I thought that finding out that I got the Fulbright at the same time that I found out that I was pregnant was going to be the most exciting portion of my Fulbright experience.
As an immigrant and someone who has been working with study abroad and academic and cultural exchange programs in community colleges for over a decade, I had seen and experienced three corners of the international education square – studying in the U.S. with English as their second language, sending American students to study abroad, and welcoming exchange visitors to study in the U.S. What I was missing was the fourth corner – being an exchange visitor myself! Japan provided this opportunity. In the short time I was there, I met incredible people from all walks of life who taught me valuable insights into their experiences with education both in Japan and in the United States.
Midway through our two week program, we were in Kyoto. I was shaken out of bed, not by a roommate or the alarm, but by a 5.5 magnitude earthquake which was my first experience with the natural phenomenon.
Being able to communicate with our Fulbright counterparts in Tokyo and arrange for a safe return was critical. However, we just wanted to stay and explore Kyoto so we were not too excited about having to return immediately. I had to put on my hat of an exchange visitor administrator and recognize the importance of accountability for those who are responsible for our safety. Having experienced what it is like to be an exchange visitor myself created a lot more empathy for the exchange visitors with whom I work on a daily basis.
And now I can tell my daughter that she’s already been to Japan!
Leeza Fernand – Fulbright to Japan 2018