From the start – Brad Deacon – Germany 1993

From the start – Brad Deacon – Germany 1993

From my arrival in Bonn for orientation, I found myself surrounded by some of the most interesting people I’d ever met.  Fulbrighters from across the U.S., in Germany to study economics, physics, medieval literature, engineering, music, and so many more areas.  All with vastly different lives and experiences, but brought together for a few days because of a passion for learning, an eagerness for engagement, and a desire for new connections.  Those intensely stimulating days (and Biergarten evenings) were an amazing start to what was one of the most remarkable, challenging, and fulfilling years of my life.

Brad Deacon – Fulbright to Germany 1993

Fulbright Opens Hearts, Minds, and Doors to the World – Philip William Calvert – Iceland 1994

I vividly remember the day in the spring semester of my second year of graduate school when I received the letter from the Fulbright Association accepting my application to be a Scholar to Iceland. I carried that letter to my next class, which was taught by my mentor, Dr. Turley. The joy on his face, coupled with a hint of surprise, when I told him the life-changing news is etched in my mind. The year was 1994, and it would still be two years before earning my Ph.D. in Political Science at SIU-C, where I was attending on a Morris Doctoral Fellowship. As a young kid from rural Maine, I heard somewhere along the path of life that education was the fastest way to see the world, and that letter was the ticket.

Within months, my wife and I packed two suitcases and flew to Iceland, where we spent the second year of our marriage having an adventure that still resonates in our hearts.

A priority for a political science major was to visit Höfði House, which was the location of the 1986 Reykjavík Summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. This meeting was an important step toward ending the Cold War. Visiting that venue was valuable for me from an historical and an educational perspective, as my dissertation, published in 1996, was titled, Uncertainty and dissent: Iceland in the post-Cold War world.

While living in Reykjavík we enjoyed excursions across rivers, glaciers, and volcanos. We learned to ski the icy slopes, which were completely different than the mountains of Maine, while dodging boulders instead of trees. We rode stubborn Icelandic ponies, and summited the glacier-shrouded volcano, Snæfellsjökull, which was the centerpiece of Jules Verne’s, Journey to the Center of the Earth. We enjoyed exploring the Westman Islands off the coast of Iceland, home of the world-famous puffin.

One special cross-cultural moment of our time in Iceland was celebrating Christmas at the dairy farm of an Icelandic friend. My wife grew up on a tree farm, so we attentively learned how to boil their small tree and, once cut free from its twine holder, patiently watched it slowly spread its small branches. It was a cozy Christmas, and we greatly enjoyed the harmony and simplicity.

We’re still connected to the precious family that welcomed us into their home for Christmas in Iceland’s snowy and windswept countryside. We continue to tell the stories of the trip two young married students took to venture from Iceland to the European mainland for a “traincation” on the Eurail from Scandinavia to Sicily over winter break.

Those fascinating moments of living created indelible memories, scholarship, and stories. The year on Fulbright was glorious, and it set the stage for a life of cross-cultural exploration, as we have lived in four countries across three continents and six states.

Thank you, Fulbright Association, for launching the heart and mind of two young kids from rural America into a career of global exploration, cultural appreciation, and mutual understanding.

Philip William Calvert – Fulbright to Iceland 1994

My First Attempted Coup d’Etat – James Nolan – Spain 1979 & 1989

My First Attempted Coup d’Etat – James Nolan – Spain 1979 & 1989

James Nolan, Patio de Letras, Universidad Central de Barcelona, 2005 (photo from newspaper La Vanguardia)

This past January 6, I sat glued to the television watching as state representatives in the nation’s Capitol cowered on the floor while a mob of shouting louts invaded their congressional chamber, interrupting the Electoral College’s certification of the presidential vote.

This spectacle jolted me back to a similar moment in Spain thirty years ago, one that rattled me at the time and unnerved the Spanish for a generation. On that occasion, a drunken army colonel stood at the speaker’s podium during a presidential election in the Palacio de las Cortes in Madrid and fired shots into the air, shouting todos al suelo, or “everyone on the ground.” Whether incited by a crazed colonel or a defeated President who refuses to leave office, how fragile the stately marble pillars of democracy suddenly can appear.

During my first attempted coup d’état, I didn’t even have a radio, much less a television.  From 1979 through 1981, I was a Fulbright professor of North American Studies at the Universidad Central in Barcelona. On the evening of February 23, 1981, while I was teaching a class on Whitman, uniformed janitors burst into the room, insisting that we leave immediately.

