Katherine Long, 2016-2017, Tajikistan (right), playing a game with two young Tajik girls.
For nearly ten years, Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) have had the opportunity to volunteer with Reach the World (RTW) to share their experiences abroad with pre-kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms back home in the United States.
RTW utilizes the power of virtual exchange to enable Fulbright ETAs, who apply to volunteer with RTW, to bring their host country into an engaged classroom of American students. Fulbright ETAs share many aspects of life in another country with their student audiences in the United States, from grilled meats in Argentina to the unique plant life in the Maltese archipelago. These talented, passionate recent college graduates and early career professionals also capture rare, extraordinary experiences, like visiting the remote Caño Cristales river in Colombia. As young learners from throughout the United States interact with Fulbright ETAs, they are building vital global competencies that will serve them for years to come while challenging their perspectives about the world and their role as citizens. These global competencies include such things as increased geographic literacy and a greater desire to travel, changes in empathetic thinking when encountering difference, and pursuing higher education opportunities.
History Estill-Varner, 2015-2016, Dominican Republic (center), with a group of community members at a Deaf sporting event hosted at the Olympic Stadium in Santo Domingo.
The anticipation leading up to my departure for the Dominican Republic as a Fulbright U.S. Student Study/Research award recipient is something I remember vividly. While I dreamt of the ways that my research would have an impact on my host community, I had no idea that it would also end up having an impact on me. Some may call it serendipity, others may call it a blessing, but I now realize how the Fulbright “piece” was the perfect fit to the “puzzle” of my soon-to-be professional life.
I began constructing my puzzle in high school by taking sign language classes and added another piece during college through an intensive Spanish immersion program in Costa Rica. Due to these experiences, I chose to double major in American Sign Language/English interpretation and international studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Yet, as I progressed in my undergraduate career, I struggled to see how these pieces fit together. How was it possible to apply a language that is uniquely American to the international community? When my professor approached me about an opportunity to apply for a Fulbright award, I knew this was my chance.
Shortly after I heard about Fulbright, I worked as an intern in the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Education. Over the summer of 2014, I had the opportunity to meet members of the Dominican Deaf community. To my surprise, I discovered that American Sign Language and Dominican Sign Language were not that different after all. Suddenly, something that I had previously thought restricted me professionally to the United States, gave me an international connection to the Dominican Deaf community and a foundation for a Fulbright proposal.
A panoramic view of the World War II Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, DC taken during the seminar bus tour
For nearly 30 years as a U.S. Senator representing Arkansas, J. William Fulbright called Washington, DC his home.
A city of tremendous power, wealth, and intelligence also grappling with trials of corruption, inefficiency, and a tumultuous political and media landscape, within the heart of the nation’s capital the senator worked tirelessly to establish an international exchange program which would eventually bear his name: The Fulbright Program.
From April 13 – 17, 2016, over 130 foreign Fulbrighters hailing from nearly 65 countries continued this legacy imparted by the late Senator and immersed themselves in the allure and charm of Washington, DC. In discussion they challenged each other’s thoughts around the topic of “U.S. Elections and Media” and “Polarization and U.S. Politics.” In service they took to the streets and streams of the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia) zones to participate in the Annual Potomac Watershed Clean Up in partnership with the Alice Ferguson Foundation. And in community they came together in a memorable U.S. Election Simulation Workshop to demonstrate vast political knowledge and prowess under real pressure.
Phuong Nguyen, 2014-2016, Vietnam (third from right), with her students in New York City as a One to World Global Guide teaching about sustainability in Vietnam
I am Phuong Nguyen, a Vietnamese Fulbrighter. I have been studying for my MA in Publishing at Rosemont College, a very beautiful school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Besides studying, I volunteer as a Global Guide Volunteer with One To World, whose mission is to create global citizens and inspire a peaceful world through one-of-a-kind programs in classrooms and communities. I am also an Emerging International Journalist Volunteer with Global Philadelphia Association (GPA), created to assist and encourage greater interaction between the many international organizations and internationally-minded people in the Greater Philadelphia Region.
The volunteering experiences have unexpectedly helped my academic performance. As a Global Guide, I had an opportunity to hone my presentation skills by giving lectures to various audiences, from elementary students, to high school students. To make a lesson on complex issues simple and engaging for my students was difficult, but it helped me to get to know the core issues and prepare for tests, presentations and papers for my college classes.
Sundas Liaqat, 2014-2016, Pakistan, poses at the entrance of the D.C. Central Kitchen, an organization that prepares 5,000 meals daily for smaller homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and NGOs in the DC area
My name is Sundas and I am from Pakistan, a poverty-stricken and underdeveloped country. I am passionate about poverty alleviation, particularly through women’s empowerment and children’s education. To help enact my goals, I am currently a Fulbright Student enrolled in the graduate Social Enterprise Program at American University in Washington, DC. My academic focus is specifically international development.
Because of my goal of becoming a social change agent, and my desire to honor the ideals of what it means to be a Fulbrighter, I volunteered to help prepare meals for the homeless at the D.C. Central Kitchen in December 2014.
Fulbright Foreign Student from Cambodia Pichleap Sok meeting New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, after the MTP visit to the New Orleans Mission, to discuss community innovation and how New Orleans has rebuilt itself after Hurricane Katrina.
The Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project has been one of the best traveling experiences I have ever had. It’s not just about sharing your ideas, experiences and time with 24 millennial participants, but also about discovering different parts of the United States. When the train stops in each city, we have about five hours to visit. Exploring a city in just five hours is definitely a challenge, but the idea of getting to know each city from the perspective of the other 24 MTP participants has been and is – absolutely amazing. Each and every millennial on the train has an individual project they are working on, and when the train stops in a different city, we go to different places to do our projects. When we return to the train and share our experiences, it is great to compare notes on each city’s unique culture, accent, identity, people and food.