When I returned from my Fulbright in 2004, I needed to connect with like-minded professionals interested in international education and promoting global engagement. Before I left for Estonia in the summer 2003, I joined the Fulbright Association, but did not have a chance to participate. But when I returned, I took full advantage of my membership. I was living in Baltimore at the time and it was easy for me to attend Washington, DC based events sponsored by the Fulbright Association as well as the local National Capital Area Chapter (NCAC). One of the first events I attended with my family was the annual NCAC holiday party held at an embassy.
Over the years, I’ve continued to be active in the national association, but not as much in the local chapter. But recently, I’ve come to recognize how important a local chapter can be in networking with other Fulbrighters and continuing to be part of a global community. There are 50+ Fulbright chapters around the U.S., many in major metropolitan areas. For overseas visiting Fulbrighters, these chapters are important places to learn about living in the U.S. Having encouraging colleagues (who have themselves been overseas) who can provide a home cooked meal can be an important benefit! And for U.S. Fulbrighters, these chapters are a way to continue to fulfill one’s commitment to the Fulbright mission.
Upon returning from a Fulbright experience, often the most pressing issue one faces is advancing a career. If you participated in Fulbright as a student, you are now back home and looking for work. Even Fulbright Scholars return to the U.S. often seeking to make a change – maybe a promotion or advancement, or even moving into a new field. That happened to me. Upon my own return, I decided to leave my faculty position and started working at a DC based think tank: the U.S. Institute of Peace and also went back to graduate school.
Recently, I attended two events sponsored by NCAC that confirms the value a local chapter can provide in advancing a career. The first was an event at the World Bank, an international financial institution created in 1944, which provides funds to countries in need to development assistance. At the event, hosted by Fulbright alum who are World Bank employees, those attending got an overall of the bank’s work as well as learned about career pathways. I wrote about the event here. The second was an event hosted by a post-doctoral Fulbrighter from Germany who is working at Johns Hopkins Hospital. His program was on developing a resume and tips for interviewing. I wrote about that event here.
At both events, senior Fulbrighters offered their insights and advice to younger Fulbright grant recipients.
The NCAC chapter is not the only chapter that provides these opportunities. All chapters play a role in mentoring and opening doors for Fulbrighters looking to apply their knowledge and experience. Chapters usually meet on a regular basis and host not only career oriented events, but social and cultural activities often designed to make visiting Fulbrighters feel at home. If you are a U.S. based Fulbrighter, participating in the events will allow you to connect with others interested in global understanding. It allows you to keep your Fulbright flame burning, and just might open up a few professional opportunities for you!
—David J. Smith
David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at davidjsmithconsulting.com. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.