            “Everything is normal again. The Fascists are back in power,” they announced, faces flushed with booze. “Everyone go home until further notice.”

  I was shocked that these taciturn watchmen, usually perched inside of glass security booths in the university patios, were invading my classroom. But my philology students knew what it meant. They’d grown up under iron fist of Franco, dead for only seven years, and realized how shaky the present transition to democracy was. They communicated the gravity of the situation to me in English as we marched out under the stern glares of the gloating bedeles.

            Walking the few blocks home, as I shouldered past stunned pedestrians scampering down Las Ramblas, I couldn’t believe what was happening. My American girlfriend, still in stage makeup, soon rushed back to our apartment. Maureen was a dancer performing in a musical comedy in a theater on the Avenida de Paralelo, Barcelona’s answer to Broadway. Armed civil guards had interrupted the show, emptying the theater with the same explanation.

In the blink of an eye, everything had changed. 

            Shaking out heads in disbelief, we stood at the railing of one of our seven balconies over the Calle Elisabets, watching the street empty. Would we have to pack our bags and leave the country?

            We’d made friends with the grandfatherly proprietor of a milk shop on the building’s first floor, so we went down to ask the lechero what was going on. Head bowed, he sat slumped next to his radio, muttering under his breath.

            He told us that a lieutenant colonel named Antonio Tejero had taken over the speaker’s podium in the Spanish parliament in Madrid, interrupting a congressional vote to elect a new president, the Democratic candidate Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo. Waving a pistol, Tejero commanded that the now kidnapped representatives get down on the floor, shouting that the election was cancelled and the Fascist Party again in power. At that moment, tanks commandeered by two thousand soldiers were rumbling through the streets of Valencia, and a national military coup d’état had been declared. 

            The Catalan milkman explained that he’d been a Republican during the Civil War, fighting the fascists. Even though a bomb had blown off his leg—he rolled up a pant cuff to show us the prosthetic limb—he kept a wooden club under the counter that he was now brandishing at the stentorian voice on the state-run radio station, announcing the coup as definitive. He was preparing to limp two blocks to Las Ramblas to fight the bastards again. He was reliving the horror of the war, when one half of Spain invaded the other half, both sides mercilessly slaughtering each other.

             During my two years in Barcelona I’d heard a lot about the four decades of Franco’s rule and the Civil War, but had no idea what was happening at the moment. We were renting the apartment of a Catalan poet, who suddenly showed up at the front door. Once part of the youthful resistance to Franco, he explained to us the seriousness of the coup d’état while packing a suitcase of papers related to the anti-fascist underground. He planned to cross the border into France in the morning. He assured me that, as a Fulbright professor, I’d probably be all right, since Franco had always counted on the staunch support of the American State Department. Yet I certainly didn’t want to play along with the Fascists.

            Maureen and I stayed up most of that fretful night, pacing the tile floors from balcony to balcony to stare out over the eerily deserted street. We had no telephone, so couldn’t call friends either in Barcelona or abroad to confirm what was happening. Then the light in the milkman’s shop went out, breaking our news connection to the world.

            At dawn that morning, we later heard, King Juan Carlos I appeared on television to denounce Tejero, the military insurrectionists, and the attempted coup, reaffirming his support for the constitution drawn up three years earlier. In a short, forceful speech, he decreed from the Palacio Real that Spain would continue its transition to democracy. This was followed by the national anthem and an image of the Spanish flag.

Period.                                                                                                         

The coup d’état was over.

Later that day the front pages of El País and La Vanguardia stacked in the newspaper kiosks along Las Ramblas recounted the unsettling story of the drunken soldiers and their botched takeover of the government. Life appeared to return to normal, but the Spaniards’ faith in the authority and continuity of a new-born democracy was badly shaken after witnessing in one stressful night how easily the flickering candle of their freedom could be blown out. The sun rose on a new day in Spain, but only we foreigners believed it.

 

James Nolan – Fulbright to Spain 1979 & 1989

Blood Diamonds: Before and After Sierra Leone’s Civil War – Susan Ruel – Sierra Leone 1978

My Fulbright year in Sierra Leone made an incalculably significant impact on my life. When I left in 1979, I saw no hint that a vicious civil war would break out there just over a decade later.

