Chapter Spotlight: Maine

Chapter Spotlight: Maine

For Fulbrighters across the world, storytelling serves as an important tool for advancing diplomacy and fostering cross-cultural communication. On June 18th, 2020, the Maine Chapter of the Fulbright Association and the World Affairs Council of Maine (WACM) partnered to celebrate stories that showcased the impact and value of international education programs, people to people diplomacy, and global outreach in Maine and internationally. The event “A Celebration of the Legacy of International Exchanges: A Storytelling Event,” highlighted the impact and value of the Fulbright and International Visitor Leadership Programs. Speakers at the event included a number of Fulbright alumni, representatives from the U.S. State Department, and FA’s own Shaz Akram. Although the program was originally organized as an in-person event, the Maine chapter quickly adapted to the COVID-19 circumstances and managed to hold an engaging and well attended online event.

WACM and the Maine Chapter of the Fulbright Association represent the two flagship programs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. State Department, making this a natural partnership for a storytelling event. The main goal of this event was to showcase the impact and value of both programs to nurture and advance mutual understanding between people, globally.  A favorite refrain of the Maine Chapter is, “the shortest distance between two Fulbrighters is a story.” This event not only brought Fulbrighters and other internationally minded individuals together, but it also served as a way to support and advocate for Fulbright and IVLP. The partnership between the two organizations demonstrates the importance of intercultural communication and mutual exchange.

This was the Maine Chapter’s first virtual event, and Elaine Potoker, Maine’s chapter president, referred to it as a great success. While their preference was to hold it at DiMilio’s on the Water in Portland, she says “The fact that 82 Fulbright alumni & Friends and WACM members actually attended a virtual event on a beautiful 75 degree, dry (no humidity) day in Maine was quite impressive.” The Maine Chapter is committed to providing excellent programming for chapter members and plans on holding other virtual events in the future. The Maine Chapter also hopes to continue to grow its membership in Maine, expand their local advocacy initiatives, as well as establish outreach with other educational institutions, regional chapters, and outside organizations. Ultimately, Elaine’s vision for the chapter “is that of a holographic organization (as management consultant & organizational designer, Gareth Morgan, described it.)  We are no longer a model of governance where the President does everything! The idea is to create a team where each part can re-generate the whole.”1

While we are hopeful that we will soon see an end to the current public health crisis, the Fulbright Association is proud to see that our alumni community remains strong. We are inspired and in awe of the ways that our chapters continue to find ways to gather virtually and stand in solidarity with each other during these difficult times. The Maine chapter reminds us that sometimes the simplest way we can support each other is through a story.

To view a recording of the event, please click here. If your chapter is interested in holding an online event and would like support from the Fulbright Association, please send an email to chapters@fulbright.org.

-Lisa Bochey
Fulbright ETA – Peru 2016

  1. Morgan, Gareth (1986, 1997, 2006). Images of organization. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
In Memoriam: Milton Glaser (1929 – 2020)

In Memoriam: Milton Glaser (1929 – 2020)

Image credit: Catalina Kulczar

Milton Glaser, one of the world’s greatest graphic designers and Fulbright Association Lifetime Achievement Awardee, died on June 26th, his 91st birthday.  As the New York Times puts it, Milton “changed the vocabulary of American visual culture,” designing such iconic images as the “I ♥ NY” and a psychedelic poster of Bob Dylan.  The editors of New York Magazine observed that “Milton Glaser’s work is everywhere: in logos in your supermarket, on posters you see from the side walk, and in the identity of New York itself.”

Milton often reflected that his Fulbright grant to Italy—where he studied with the painter Giorgio Morandi in Bologna—changed his life forever, attuning him to artistic traditions and sophisticated aesthetics that powered his own creativity and exceptional career.  The website of the firm he founded in 1974, www.miltonglaser.com, provides a wonderful overview of his life (including a version of “Interminable Length”) and “The Work,” which catalogues many of his campaigns and images.

