I am from a tiny town in Honduras; this town is an archaeological site of the Maya civilization. I am the first Ph.D. in Computer Science (CS) from this region (Copan Ruinas). Copan Ruinas is a United Nations World Heritage site renowned for the hieroglyphic staircase, stellae, and museum. The Mayans invented the Zero independently around 4 AD; therefore, it was logical, since we invented half of the Computer Science building blocks, to study a Ph.D. in CS at Purdue University.
I started my studies at Purdue via a Fulbright Scholarship. I got my Fulbright scholarship because of my background. For instance, I studied at the biggest public high school institution (Instituto Central Vicente Caceres), where many underprivileged students are educated. To put in perspective, many people in that institution have to walk miles to attend classes or live with under $100.00 a month (being optimistic here) in an average family of 5. Then, I was the top student in this high school earning a scholarship to study in a private university (UNITEC). Studying at UNITEC was entirely out of my league since I do not have the financial resources to pay for the tuition or the expenses related to my education. With a significant effort from my parents, I obtained a bachelor’s degree in Computer Systems Engineering without even having a computer or the money to buy books.
Public institutions in Honduras do not provide a second language education, i.e., I had to learn English on my own to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship. Hence, I learned English by myself, and I obtained a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Purdue University.
In Honduras, there are no programs in Computer Science that involve research at the division I research (R1) institution level. In a university such as Purdue, that background knowledge is taken for granted. However, the whole concept or process of publications, papers, etc., was out of my perspective. My favorite accomplishment as a Fulbrigther includes obtaining a Ph.D. in Computer Science, despite my early disadvantage in research and self-taught English.
The Fulbright program allowed me to discover and embrace my inner personality as an introvert and accomplish things I have never imagined through exposure to a diverse set of people from different cultures and backgrounds. It was an ineffable experience.
As a Fulbrighter, I intend that my contributions to the Computer Science and Engineering field can serve other underprivileged to take the leap towards a brighter future through a Fulbright scholarship.
Servio Palacios – Fulbright to Indiana, USA 2013