On arrival in 1978 as one of a tiny group of “pothos” (whites) in country, I felt such excitement and culture shock that I didn’t  sleep for two weeks. Despite my Harvard diploma and master’s degree, I knew little of the world outside the northeastern United States. I chose West Africa for my Fulbright due to its close ties to African-American culture. To be welcomed and fed everywhere I went in Sierra Leone, one of the world’s poorest nations, was a humbling shock.

Living in Freetown, the capital, and affiliated with Fourah Bay College (“Athens of West Africa”), I quickly learned Krio, the lingua franca, and occasionally sang with the Sebanoh Kings, a popular musical group. We once appeared on national television, and I’d no sooner finished singing my signature song (“Victim”) on air than I was asked to repeat the performance.

I fell in love with the warm, generous, fascinating people and Freetown (like Rio and Sydney, one of the world’s three best natural harbors), with its palm tree-topped mountains and long, pristine beaches. The kindness and generosity I experienced during my Fulbright year somehow softened the impact of the poverty and squalor that I also witnessed up close. On poda-poda road trips across Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, I came face-to-face with leprosy, malnourished and deathly sick babies, and a man in the late stages of rabies. I helped where I could and never forgot what I saw. Just two years later, realizing how much my Fulbright experience had taught me, I interrupted doctoral studies to spend a year teaching and reporting news in China. Nevertheless, I ended up writing my PhD dissertation as a collection of stories based on my time in Sierra Leone.

The chief testimony to my Fulbright scholarship and the lifelong bond I forged with Sierra Leone is the honor of being called mother by my adoptive son, Abdulai. A child victim of the civil war there, Abdulai lost his mother and other family in massacres. He fled the war as a young teenager and sought asylum in New York. He grew up to become an award-winning journalist and activist. Since 2017, Abdulai has also bravely fought 9/11-related blood cancer. He and his Guinea-born wife Aissatou live near me in NYC and are devoted parents to Habiba, my beloved 4-year-old granddaughter.

Fulbright opened my eyes to the world and launched my work in journalism/communications in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. More than ever, we Americans must stay informed and seek firsthand knowledge of life beyond our shores. May the Fulbright program never cease its crucially important work.

Susan Ruel, PhD – Fulbright to Sierra Leone 1978

Argentina Friends – Brenda Hargrove – Argentina 2006

I was so pleased to have an exchange with an Argentinian educator so similar to me!  She had certainly never been outside of her country to North Carolina! I shared as much as I could about the culture, school system, family, etc. with her while she lived with me for three weeks in October, 2006; then I had the opportunity to visit Dean Funes, Cordoba in  the summer of 2007. Still friends with the family and others on Facebook despite some language barriers!

Brenda Hargrove – Fulbright to Argentina 2006

Strong Heart Of Glass – Michael Janis – United Kingdom 2012

The University of Sunderland is home to the National Glass Centre in the UK, as well as the Institute for International Research in Glass (IIRG). As a glass artist, this was exactly where I wanted to do my Fulbright Fellowship. Artist and studio mate Tim Tate was also a recipient of a Fulbright Specialist award, and with some finagling, we were able to both complete our Fulbright Mission together.

Working with the University, we worked in different techniques in glass, and were able to work with Fulbright Scholar Jeffery Sarmiento – who was then appointed Reader in Glass at the National Glass Centre.

Besides working with the University students and faculty, we also were able to create informal workshops on how technology and social media is changing the art world. These talks were extremely popular – with the standing room only audiences that came from the student body of the University as well as working artists from Sunderland, Newcastle, and as far away as Edinburgh, Scotland. The audience stayed long after the talk, and topics from the discussions continued to come up during our entire Fulbright program stay (and indeed, afterwards via the internet) showing the strong relevance of the concepts.

Since our mission, we were invited to show as artists at galleries in London and at the Sunderland Museum, and we had the Sunderland artists featured in an international exhibit held in Washington, DC the following year.

While our mission as Fulbright Scholars was to impart information, we left having learned many lessons.

Michael Janis – Fulbright to United Kingdom 2012

Developing a Passion for International Education – Matt Schiesel – Poland 2015

A few weeks into my role as an American English teacher at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, I found myself curious about the structure and methodology behind Polish higher education. The use of retake classes and exams, the focus on thematic lessons and academic integrity – not all of this was new to me, but I couldn’t help comparing the collegiate experience of my Polish students to my own educational background at a liberal arts college in Upstate New York. I shared these experiences with local university and high school students through my lessons, a weekly conversation club and a presentation during November’s International Education Week, but I knew I wanted to do more.