Milton Glaser on his Fulbright Grant to Italy in 1952 to the Academy of Fine Arts, Bologna, Italy, studying with painter Giorgio Morandi. Image Credit: http://www.miltonglaser.com

You may agree with me that these images reveal an artist of immense reach, a creative genius who tackled each project with new eyes and a fresh palate.  Milton never rested, he never relied on his own iconography, and he never stopped looking for the new in New York, and in the wider world.  His work was bold, striking and memorable because Milton was fearless.

Poster for Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, 1967 – Image Credit: http://www.miltonglaser.com

Milton was also true to the mission of the Fulbright Program, deeply believing in building meaningful friendships wherever he went, and remaining dedicated to teaching successive generations of art students.  His art is known to billions, but his favorite legacy, I will wager, was the love and connection of his friends, colleagues, clients, and students.  He was a mensch.

On a personal note, I am very sad to lose my good friend.  Milton always made time in his busy schedule to sit with me, whether in his studio or at a favorite Italian restaurant nearby.  Our conversations were wide ranging because Milton loved the world and its complexities, injustices and troubled politics.  He viewed that world through very progressive lenses, decidedly, but he was too wise to dismiss anyone’s perspective.  Warm and funny, Milton was a pleasure to know, and I already miss him terribly.

Among many works of art he gave the Fulbright Association is a t-shirt I cherish.  It boldly shouts “ART FOR LIFE.”  Milton Glaser, Fulbrighter and friend, embodied that phrase.  He embraced life with joy.  He connected art to everyday life, making it more precious and beautiful.  We are grateful for his legacy, spirit and creations.

The Fulbright community mourns his loss and shares our condolences with his wife, Shirley.

-John B. Bader, Executive Director

Virtual Conversations: How to Talk to Your Community Abroad About Black Lives Matter Protests

Virtual Conversations: How to Talk to Your Community Abroad About Black Lives Matter Protests

Students at SMA N 1 Sangatta Utara watch the Oscar Winning Short Film Hair Love as part of their lesson on narrative text

Since arriving back to the United States, most mornings I wake up to a flurry of WhatsApp messages from my students. Typically, these messages read “Miss what are you doing?” or “Miss how is the pandemic in America?” prompting casual updates on our shared experiences in quarantine. Recently, these messages have taken on a new urgency, with the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests happening in more than 2,000 cities in the United States​. Worldwide people are demanding justice for the killings of Black Americans by white police officers. The killing of Black Americans is a systemic problem in the United States and requires action beyond police reform and prosecution.

These morning messages are now filled with voices of concern and confusion. Students are now asking “Miss why are people protesting in America?” Social media and the world wide web allows worry for my safety, and while I myself am not in any immediate danger, I struggle to put into words the long history of racism in the United States and what these protests mean beyond me as an individual.

The Indonesian ETAs host a virtual end of grant ceremony in place of their in person end of year conference in Jakarta

TikTok is a social media application that many Indonesian high schoolers rely on for global news and honest portrayal of experiences beyond their grasp. On such a platform, posts are spread at the swipe of a thumb, offering little pause for reflection and making misinformation rampant. The Black Lives Matter Protests in the United States of America have not been exempt from the consequences of fake news. For instance, a Tiktok of President Donald Trump supposedly mocking the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police has been circulating. The clip of President Donald Trump standing in front of a crowd exclaiming “I cant breath, I cant breath” was taken out of context. It was originally from a rally held in ​Colorado Springs where President Trump was referring not to George Floyd’s death, but to former democratic primary presidential candidate, Michael Bloomberg, fumbling with his answers during a debate. Students were shocked by such a seemingly insensitive act on the matter of race in the United States.

How do you explain how such a video was taken out of context without denying the reality of which we currently exist over WhatsApp? How do you summarize the complexities of the history of race in the United States through language and cultural barriers? How do you explain the larger backdrop of a United States that still has confederate statues to a student who has never traveled beyond their hometown? To answer these questions, I turned to the support and creative brain power of my cohort. While social media platforms can accidentally cause students to promote misinformation, they can also be a teaching resource. Here are some suggestions I gained from the collective man power of my 2019-2020 Indonesian ETA cohort.

