Returning to the states came with the clear reality of a 14-day quarantine period for the community of recently returned Fulbrighters. In some cases, Fulbrighters who faced early completion were isolated in their childhood bedrooms, others in hotels or the homes of friends out of caution for family members with pre-existing health concerns.
In this time of crisis, the returned Fulbright community has self-organized events to continue community building. Many folks are still in touch with their host communities through WhatsApp, Instagram and other social media assets. Others have organized small gatherings using Zoom to reconnect with their peers during this time of social isolation.
The effort to capitalize on this period of uncertainty has been captured by the planning of several alumni calls targeted at helping recently returned Fulbrighters develop professionally and personally. Through 45-minute calls, Fulbright alumni have had the chance to share their reflections from their time abroad and reflect on how these formative experiences have shaped their current professional pursuits. Recently returned Fulbrighters have shared the positive ramifications of this programming. As shared by Todd Abbott, a recently returned ETA after attending a call led by alum Michelle Lemeur, “hearing about Michelle’s journey through graduate school and into the international development sector really helped me to reframe some basic next steps for my career.”
The calls not only have surfaced benefits for the returned Fulbrighters but have offered a sense of connection between years of Fulbrighters. As shared by 2016 Alumnus Jordan Kronen, “the calls allowed for meaningful and thoughtful conversations that helped bridge the gap between cohort and amidst a pretty isolating period in our world’s history, it provided a platform for a much-needed distraction and connection.”
Not only serving as a professional resource but as a source of social support, recently returned ETA Addison Dlott describes that “with empathy and humor these calls have been what we have needed to stay connected, validate our experiences and help us through these uncertain and stressful times.”
Connections between cohorts have proven to sustain after these calls with recently returned ETA Alia Flanigan sharing that, “the calls help provide me with new contacts that I’ve reached out to after the calls to talk further about career plans and goals.”
Beyond connecting between generations of Fulbrighters, the calls have also allowed for collaboration between cohorts around the world. As shared by returned Fulbrighter Thomas Ruhl, “I have been loving these calls, not only are they great for professional development and sorting out life after Fulbright, but they’re also a great way to see people I did my grant with, as well as new faces from people who did their grants in other countries.”
Fulbright ETA Malaysia 2020
Below is a youtube playlist of clips from the webinars that have different advice for returning Fulbrighters.