Working with the Polish Fulbright Commission and my fellow ETAs across Poznan, Bydgoszcz and Wroclaw, I hosted a panel discussion about higher education similarities and differences between Poland and the United States. My ETA colleagues – sharing their experiences at research-led institutions, men’s colleges, and state universities – discussed the advantages and disadvantages of their educational upbringing, then compared those experiences to the universities at which they taught in Poland. As the students and faculty in attendance got involved in the conversation, it resulted in a deep dialogue about the value of education and how different models and structures for educational institutions serve society and local communities in vastly different ways.

This moment was revelatory for me. It unveiled my deep-rooted passion for international education and for learning about other cultures and peoples through educational experiences. Upon my return to the U.S., I took a job working as a study abroad advisor at my alma mater and have continued to grow in the role in the years since. One of my most beloved responsibilities, however, is as the campus’ Fulbright Program Advisor, working with students through the same application process I navigated as a graduating senior and enabling them to take on the same opportunities with Fulbright as I did.

Fulbright has come full-circle for me. While I miss each day I spent in Poznan and the daily conversations I had with my students and colleagues, Fulbright continues to enable me to form relationships with U.S. students seeking international engagement and building their own connections with communities abroad.

Matt Schiesel – Fulbright to Poland 2015

Sleuthing in Russian Emigré Paris – Aliss Valerie Terrell – France 1971

Sleuthing in Russian Emigré Paris – Aliss Valerie Terrell – France 1971

In 1971, I got a Fulbright to enroll at the Sorbonne and research Alexei Remizov, modernist author who emigrated from Revolutionary Petrograd to Paris and died there in 1957. My application promised a photographic essay on “Remizov’s Paris.” So, I lugged my Pentax reflex to all the places he mentioned in his writing. I needed material to turn my project into a thesis topic and began tracking down surviving oldsters in the labyrinth of Russian émigré society who had known Remizov. What now takes seconds on the Internet then took months of leg work, even with leads and high-powered help. 

I had a note from Douglass College Professor Ludmilla Turkevich for Mme. Marie Avril, curator of the Bibliothèque Nationale Russian collection. She invited me for high tea at her flat near her office, overlooking tiny green Square Louvois and its stone fountain where four sculpted graces embody the four great rivers of France. In my best literary French, I told her about my project and must have made a decent impression because she later invited me to join her at the Bibliothèque for the gala opening of an exhibition she was curating about recently deceased writer Elsa Triolet. Russian-born Triolet was a Resistance activist, also wife and muse of flamboyant silver-maned French poet Louis Aragon, who appeared at the reception in a purple satin shirt and flowing black trousers, surrounded by a coterie of young male admirers. That evening Mme. Avril introduced me to Alexander, an antique dealer who knew someone who knew someone who had known Remizov. I summarized my research topic. Instead of giving me contact info, “Sandro” as he preferred to be called, insisted on inviting me for dinner to discuss it.

Locating his address on rue Saint Anne near the stately Palais Royal gardens, I entered a rarefied world. Atop a pale stone Haussmannian building, he occupied an entire floor with high ceilings and inner balconies overlooking a big square room filled with monumental marble goddess statuary and other artwork acquired through his parents’ business on rue Saint Honoré. I thought there would be other guests, but it was a tête-à-tête. I left no blanks whatsoever in the conversation and kept a fixed distance at all times. 

The table was beautifully set with exquisite china and crystal. His cook had left our dinner in the kitchen and Sandro waited on me like a butler, serving several courses of delicacies with impossible names. A rich Bordeaux was accompanied by fresh walnuts “to bring out the bouquet” (new concept!). Intrigued, but wary and impatient, I departed smoothly before the last metro. 

Anther invitation followed: Maya Plisetskaya was dancing at the Paris Opera. Sandro had orchestra seats. Maya Plisetskaya was dazzling and well worth the awkwardness with my squire, but how long was he going to string me along? The clock was ticking. A full grad school ride was on hold at NYU the next step in my career plan towards a professorship.