A student practices her English writing while learning about famous Black Americans

Use your social media platforms to share, repost and send information to your host community. Try to engage in the post before posting in order to make sure you yourself are not also spreading false information. When sharing posts, consider translating some of the information, making it even more accessible to your students. There are many social media accounts currently explaining the Black Lives Matter movement and protests in America. Reshare a post on your story or personal accounts that is visible to your students. Also, many social media accounts share free books and resources that you can also repost and share with your community abroad. Many social media platforms allow you to post polls or host a Q&A with your followers. Make the most of these functions by allowing your community to ask you questions and providing answers on your story. For members of your host community that may not be on social media, share articles and posts to any WhatsApp groups you are still a part of as well. This will broaden your reach of interaction with your host community to anyone who might be curious and not sure how to ask you.

Similar to when you were teaching grammar and vocabulary to your students and would have to review the material and create an age appropriate lesson, you can review the information about the Black Lives Matter movement and create a lesson plan to teach your students. Your lesson plan can include explaining the history of police brutality in America coupled with videos of people protesting and the reason why they are protesting. You could end the lesson with an activity where you ask students to create a poster they would carry to a Black Lives Matter protest. There are several online resources that also provide lesson plans to teach students about the Black Lives Matter movement that you can lean on. Take a look at the “For Children” tab on websites like, blmresources.net, for children’s books on race that may be more appropriate for students where English is their second, third, or even fourth language.

Another way you can approach conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States is through comparisons to your host country. An article posted in the Jakarta Post highlighted how systemic racism is not unique to the United States. While the history and cultural contexts differ greatly, ​this article​ discusses the hashtag #PapuanLivesMatter, a spin off of #BlackLivesMatter trending in Indonesia, calling for Indonesians to reflect on their own history with racism and oppression. Papua is an eastern region of Indonesia notoriously exploited for its abundance of natural resources, while simultaneously being denied basic public amenities. This offers a starting point to both improve your understanding as an ETA of the political climate in your host country as well as have students draw their own parallels and make their own conclusions on the Black Lives Matter movement.

From this, I was able to meet my students on a common ground of understanding, allowing us to share about how racism persists in our respective countries and what we can do to combat it as individuals. Similarly to how the shared experience of social isolation once prompted conversations around COVID-19, recognition of racism across the world has facilitated meaningful WhatsApp conversations.

-Lucy Srour, 2019-2020 ETA to Indonesia

-Ammarah Rehman, 2019-2020 ETA to Indonesia

Fulbright in the Classroom: Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School 5th Grade Graduates Visit with a U.S. Diplomat and Fulbright Alumnus

Fulbright in the Classroom: Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School 5th Grade Graduates Visit with a U.S. Diplomat and Fulbright Alumnus

On Tuesday, June 23, graduating 5th graders at Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School (TMALS) had a Google Meet conversation with United States diplomat and Fulbright alumnus Mr. Leland Lazarus. “It was such an honor to hang out with you,” said Mr. Lazarus to more than 20 TMALS scholars at the end of the meeting. “You are so incredibly smart,” he added. “You are going to be changing the world.”

TMALS, located on West 151st Street in Manhattan, with “a population of mostly Black and Brown students,” according to Principal Dr. Dawn Brooks-DeCosta, “embraces student-centered, culturally responsive, antiracist pedagogy that enhances students’ learning and success in school.  Administrators and teachers actively listen to students’ ideas and observe student individual needs in order to inform curricular priorities, direction and design. Students’ social and historical contexts are reflected in TMALS’s daily practices: student council, self-awareness leaders and ambassadors give students a true voice in the social construct of TMALS. Students lead social-emotional and mindfulness practices daily in the classroom, and peer mediators work with students to resolve conflict, which motivates students to take ownership of their actions, lives, and educational experiences.” TMALS mission is “to provide a robust holistic learning experience for each child through social emotional learning, cultural responsiveness and belonging.  We are the village that raises the child.” 

