginning. You should show not only how you’ve reached this moment, but also where you hope to go with it. Be ambitious and bold with your goals, even if they change. Write the book. Make the movie. Create the website. And once you’re on the ground, keep up those connections and deliver, so that you can then turn around – as I’m doing this month – and hand back your finished project with deep, heartfelt thanks to the Fulbright Program and those that helped you along the way. It’s a great, great feeling.

Photo: Christopher Heaney, 2005-2006, Peru, relaxes after climbing Huayna Picchu, the peak overlooking the Inca site of Machu Picchu, whose archaeological history he studied as part of his Fulbright grant.