Aliss Valerie Terrell – Fulbright to France 1971

Career Corner – Using Your Magic Wand

Career Corner – Using Your Magic Wand

Looking for work tends to be a very practical and serious-minded pursuit. We are encouraged to be realistic in our expectations. Don’t shoot too high like applying for a job above your qualifications, or too low – something you’d be bored by. I think professional training and education demands that we be thoughtful and realistic in thinking about a career. Societal expectations are that we take career exploration seriously. As a child we can engage in fantasy, but not as an adult. Recall back in elementary school when “career day” meant adults (sometimes your parents) coming into class and getting you excited about being a firefighter!

But increasingly we are encouraging adults to release themselves from constricted and established ways of considering their lives. We can engage in leisure activities today that defy realism. How about fantasy football? Or an escape room? Neither are realistic, but they allow us to shed our need for pragmatism.

I often encourage my clients to reconsider how they have expected their careers to unfold. Sometimes they don’t recognize the conventional nature of it, and that these conventions can undermine potential and undervalued hidden talents. More importantly, the established path – maybe preordained by family or culture – might prevent us from achieving a dream job. Some of my clients are pursuing careers not because they really enjoy the potential of it, but because of family expectations. How many people are working in the family business and hate it?

The expression “we only have one life to live” can be considered in a career context. We can pursue different careers throughout life, but generally as we advance professionally, we view our choices as more and more limited. These limitations might very well by driven by forces we can’t easily liberate from: family obligations, financial need, and limited opportunities because of training and education.

Given that, I think there is value in a magic wand approach to our careers. I often say to clients, if you had a magic wand and could do anything you wanted in 5 or 10 years, what would it be? (I actually have a magic wand that I use with them that was part of one of my daughter’s Halloween costumes when she was young). This can be hard for someone to do. But with some encouragement, most of my clients do it.

With this approach, career seekers have a chance to dream and embrace the possibility of the alignment of their values, interests, goals, and talents. I rarely find that clients pick pathways that are unrelated to where their interests already lie: I don’t recall anyone telling me they wanted to be an astronaut – I don’t get too many aerospace engineers as clients. But I do have clients who will take an interest, say reading books, which leads them to the dream of owning a used bookshop. This can be a meaningful insight. I then challenge them to rationalize why they are not doing something they have dreamed of.

This process might still result in someone coming back to more conventional pathways. But it can also allow someone to make adjustments in their expectations that allow a bit of the magic to seep into other plans. The dream of a bookshop might actually evolve into starting a book club.

—David J. Smith

David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at davidjsmithconsulting.com. He can reached at davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com.

Holodomor: the little known famine-genocide – Oleh Wolowyna – Ukraine 2008 and 2014

Holodomor: the little known famine-genocide – Oleh Wolowyna – Ukraine 2008 and 2014

Discovering new facts about the 1932-34 Famine in Soviet Ukraine

   Sometimes a decision at a specific point in time triggers a significant change in one’s life course.  I started my first Fulbright grant in September 2008 at the Institute of Demography and Social Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. I soon realized that the Institute staff was not very interested in my proposed research topic.  Then I met Sr. demographer Omelan Rudnytskyi. He spent many years collecting documents and data on the 1932-34 Famine and he also acquainted me with the Institute’s history.

   The Institute, created in 1918, was the first of its kind in Europe. It’s researchers did extensive analyses of the demographic situation in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920-30s. The Institute was closed by the Soviet government in 1938 and many of its staff were shot or exiled to Siberia. It was reopened in 1992 and, thanks to the dedication of several demographers, most of the Institute’s work was rescued and resided in its library.

   Knowledge about the Famine in Ukraine (also called Holodomor or death by starvation) was still limited at that time. The detailed demographic analyses and Rudnytskyi’s knowledge about this tragic event presented a golden opportunity for advancing our understanding of the Holodomor.

  I informed the Fulbright office in Ukraine about this situation and asked permission to change my research topic.  The request was approved, a research group was formed and a new project was born.  This decision had several significant consequences.  It opened for me a new area of demographic research, established a mutually beneficial collaboration between Ukrainian and American scholars, and launched a research project that has made significant contributions to our knowledge of the Holodomor.

   The project has been going on without interruption thanks to my second Fulbright grant in 2014 and financial support by the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI) and the Ukrainian Studies Fund. Results from our research have been published in books and scholarly journals like Canadian Studies in Population, Nationalities Papers and Journal of Genocide Studies. We provided the demographic input to HURI’s Holodomor Mapa project and our results are extensively used in the book Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine by the Pulitzer-prize winner Anne Applebaum.

