Richa Narula, 2015-2016, Nepal (center), with her fellow “Unity” Millennial Train Project Fulbright participants Christian Mpody, 2015-2017, Togo(left), and Laura Jimenez Morales, 2015-2017, Mexico (right)
Upon receiving an email about applying to this year’s Millennial Train Project (MTP), I knew that it could potentially be an opportunity of a lifetime. Exploring the United States with Americans while on a train seemed like an amazing idea, and I was so fascinated about the concept. But it took me quite a long time to finalize what project I actually wanted to do during the ten day journey. The idea for my current MTP project came from a recent conference (which I was able to attend, thanks to Fulbright ) I attended and presented on organizational preferences towards particular natural resources versus others. I had observed this kind of bias back in my home country, Nepal, but dismissed after coming to the United States. I thought that the biases would just be understood as another “developing country” issue. But that was not the case. I felt challenged after this conference to research the causes of such preferences and their effects on sustainability. I was looking for an appropriate opportunity for pursuing this research, but even when the application for the MTP was announced, the idea did not strike me immediately. I took some time to think and decided that this was the appropriate opportunity to pursue this research, and the project “Perception Differences and Effects in Sustainability” was thus initiated.
The MTP journey has been the perfect way to enhance my one year in the States. Because of MTP, I have explored many places that I never would have seen.
Throughout this year, I have generally been surrounded by other fellow Fulbright friends, and it was my keen desire to see how Americans perceive different national and international issues that we talk about amongst ourselves. During this trip, I am surrounded by amazing Americans from all walks of life with their own fascinating stories of hard work, success and failure. Listening to them passionately talk about the positive changes that they want to make in the world through their projects — words are not enough to explain that experience. It feels good to know that there are many Millennials who are trying to make the world a better place, in all the ways they can. I already know, within only five days of my trip, that I have made friends for life!
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.
Oyeniyi Abe (Niyi) is a Fulbright Student from Nigeria conducting his Ph.D. research at Loyola University, Chicago School of Law.
As the world is dealing with the effects of climate change, a visit to Williamson, WV exposed me to a new paradigm on sustainable development and the impact of ‘ruralness’ on the health and well-being of a society. As a participant in the Fulbright Amizade service-learning enrichment activity, this trip to Appalachia showed me how old coal mines are being reclaimed for agricultural use and how community revitalization has created a pathway towards sustainable living and economic growth. Getting close to nature also offered me an opportunity for reflection. Often times we tend to neglect the very small things that matter.
I grew up on a farm in a rural community in south western Nigeria. Coming to a rural community in the United States was, for me, a rare and unique opportunity. I visited many places and met many people but the most exciting aspect of my experience was visiting the community gardens and learning the local style of growing crops. The decline of the coal business has had an effect on the people of Williamson, causing a visible decline in population as evidenced by the abandoned houses. But the general sense I got was one of hope and determination.
Reflections in and about Williamson. Photo by Anna Reich
What is Williamson, West Virginia?
I don’t believe it is possible to define a town, much less a town I met only 36 hours ago.
I arrived in Charleston’s Yeager Airport shortly after noon on Sunday. The hotel offered a complimentary shuttle from the airport with a most amicable driver. While chatting about various things West Virginia, such as my childhood obsession with the Sacramento Kings and specifically West Virginia’s own Jason Williams, the driver asked the purpose of my visit. I explained the Fulbright – Amizade collaboration with Sustainable Williamson, the idea of global service learning, and some additional background on the Fulbright Program. He asked me to clarify where I would be going.
“Williamson?” he said, “that town is so poor they have a layaway program at the dollar store.”
As our Fulbright-MTP participants make their way to Portland for tomorrow’s launch of the MTP 2014 journey, they reflect on their Fulbright experience thus far, what they believe are the most pressing issues facing global Millennials today and how their Fulbright-MTP project is a vehicle for enhancing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
In the words of Katie Nikolaeva, a Fulbright Foreign Student from Russia:
Inequalities in the standard of living around the world makes people look for better places to live, thus creating immigration issues, which become more and more acute, especially for the developed countries. While governments are struggling to solve immigration problems, the cultural and religious differences contribute to the outburst of ethnic conflicts. These conflicts constitute a big challenge for the modern society, while people slowly learn not to resist, but tolerate ‘foreign’ cultures.
I study international economics at Brandeis International Business School, where students from over 50 different countries represent nearly all of the world’s major cultures and languages. Brandeis is my first experience in communicating with so many international people at the same time.
Katie Nikolaeva is current Fulbright Student from Russia.
The most striking thing is that even though all these students have various opinions and thus contribute to the development of social diversity and open-mindedness, all of them (representing their own countries) also have similar problems: ethnic conflicts, economic growth issues, international trade barriers, poverty (which is an issue in any country in the world, no matter how developed the country), religious conflicts, political instability, environmental problems, and so on and so forth.
After my first year as a Fulbright scholar at an American university, I can say that in today’s world with plenty of wars and conflicts, people from different countries and cultures SHOULD get together in order to discuss the current problems and listen to each other’s opinions. Thus, the society would benefit from the resulting range of viewpoints and experiences.