Dr. Brooks-DeCosta has led the school with a focus on “cultural responsiveness, antiracist pedagogy and social emotional learning.” Her research was written on Black Principal Perspectives on Social-emotional Learning and Culturally Responsive Leadership in Urban Schools: the Role of Beliefs, Values, and Leadership Practices.

Mr. Lazarus is a scholar of Chinese history and language. Fluent in Mandarin, he spent three years as a U.S. diplomat to China. Currently, he is posted to the Caribbean, and is usually based in Barbados. Since the quarantine, however, he has been living in Miami, where his wife works as a medical doctor and is on the front lines of battling Covid-19.

Mr. Lazarus asked the 5th graders many questions: What language do they speak in China? What do you think they eat in China? He shared with the scholars that he tried foods in China that he had never tried before, such as silk worms. He also discovered that what he thought was his favorite Chinese food, General Tso’s Chicken, was an American invention that did not exist in China. TMALS scholars shared what they knew about Chinese food and holidays.

The 5th graders listened with rapt attention as Mr. Lazarus described his experience of Chinese curiosity about someone from a different culture, specifically a Black person. “In China,” he said, “I had to learn the language and get used to the people who live there. There were very few people who looked like me.”

What is diversity?, asked Mr. Lazarus. He noted that TMALS prided itself on being a school of diversity and inclusion. TMALS scholars shared that they had studied Mexico, Jamaica, and the Black Liberation Movement in the United States. Some also mentioned what they knew about Brazil and the Russian Revolution. The scholars also talked with Mr. Lazarus about current events, such as how the murder of George Floyd made them feel, and the toppling of statues honoring proponents of slavery around the world. 

“It shows the power of young people,” said Mr. Lazarus, “young people just like you… who have the power to create change.” 

Mr. Lazarus recommended that the 5th graders learn a foreign language “so you can communicate with other people around the world.” He also encouraged them to live in other countries to learn their history, culture and politics “so that you can influence.”  

After graduating college, Mr. Lazarus received a Fulbright grant to Panama, where he taught English. The Fulbright grant sends U.S. students and scholars to other countries to live and learn about their cultures and histories, and it brings students and scholars from other countries to the United States to do the same. After his “life-changing” Fulbright experience, Mr. Lazarus and his parents, who are Afro-Panamanian, started The Dream Scholarship, which financially supports Panamanian students who want to study English in the United States.

Mr. Lazarus advised TMALS scholars to consider applying for a Fulbright grant when they are in college.

Before departing, Mr. Lazarus asked TMALS scholars if they thought his work as a U.S. diplomat was interesting. “Yes!,” came a chorus of replies.

TMALS teacher Ms. Lucile Middleton called Mr. Lazarus a “history-maker,” someone who influences events and makes history happen. At the end of the conversation, she expressed her hope that TMALS 5th graders go on to become “history-makers” themselves.

-Alison Gardy

Alison Gardy has served as a Fulbright Association board member (2000-2006, 2017 to present) and was president of the Greater New York Chapter of the Fulbright Association (2000-2002). She had a Fulbright grant to Mexico in 1988, where she was lucky to receive the stories of a family who migrated from rural Mexico to the outskirts of the capital city for a better life. 

Career Corner: Putting Your Fulbright Experience to Work for Social Justice and Global Positive Change

Career Corner: Putting Your Fulbright Experience to Work for Social Justice and Global Positive Change

Often when thinking about a career we separate our activism from our professional aspirations. Movements and causes that we feel strongly about we relegate to working on during our “off” hours: weekends, evenings, and holidays. These efforts are not our day jobs. This is an artificial distinction. We only have to look at those who have dedicated their lives to social justice causes and global positive change to see that their work was their full-time job, and not just a weekend diversion.

