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Political Science

Foreign Fulbright

Rubber to the Road: An Athletic Fulbright Experience

September 4, 2013
Christian Braun

Christian Braun, 2012-2013, Germany (center), and teammates after winning the Northwest Collegiate Cycling Conference race

Have you ever watched the TV show “Portlandia?” If you have, you’ll know what makes this city so special. For many people, Portland is the city of roses, food carts, beer, and coffee lovers, but it’s also the cycling capital of the United States. Riding my bike around Portland during my year as a Fulbright Foreign Student made me a part of one of the city’s most interesting subcultures. Besides getting to know the Portland area better than many locals, bike racing took me to places as far away as Idaho and Montana, but most importantly, it helped me gain a true cultural experience.

When it comes to cycling, Portlanders have come close to achieving their semi-official goal of “Keeping Portland Weird.” From riding unicycles, to the “World Naked Bike Ride,” cycling is much more than a means of commuting; it is a way of life. Thus, Portland State University (PSU) was a perfect match for me. With my Fulbright grant, I studied political science focusing on American foreign policy. In addition, I worked for the PSU mentor program, which partnered me with a university sophomore to teach general study skills and promote collaborative learning. This experience also gave me an opportunity to meet new people and interact with my fellow mentors.

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Foreign Fulbright

Eight Reasons Why I’m Grateful to the Fulbright Commission

August 14, 2013

Toby Young1. People who haven’t been to Harvard complain that those who have will always let you know about it within five minutes of meeting you. Doesn’t matter if it’s a propos of nothing, they’ll always find a way of shoehorning it into the conversation. I’m happy to say I’m not like that. I wait at least 10 minutes. So that’s reason number one: I can tell people I went to Harvard.

2. At Oxford, where I studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics, I was taught in a very different way to the method. I was taught at Harvard. I didn’t go to any lectures, never participated in any discussions and only talked about my subject with my tutors. The tutorial system is good at teaching you how to think, but not so good at giving you an overview of your subject. I ended up with a firm grasp of a few things, but not much sense of how they all fitted together. At Harvard, by contrast, the basic model was lecture followed by class discussion. That turned out to be the perfect complement to the education I’d received at Oxford. It was like being given a map of my subject for the first time.

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U.S. Fulbright

Cultural Ambassadors: My Fulbright Year in Croatia, By Jess Kuntz, 2010-2011, Croatia

June 11, 2012











In August 2009, I sat down to write my Fulbright Personal Statement, a copy of Rebecca West’s iconic Black Lamb, Grey Falcon open on my desk. Quoting the 1930s travelogue, I wrote the following: “‘I had come to Yugoslavia because I knew the past has made the present, and I wanted to see how the process worked.’ Seventy-odd years after Ms. West penned these words, I sought the same answers.”

A year later, that application brought me to Zagreb, Croatia. Having been a student as long as I could remember, I naturally gravitated towards classes at the Faculties of Political Science and Law, which provided me access to the professors and resources who would inform my research on Croatia’s post-communist political culture. As I spoke with individuals about their own knowledge and experience with the communist era, I refined my thoughts about the lasting legacy of communism on the country’s political culture, giving context to the hard numbers captured by such organizations as the World and European Values Surveys.

And yet, with my research comfortably underway, I couldn’t help but feel concerned that I was not doing enough to further the Fulbright Program’s mission of promoting mutual understanding. So I looked for opportunities to get involved at the community level, from joining a student squash club, to co-coordinating the first-ever conference for Croatian alumni of U.S. exchange programs in cooperation with two Croatian colleagues and the U.S. Embassy.

At the Embassy’s introduction, I met a local NGO, which asked me to advise university-aged students interested in studying in the United States. I agreed, somewhat ambivalent towards my guidance counselor duties. Following a presentation on figurative language, I received an email: “Dear Jess,” it read. “Thank you for your help. Without it, my essay would have been as dry as an arid desert.” I had to laugh. At least they were taking my advice to heart. It was the beginning of the realization that my role was not to force my expectations on my host country, but to identify the community’s needs and find ways in which I could fulfill them.

Whenever I speak to individuals considering applying to Fulbright, I cannot stress the ‘cultural ambassador’ aspect about the program enough. The academic component is important and in many ways sets Fulbright apart from other U.S. government funded exchange programs. But your research should not isolate you. It should be a means — one of several — by which you connect with and enhance your local community. As you approach your application:

  • Remember that Fulbrighters are not selected on methodology alone; use your personal statement to tell your personal narrative, show how Fulbright will connect to your larger values and goals, and bring your passions to the page.
  • For those applying for a research or study grant, find your focus and narrow it down as much as possible. Your proposed research will seem more unique and manageable to those evaluating your application. It will also show that you’ve really put much thought into the proposal.
  • Seek input and reviews wisely. Fulbright alumni either from or who went to the country to which you are applying, practitioners and appropriate academics (from your university and others) can be incredible resources.
  • If your grant requires an affiliation, start looking early and cast a wide net. Particularly if you don’t have a preexisting network in country, persistence is critical. Don’t be discouraged if your emails aren’t getting replies. And if all else fails, pick up and phone or log into Skype!

Photo: Jess Kuntz, 2010-2011, Croatia, enjoying the southern city of Dubrovnik at Christmas, 2010

U.S. Fulbright

A Much-Appreciated Change of Pace, By Thomael M. Joannidis, 2009-2010, Cyprus

September 7, 2010

My Fulbright year in Cyprus was characterized by adaptability. Initially, I planned to “hit the ground running” and begin immediately gathering quantifiable research results for my proposed project. During my first days, however, I realized the value of taking things slowly and devoting some time to getting to know the people and culture, while also finding ways to connect with the community. At first, my New York upbringing felt quite at odds with accepting that things do not always work on a fast-paced schedule and that, in the meantime, I should sit with locals, enjoy the lovely weather and a Cypriot coffee. Yet, it was often in these moments – without a voice recorder or a list of questions – that my research began and people became comfortable enough to share their lives. Changing my project’s pace allowed me to begin understanding the soul of Cyprus, what matters to the people and the rhythm of their lives.

Volunteering with two non-governmental organizations which also served as my affiliations was essential to getting acclimated. The work I did with Hands Across the Divide, a grassroots, bicommunal women’s peace group (meaning that there were both Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot members), and Future Worlds Center, a large organization working in a number of areas including the promotion of civil society and peace, was not usually related to my research. I appreciated their time and willingness to assist me with my research and felt that the best way to thank them was to volunteer my time. On Fulbright, everything becomes a learning experience and an opportunity for personal growth. I supported staff by helping to facilitate and prepare for events on a range of topics including development education, youth activism and annual organizational meetings. Sometimes, my tasks were more administrative in nature, such as preparing agendas or taking minutes. At other times, I had an opportunity to present and actually participate in the programming. One of my best memories occurred when I volunteered to help at a bicommunal youth activism retreat which involved camping on a natural, undeveloped beach, surrounded by the sea on one side, and rocky terrain on the other.

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