Browsing Tag


U.S. Fulbright

Breaking Down Stereotypes

January 3, 2017

Katie Salgado, 2016-2017, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Portugal, sitting on a tiled stoop in Seia

In partnership with Reach the World (RTW), the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is publishing a series of articles written by Fulbright English Teaching Assistants participating in Reach the World’s Traveler correspondents program, which through its interactive website, enriches the curriculum of elementary and secondary classrooms (primarily located in New York City but also nationwide) by connecting them to the experiences of volunteer Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) and other world travelers who are currently studying and living abroad.

It was a misty Thursday morning in Seia. I exited the passenger side door of a silver compact car and looked up at the yellow Instituto Politécnico da Guarda (IPG) School of Tourism building. I was with my coworker, Rita, who had asked me to do a presententation to her management students on American culture. This was my first experience teaching English as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to a group of students in Portugal, and I was eager to discover what the students knew about American culture and traditions. Rita and I entered the building and prepared the classroom for the day.

By 9:15 a.m., the freshman students shuffled sleepily into the classroom and took their seats. They exchanged confused glances with one another, unsure of whether to speak to me in English or in Portuguese. I stood there in my black blazer and greeted them with “Good morning, everyone.” Rita sat in the back of the classroom and remained there to observe my presentation. Once the last straggler sat down at his desk, Rita smiled and flashed me a thumbs up. It was time to begin.

I introduced myself to the twenty students in the room and began my PowerPoint presentation on where I was from, my academic background and hobbies.

I then clicked to the next slide: an outline of the United States of America with the red, white and blue flag waving in the background.

Continue Reading

U.S. Fulbright

The Very Best Part of Conducting Biomedical Engineering Research in Portugal, By Kara Spiller, 2010-2011, Portugal

August 22, 2012












As a Fulbrighter to Portugal, I conducted biomedical engineering research in the 3B’s (Biomaterials, Biodegradables and Biomimetics) Research Group at the University of Minho’s Department of Polymer Engineering. I developed “smart” materials that can control the body’s cell behavior; a technology that might be useful for promoting new blood vessel growth in heart tissue after a heart attack, or for producing functioning tissues like cartilage and bone from stem cells. The Department’s lab is also the headquarters of the European Institute of Excellence on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, which places special emphasis on international collaboration. The 3B’s Research Group attracts students and postdocs from all over the world, and collaborates with partner laboratories in 14 countries. The coolest part of my research experience was working on a team comprised of members from diverse backgrounds conducting experiments in Portugal and abroad. The next coolest part was the food!

During the week, I worked in the lab, which had a distinctly Portuguese flair. Everyone ate lunch together and we often dined together in the evenings as well. We also organized lab trips to other European cities. Every weekend, I traveled to a different town in Portugal, a small country with varied landscapes and lots of festivals. The people I met were very friendly and appeared to love Portuguese spoken with an extremely thick American accent. (My first Portuguese lesson was a sign on the doors: PUXE, pronounced “push,” which means “pull.”)

Having conducted some of my doctoral research in China and my postdoctoral research as a Fulbrighter in Portugal, I believe that international experience should be a requirement for all students, especially those in science and engineering. I loved living in and traveling around Portugal, but what was even more interesting was discovering how one’s science can benefit from learning another language and way of thinking in a different culture. For example, I learned that working on research at a slower, more relaxed pace fosters new ideas, more efficient experiments and an overall more pleasant work experience. In my labs in the United States, I ate lunch while staring at my computer, rushing to finish my work so that I could leave and enjoy the rest of my day elsewhere. In Portugal, I socialized with my colleagues during regular coffee breaks and long lunches. We discussed the bioethics of embryonic stem cell technologies, the philosophy of growing tissues in the lab, the politics of global academic research, the nuances of football (both soccer and American football) and the differences between wines from Northern and Southern Portugal. We often spent 10-12 hours per day at work, but they were fun hours. And, when it was time to leave Portugal, I realized that my ideas and experiments had achieved a level of creativity that I had deemed impossible before I left. My colleagues and I submitted an international patent publication and we continue to collaborate on the same project. These kinds of perspective-broadening experiences can only come from studying overseas and are exactly what the Fulbright Program promotes.

My advice for prospective Fulbright candidates preparing research/study applications is to take time to learn about your selected country. Consult the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website’s country summaries, but also read about your country’s history and culture, and talk to people who have lived or visited there. The more I learned about Portugal, the more I wanted to study there and I conveyed this in my application.

As far as obtaining an affiliation, I met my research adviser at an academic conference (where he was giving a lecture about the importance of international education for scientists), so that part of the application process was easier for me than anticipated. If you don’t have similar opportunities to identify your host affiliation, then try emailing the organization or person with whom you might work. Explain what you’re interested in, why you’d like to do a Fulbright with that person or organization and what your plans are during and after your grant.  Your potential affiliation will not only appreciate that you want to work together, but that you also want to learn more about your host country. Then, once you’ve arrived, make sure to work hard and take advantage of every opportunity to learn something new.  Lastly, keep a journal, because the details of your Fulbright experience (that you might forget) are the very best part.

Top Photo: Kara Spiller, 2010-2011, Portugal, visiting the Douro River Valley

Middle Photo: Kara Spiller, 2010-2011, Portugal (center), with members of the University of Minho’s 3B Research Group