Taking steps to advance a career involves considering myriad factors. Some are grounded in financial necessity: I need to get a job that pays my rent, or my student loans! Or sometimes we feel the direction we take must align with the educational investment we have already made.  We ask ourselves: if I’ve spent all this time, effort, and money to get a degree in “X” then I really should make that my career, right?  These are reasonable considerations. But often they might act as blinders on a horse: only allowing us to see that is in front of us, and not allowing for a wider view of how we can contribute to the social good through a meaningful career.

We are in a time like no other. How people of color in the U.S. and worldwide are treated and marginalized must be addressed. Protests, statue removals,  and the questioning of the status quo (including the traditional role of policing) is taking place daily. Many of us now recognize that our “good future” or “luck” is in actuality the result of systemic advantages that we have been given and others denied.  It also relates to crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused. Life as we know it has been turned on its head. The “new” normal has yet to be revealed.

A Fulbright grant is often motivated by the altruistic desire to do good: be that to advance cultural understanding, promote the arts to improve community life, foster scientific research to  better global health, or build peace through education. I have found with rare exception that those returning from a Fulbright experience have developed increased  awareness of the advantages that Americans have.  And if their Fulbright experience has taken place in a non-Western society, they recognize that there are many more “have nots” than “haves” in the world.  And they recognize that working to improve conditions doesn’t end with the completion of a Fulbright experience.

Can the convergence of passion for change and the current political and public health conditions lead to a career strategy redirection?  Can we pull off the blinders and consider careers that directly address some of the challenges we face? If you had not thought about a career in public health, is the current COVID-19 crisis offering you a chance to see how you might move in that direction? Could the current unrest and protests direct your interest to education in social justice?  How might you start this exploration?

Check Your Own Community First

It seems that the “big problems” facing the world draw our attention.  But I would suggest that the issues that we might work on – public health or social justice-  are also local.  Start at home.   The question then becomes: what work in my community needs attention?

Make Changes in Your Current Work

Of course there are some jobs that are designed directly to make change. But I would argue that most anyone can find space regardless of their work to advance important social goals. A retail professional can urge their employer to offer products that align with environmental values. An accountant can devote volunteer time to support the needs of a not-for-profit. An IT professional can offer their expertise gratis to social justice groups trying to advance justice reform.  Find space in your current work to improve social conditions.

Transition from Volunteer to Paid Staff

Those organizing a rally or protest often come together spontaneously. They are usually volunteers. As the effort grows, there might be the need to sustain the effort with staff who are paid. This will require getting financial support through donations, fundraising, or grants.  Once funding is obtained, then professional staff can be hired. As a volunteer, your efforts might lead to paid employment continuing to the do the work you are passionate about.

 Research, Reach Out, and Plan

If you come to the conclusion that your goal is a career that allows you to apply your convictions, you will need to spend time researching and planning. Not all social causes easily allow for paid work, but many do. You need to consider which ones can support a career.  Fields such as  human rights, humanitarian assistance, international development, legal advocacy, and policy change present clearer pathways to a career. Often through additional education or training, you can prepare yourself and learn the steps you should take.  Having  a game plan is important: making connections, training or education, and volunteer experience will likely be part of it.

The passion you brought to your Fulbright experience can be redirected now to other important social issues that communities face.  Many can benefit from what you bring to a cause.

—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.

Outreach to Returned Fulbrighters

Outreach to Returned Fulbrighters

The Fulbright Association has also been an effective advocate for the returned alumni by contacting elected officials and the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for additional support.  There has been wide support from many alumni and organizations wanting to assist initially in evacuation and then professional mentorship. We also commend the work the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs have done to support the returning Fulbrighters. The ECA COVID-19 resource page outlines how ECA has supported affected Fulbrighters, with special emphasis on U.S. participants:

    • Covering the cost of transportation back to the U.S. after the March 19 suspension, including 24/7 hotline to arrange that travel;
    • Funding equivalent to stipend payments through June 30 for participants who started in fall 2019 and through October 31 for those that started their programs in 2020;
    • Providing an additional $1000 transition allowance to help pay for health insurance and other unanticipated needs;
    • Conferral of Fulbright alumni status on all participants affected by the program’s suspension.
      For 2019-20 Fulbright participants interested in another Fulbright opportunity, the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board has waived any restrictions on reapplication privileges for 2019-2020 U.S. participants and encourages U.S. participants to consider Fulbright again in the future.

