USEFP has been like family for over 14 years. It’s a wonderful program.
My first experience with USEFP in 2006 was a year of great scholarship juxtaposed with local political unrest. I was a Fulbright Senior Scholar hosted by Kathmandu University during a very turbulent year in Nepal. In the early part of 2006, strikes occurred frequently, shuttering businesses and universities all too often. Unfortunately, some of these strikes grew violent and Americans and their interests were threatened at times. While I never felt in danger personally, the situation grew dicey enough in April that the U.S. Ambassador to Nepal ordered all non-essential American citizens to leave Nepal as our security could not be guaranteed.
Fortunately for me, I had been invited to attend USEFP’s 3rd Annual Fulbright Alumni Conference in Islamabad in late April 2006, and USEFP was kind enough to host me at the conference. Their graciousness allowed me to “wait out” the mandatory evacuation from Nepal in Islamabad until conditions had stabilized enough for me to return to Kathmandu later in May. While I was able to return to Nepal to complete my award successfully, I never forgot the vast kindness and feeling of fellowship that I experienced from the wonderful staff at USEFP.
Two of these staff members, Executive Director Rita Akhtar and Director Alumni Affairs Mazhar Awan, reconnected with me at the 2017 Fulbright Association Conference in Washington, DC. They invited me to apply for the Fulbright Specialist Program through World Learning, and I was granted an award a mere 8 months later. The staff at USEFP arranged for the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad to serve as my host institution. While there, I gave several lectures and seminars on air quality, and I mentored a pair of graduate students on their graduate theses. Working alongside Dr. Salman Atif at NUST, I was able to develop a project that investigates issues of air quality and climate change in Islamabad, Lahore, and the surrounding region. I was the first American that many students at NUST had ever interacted with directly. Undergraduate and graduate students from NUST will be working alongside Dr. Atif and me as this project progresses, and we hope to develop a long-term exchange program between NUST and my home institution, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
I am grateful to USEFP for making this opportunity possible.
Mark Hildebrandt – Fulbright to Pakistan 2018