It was a dream come true when I received a call from the United States India Education Fund (USIEF) to attend an interview for the Junior Research Fellowship. I was on a roller coaster ride full of excitement coupled with trepidation as I was to travel for the first time in my life, on my own, to the USA. My destination was Arcadia University, Pennsylvania. My mentor Prof. P.S. Chauhan and his wife Dr. Vijaylakshmi, were my guardian angels throughout my six months sojourn at the University. My apartment at 1063, Church Road, Glenside is still etched in my memory. It gave me the space and the time to reflect on my dissertation. Long before COVID-19, it made me realize the importance of maintaining good health, relationships and that minimalist living was an ideal way of life. At the same time I grew stronger in faith and confidence. The University with its magnificent Grey Tower’s Castle, the lush lawns and the Landsteiner library with the state of the art facilities left me spell bound. The Visual Communication Department with its wealth of videos on the Civil Rights Movement in America gave me the insight that I required to write my thesis. The cordial welcome by the Provost and the support extended by the international advisor are still fresh in my mind. The reception hosted by the Friends of Fulbrighters at Mrs. Alexander’s house and the Fulbright Conference at the Marriot Hotel in Washington D.C. were all like the stuff found in fairy tales. To me history came alive when I visited the Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Smithsonian Museum and the Lincoln Memorial. The Martin Luther King Historic site at Atlanta and the Muhammad Ali Centre at Louisville made me marvel at the sites and gave me yet another view of America. The myriad hues of autumn and the downy flakes of December kept me enthralled and wonder at the splendor of Nature. This Fellowship also gave a great chance to my family to visit me and enjoy the sites and sounds of the East Coast and appreciate the great American Constitution and the values it stood for.
What I cherish most is the long standing association with the United States Consulate in Chennai which enriched my College and our students both academically and culturally. To mention a few, the Toastmasters International Club’s programs brought under the guidance of the English Studies Officer, the English Language Specialist posted in our College, the Youth Leadership and the SUSI programs etc. enhanced the skills of our students. The Dignitaries from the Consulate who honored and graced many events in my institution opened new vistas. I consider myself blessed to have had a tiny but a fruitful role in the profound vision of Senator J. William Fulbright and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. May the world embark on many such meaningful programs that build and nourish relationships among people from various nationalities.
Fathima Banu – Fulbrighter to USA 2005