We have also been providing one year of free membership to all newly returned Fulbrighters, and have made sure all these young professionals are connected to the chapters close to them. It’s a tough time to be back, with economies struggling and unemployment at record high levels, but we are doing what we are best at: supporting the Fulbright alumni community and serving these newly returned Fulbrighters. If interested in our professional development programs please email Shaz Akram at shaz.akram@fulbright.org

Advocacy Update: May 2020

Advocacy Update: May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unexpected challenges—and opportunities—when advocating for the Fulbright Program on Capitol Hill. The challenges are obvious. To protect our members and advocates, we had to cancel our March 26 Advocacy Day. Congressional offices closed to visitors. The State Department had to suspend the Program itself, sending Fulbrighters home prematurely. And, of course, the pandemic has raised barriers to travel and doubts about the future of exchanges.

On the face of it, that’s a pretty bleak landscape.

We quickly learned that there are always opportunities in crisis, especially if you have spent the time—as this community has for over 40 years—to build strong, bipartisan relationships.

First, we learned that congressional offices are operating just like a lot of other offices. Staff are working remotely, glad to take phone calls rather than visitors. So we have had calls with many offices, with a special focus on senators on the Appropriations Committee, including:

    • Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
    • Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
    • Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX 2)
    • Representative Ted Budd (R-NC 13)
    • Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)
    • Representative Dean Phillips (D-MN 3)
    • Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
    • Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)
    • Representative David Trone (D-MD 6)
  • Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA 5)
  • Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  • Senator James Lankford (R-OK)
  • Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
  • Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC)
  • Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)
  • Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  • Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
  • Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY 5)

Second, we found that staff members and their bosses continue to be strongly supportive of the Fulbright Program. In fact, we had decided before the pandemic to ask for added funding for the Program with a total ask of $300 million, to begin rectifying years of flat funding.  Members of Congress, from both parties and both chambers, were very open to considering such a spending boost, despite many other pressing priorities caused by the pandemic.

And third, they shared our concern about the suspension of the Program and its future. We reassured them that the State Department had facilitated the return of all Americans who wanted to come home, that all Fulbrighters would receive their full grants, and that returning Fulbrighters would receive an additional $1000 relocation fund. We explained that many Fulbrighters chose to continue their work, especially those in the U.S.

We also explained to them that the pandemic has required agile planning for the coming year, as conditions continually change. The current plan calls for a delay in the start of many grants, with confidence that the Program will resume more fully in 2021. They understood and supported the argument that an interruption in funding was not acceptable to our community nor a viable policy option, particularly as that would cede exchange leadership to other countries, including China. Every office assured us of their full support for stronger funding in the next fiscal year.

These assurances guarantee nothing, so we will remain active and vigilant in the coming months. I urge you to contact your chapter to explore how you can get involved, especially this summer. You can also email advocacy@fulbright.org and explore our advocacy website.

-John Bader
Executive Director, Fulbright Association

Chapter Spotlight: Louisiana

Chapter Spotlight: Louisiana

After returning from her Fulbright Specialist project in Nepal in 2018, Patrice Moulton was eager to continue to engage with the Fulbright network and continue to spread the value of international education and cultural exchange. While she was looking forward to the opportunity to get involved with alumni in her home state of Louisiana, she was disappointed to find out that Louisiana did not have an active chapter. Patrice shared, that she has always believed in the mantra “be the change you want to see.” So she connected with the Fulbright Association national office to ask what it would take to start a chapter, and the rest was history.

