Fulbright Fellow to MEDEVAC Pilot; Nathaniel D. Bastian, 2008-2009, The Netherlands
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, I headed to the Netherlands in August 2008 to begin my Fulbright grant pursuing a master’s degree in econometrics and operations research at Maastricht University. As a Fulbright Fellow, I researched and developed a model to help Army medical planners optimize aeromedical evacuation helicopter positioning and improve air ambulance systems.
I will never forget my first course. We started with chapter thirty-four of a textbook in which I hadn’t learned the material from the first thirty-three chapters. This introduction to the Dutch education system proved to be quite humbling. Nonetheless, my interaction with Dutch students and professors greatly enriched my experience because they were intelligent and hard-working team players. Maastricht University uses an innovative, unique teaching approach known as Problem-Based Learning, where students work and learn in small tutorial groups as opposed to lecture halls. By closely interacting with both Dutch and international students, I learned how to exchange knowledge and information effectively, analyze complex problems, collect pertinent data, and formulate and present collective solutions. This exposure to the Dutch learning method challenged me to be personally responsible for my education and created an environment that allowed me to become a more effective researcher.
Aside from working with Dutch students and professors, I immersed myself in Dutch culture by participating in events such as Carnival (a week-long festival in Maastricht involving locals wearing costumes, singing and dancing in the streets to live music) and Koninginnesdag (a day of national unity in Amsterdam where people wear the color orange and celebrate the Queen of the Netherlands’ birthday). Besides these fun cultural events, my travels to places such as historical battle sites in Nijmegen, tulip gardens at Keukenhof, stinky cheese factories in Gouda and museums in Amsterdam truly helped me to develop a profound understanding of Dutch culture.
Not only did these experiences change my perceptions of Dutch culture, but I believe my interactions with the Dutch whom I worked with and met changed their perceptions of Americans. As my Fulbright Program took place during our riveting 2008 presidential election and the global economic recession, I had many intriguing conversations and debates with the Dutch about American foreign policy, economics and health care. Additionally, I made lasting impressions as a soldier, officer and aviator in the U.S. Army because I shared my various experiences in the military.
From my experiences as a Fulbright Fellow, here is some advice for future applicants:
- Formulate a research proposal on a topic about which you are most passionate. Incorporate how your findings will make a difference stateside and abroad.
- Select reference writers who truly know your personality, intellectual aptitude and leadership ability.
- In your personal statement, share your life story and how it relates to your proposed research.
- Seek guidance from mentors, and be prepared to work through many essay revisions.
Trying Dutch clogs on for size; Nathaniel D. Bastian, 2008-2009, The Netherlands