   The project is an example of the Fulbright program’s goals.  All research is a team effort and all our publications have joint authorship.  I received from my colleagues a solid education on historical demography of Ukraine and they profited from my experience in Western research standards and how to prepare articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

   Some key figures about the Holodomor:

* four million deaths (13 percent of the total population) caused by the Famine, with one-third of them children under ten years of age;

* 80 percent of all losses occurred during the first half of 1933;

* the number of rural losses increased ten times between January and June of 1933.

 According to the French historian Alain Blum, “rarely, in all of the demographic history of Europe, a famine caused losses of such proportions.”

Oleh Wolowyna – Fulbright to Ukraine 2008 and 2014

You’re Sort of a Missionary, Right? – Bill Issel – UK 1978, Hungary 2008, Romania 2018

I’ll call him “Mr. Smith.” I meet him one afternoon on the Charles Bridge in Prague. I’m there to lecture on race, class, and politics in American history. It’s 1978 and I’m doing my first Fulbright at the American Studies Centre in London.  I help get the Centre started, working with my English colleague Chris Brookeman. The embassy people ask me if I want to do some extra work, in Copenhagen, Prague and Bucharest. They offer to pay for travel and lodging, so I say “when do I leave?”

I get to Prague a day early and I’m taking a walk the day before my lecture. The guide book says you can’t miss the famous Charles Bridge that goes from the Old City to the Castle district. I’m looking at one of the 30 statues that line each side of the bridge, the one of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of my hometown. I’m taking my time slowly deciphering the Latin inscription at the base of the statue (my high school Latin is rusty). The statue, like most of the buildings back then is still black from decades of coal-smoke and it’s hard to read the sign.

I hear a voice behind me, English with an accent, “That’s St. Francis of Assisi.” I turn around and see a man in his seventies, a twinkle in his blue eyes, wearing a suit. He puts out his hand, “Hello, I’m Mr. Smith. You must be an American by the look of you.” We end up spending the rest of the afternoon together, and he shows me around the castle district. I invite him to join me for a beer; we end up drinking two. Then we enjoy dinner and share a bottle of young, but good, local wine at a neighborhood bistro. Mr. Smith volunteers to be my guide if I want to get outside of the city, so the day after my lecture at the conference I rent a car and we drive to Kutná Hora. I want to visit St. Barbara’s Church, one of the very few cathedrals that that has statues and stained glass windows that honor workers, specifically the silver miners who toiled in that district for several centuries (I’m writing labor history back in those days).

Mr. Smith tells me he remembers when Josef Stalin died. He remembers exactly where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news. I tell him I remember the night I heard that President Roosevelt died. They interrupted my “Red Ryder and Little Beaver” radio program for the announcement. He tells me he knows about the Fulbright Program, “Senator Fulbright is one of my heroes.” I ask him why, and he says, “Because he stands for all the ways that America has done good in the world. Look at yourself, when it comes right down to it, you’re sort of a missionary, right?”

Bill Issel – Fulbright to UK 1978, Hungary 2008, Romania 2018

Transcending Formalism in the Slovak Republic – Paul Joseph Carrier – Slovakia 1996

Transcending Formalism in the Slovak Republic – Paul Joseph Carrier – Slovakia 1996

As a Fulbright Scholar to Slovakia in the mid 90’s, I became acquainted with a kindred organization: the American Bar Association’s Central and Eastern European Law Initiative. While at the the Comenius University Law Faculty’s Institute of International Affairs and Law Approximation, I was further tasked with teaching legal English courses to Ministry of Justice personnel, Justices of the Supreme Court, and other judges. Weekly lessons led to several week-long legal English seminars held in the spa town Trencianske Teplice, where the Ministry maintains a training facility. One night my colleagues took me to their favorite places in the area. Not only was it a wonderful and much-needed outing with friends, but the discussion and the camaraderie reminded me that whereas there may have been some language difficulties, I was dealing with very intelligent and highly accomplished people. Along with the wonderful support from the Fulbright Commission, this kept me in-country at a critical juncture. I stayed for another five years.

Paul Joseph Carrier – Fulbright to Slovakia 1996

Fulbright and new perspectives about online jobs – Vumilia Maturo – USA 2018

Fulbright and new perspectives about online jobs – Vumilia Maturo – USA 2018

Having a chance to participate in one of the Fulbright Exchange programs (FLTA) changed my perspective on online jobs.

Before Fulbright, I thought all advertisements about online jobs are scams. I thought people who post those jobs intend to use others for their benefits like, getting their information and use them illegally. I was scared to provide my information, bank account, etc. But after the program, all of those thoughts changed after introduced to online teaching and exposed to the new way of lifestyle, culture, flexibility, and a new understanding of diversity. I learned trust and mutual understanding is the most important thing in life and for the growth whether personal or professional.

Fulbright shaped my personal and professional development and broadened my experience my diversity. But as a foreign language instructor, my aspirations of sharing my language and culture with others around the world grew strong. That desire for sharing and curiosity of understanding the outside world drives me to try new things like online teaching. As a way to fulfill that desire and continue applying the Fulbright experience I decided to start working online, and I am capable to secure various jobs as a foreign language tutor.

I am glad for the Fulbright opportunity because it introduces me to the outside world and contributed a lot to both personal and professional growth. I got a chance to meet new people, network, learning to live in a multi-cultural environment, and making new friends from different parts of the world.

#once a Fulbright always, a Fulbright.

Vumilia Maturo – Fulbright to USA 2018

A visit to the studio of Uzbek artist Sergei Alibekov – Laurence Jarvik – Uzbekistan 2002

While I was in Tashkent, I visited the Uzbekfilm Studios and met director Sergei Alibekov, who asked me to do some very brief English-language voiceovers for his animated film “Echogram,” about the collapse of the USSR. Following the recording session, for which he insisted paying me the prevailing wage–$5 US–he invited me to see his art studio, located in a spare bedroom of his small family apartment, located in  unfashionable district on the outskirts of Tashkent that appeared to be a bit rougher than the center. I met his wife and son–who worked as his assistant–saw his large collection of historic Uzbek headgear, and watched him explain the meaning of hidden symbols in each work. Subsequently he moved to Moscow, where I met him again in 2004-5, when I was an ACCELS visiting professor at RGGU. It was a unique opportunity to see how Uzbek artists lived and worked and coded their messages on many levels. Following my return, I donated a painting of his to the Zimmerli Collection of Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art at Rutgers University, although I don’t think it is on display.

Laurence Jarvik – Fulbright to Uzbekistan 2002

A springboard for learning to travel – Edward T Ordman – Australia 1974

A springboard for learning to travel – Edward T Ordman – Australia 1974

Shortly after my Ph. D. I engaged in some correspondence about a mathematical paper I’d read, which led to a one-semester post-doctoral research Fulbright to Australia in 1974. I was able to give lectures up and down the Eastern part of Australia, at several universities. While I’ve never seen a formal list of the “far corners of the earth” I suspect that Hobart, Tasmania, may qualify, probably the farthest place I’ll ever get from home. When I spoke there (after my first overnight boat trip, from Sydney) I got a brief write-up in the local newspaper.  Then I got a letter from Auckland, New Zealand: “We don’t have any cash money available, but if your return flight to the US will let you lay over here, we’ll house and feed you for a week in exchange for a lecture.”

       This was an education in how to organize travel and how to make connections which has served me well for more than 45 years. By arranging trips with partial support or one-leg-at-a time-support from a variety of places, some sabbatical and grant support and some self-funded travel, I’ve lectured in places from Aalborg, Denmark, to Bangor, Wales, Budapest and Shanghai, as well as such unlikely places as Torshavn (Faroe Islands) and Zomba (Malawi). I’ve also lectured in French – and had many professional conversations, although no public lectures, in German. I’ve made friends and colleagues all over the world. I became a frequent counselor to foreign graduate students at my home university. And later in life this led me to continue to travel, seeking unusual volunteer opportunities such as teaching English in a children’s summer camp in rural Poland and practicing English with potential English teachers in Xi’an (China) and Kherson (Ukraine.)  The initial Fulbright grant was a relatively small one, but it has paid immense life-long dividends.

Edward T Ordman – Fulbright to Australia 1974

Family Ties – Anthony “Tony” Baltakis – Czech Republic 2007

In 2007 my wife and I served in Plzen, Czech Republic.  As a Fulbright Scholar I taught history at the University of West Bohemia in Plzen. We cherish that time, to this day; the people we met and the travels to other countries as well as all around the Czech Republic, a once in a lifetime experience for us.  We were invited to visit the George Patton Museum in Plzen and while there my wife saw a picture of her father (he had died a few weeks earlier back in the states).  She remembered stories he told about his army division liberating a town in Czechoslovakia but couldn’t remember the name. Well, there he was.  She cried and smiled all at one time.  This story hit all the newspapers in the country; an American Fulbright whose father-in-law liberated their country!  We were invited to the May Liberation Day celebration, celebrating the month the Americans liberated them, and we were honored to meet our U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic and the mayor of the town.  The mayor honored my wife with a presentation of gifts for her, and her mother, to thank them for her dad “liberating my town and my people”.  I was honored to be a Fulbright Scholar, to represent our country, and I will never forget the people, the travel experiences and memories  of my time there.  I still share these stories with my history students today.

Anthony “Tony” Baltakis – Fulbright to Czech Republic 2007

Animated China – Tom Gasek – China 2018

I was awarded a five and a half week Fulbright grant to teach animation in northeastern China in the city of Changchun. I was hosted by the Jilin Animation Institute (JAI), one of the very few private institutions that concentrate on the arts in China.

As an animator, director, author and teacher, I was excited to share my knowledge with a completely different cohort of students. I was assigned a dedicated interpreter (“Jane”) to teach my classes and special projects. Changchun is not a tourist destination and there was very little English spoken throughout the city of 7 million. JAI arranged their curriculum so that one particular class could be assigned exclusively to a visiting instructor for an extended period of time. I taught exercise workshops in the morning and then we worked together as a team to create an animated (pixilated) film in the afternoon. Pixilation is the art of animating people photographically using animation principles.

We took the script of one of the students and turned it into a 4-minute animated film. I assigned specific jobs to small crews within the class. I was so impressed with the skills of these students to build a whole life-size set mimicking a poor one-room Chinese abode with the most rudimentary of material and tools. Under my direction one crew made an animatable flower, which was featured in stop motion in the film. I directed the lighting and animation with small groups following closely along and another small crew did all the post-production on our film.

My day-to-day experiences were full of revelations of life in China. I had a private room in one of the dorms and ate at one of several cafeterias. There was wonderful food offered every morning on the streets right outside of the dorms with unusual calls and whistles from the vendors. One morning when I arrived to class I was asked by “Jane” to come with her to the front lobby of the school. When I arrived there were about 25 faculty lined up across from about 80 students. I was asked to say a few words, on the spot, to the students as they were about to graduate. Without thought, with my American sensibilities, I told these students to not wait for work to come to them but to be inventive and create their own career paths based on their creativity and drive. I was never sure if that was appropriate or not, but I am sure my hosts were not surprised.

I discovered so much about this wonderful culture and nation. The day before I flew-out I was hosted by my class and teachers at a wonderful dinner. There was a huge “lazy susan” in the center of our table with endless delights and I had to try everything. We laughed, toasted and the students sang songs for me. This experience reminded me how connected we all are across the globe and that our friendships will endure.

Tom Gasek – Fulbright to China 2018

Startup Project – Out of Scratch / AUSicily.it – Sami Basha – Italy 2014

Startup Project – Out of Scratch / AUSicily.it – Sami Basha – Italy 2014

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Establishing the American University of Sicily as a Laboratory for Innovation. I have been leading an effort to establish the American University of Sicily out of scratch. What can be differently? AUSI is not a commercial enterprise. It is first and foremost, an institution of higher learning and research. As a private nonprofit university association, it shares the same objectives and characteristics as many sister universities in the US.

AUSI is dedicated to effective teaching, student learning achievement, research that broadens knowledge and service that benefits our communities and one another.

I have been 20 years in higher education in the region, part of it in Italy, part of it in Palestine and in other countries. I am very well experience both in higher education and well-grounded in international accreditation not just in one country, and I have worked extensively throughout the region and I concluded that there was a need that was not met, I had the opportunity to see the niche that is unfilled. AUSI IS DESIGNED TO FILL that niche that’s missing from the Mediterranean area.

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The interest of the international community – George Washington University

We are still in the early stages OF DEVELOPMENT and we still have much more to do, but we believe and work to create educative networks that PROVIDE REAL BENEFITS (enough thinking about one of our activities during COVID-19 where we got more than 80 international universities involved with high profile academics to produce Siracusa Document (which you can find in 4 languages)… It was historic event…)

Sami Basha – Fulbright to Italy 2014