Patrice says that her initial challenge to starting the chapter was the tedious application process. She says, “I guess that others took for granted that I knew more than I did. I was so green and needed some hand holding just to understand the forms, process, and procedures.” Despite her challenges, she found it rewarding to connect with other Fulbright alumni and work towards the common goal of starting a chapter. She dove in head first and immersed herself in new media tools, including the Fulbrighter App, which she used to publicize her first official chapter event in April 2020.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Patrice’s story is the fact that she was able to take on all of these new challenges despite the changing and uncertain circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a professor of psychology at Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Patrice was already hurled into the new system of distance learning and working from home. Nonetheless, Patrice found beauty in the process. She says that “There are always joys to be found in the most unlikely places, even COVID 19. I think that during this time of uncertainly, people are looking for meaning, for ways to connect, and for interactions not related to work. I think these dynamics are helping us find and connect our Fulbrighters in Louisiana.”

Since the launch of the Louisana Chapter, Patrice and her board members have hosted two events: a virtual Meet and Greet and a “Coping with COVID” virtual coffee hour. One of her favorite moments so far was when a visiting Fulbrighter from Peru shared with their group that she was celebrating her Birthday so far from home. The entire group turned on their microphones in the Zoom room, a fellow alum yelled “wait, wait!” and returned on screen with a guitar, and there was a wonderful sense of community as everyone sang a round of Happy Birthday! For the Louisiana chapter members, that moment of warmth was a bright spot in a time of global uncertainty.

Patrice is eager for the days when the Louisiana Chapter will be able to hold in person events, but for now, the chapter board is focused on setting a firm foundation of members. They want to utilize the Fulbrighter App to gather members virtually and begin to form a supportive community. The chapter will continue to explore ways to connect and make a difference in their community. A few ideas for the near future include a virtual evening of art and continued coffee breaks with short focused discussions. Depending on COVID impact with schools in the fall, they would also like to explore the possibility of participating in Fulbright in the Classroom initiative

Until then, Patrice says, “I look forward to continuing to be involved and exploring how we, as Fulbright, can make a difference in the world by building and sustaining relationships. I feel like the world needs more Fulbright right now.”

Are you interested in starting a chapter in your community? Visit our website for more details and send an email to chapters@fulbright.org to bring Fulbrighters together in your region.

-Lisa Bochey
Fulbright ETA – Peru 2016

Alumni Profile: Jinan Banna

Alumni Profile: Jinan Banna

I visited Doka Estate with Professor Carmen Pinto from Universidad Veritas to learn about how coffee is cultivated and processed.

I spent a few days in Mexico for the Congreso Latinoamericano de Nutrición, hosted by the Sociedad Latinoamericana de Nutrición, and am pictured here with colleagues.

My research focuses on obesity prevention in underserved populations, particularly during critical periods in growth and development such as adolescence. In addition, as a large portion of my time is dedicated to instruction, I have also engaged in scholarly work related to development of effective instructional strategies. These areas of focus reflect the current needs in the state of Hawai‘i, as obesity remains a pressing problem. Further, there are higher rates of obesity and associated chronic conditions in underserved populations such as Filipinos. To address high rates of chronic disease and existing health disparities, it is crucial to provide high-quality training to budding nutrition professionals, which drives my research on instructional techniques. Health promotion for chronic disease prevention is a topic of great interest in the US and is a large component of the courses I teach at my institution. As obesity rates increase around the globe, examining strategies to encourage maintenance of healthy weight in diverse settings is of paramount importance.

My interest in serving as a Fulbright Specialist stemmed from an interest in applying the knowledge I have gained in performing studies in the US to other settings to address the needs of underserved populations exhibiting similar chronic health issues. The problems populations in the US face with regards to nutrition are similar to those many others around the globe are now facing, and the techniques I have used in performing research and teaching in the US may be applied to address these. I had an interest in working with other health professionals abroad to combat health disparities.

I met with Noel Payne at Universidad Veritas in September 2018 to discuss integration of information on nutrition into two of Noel’s courses: Sustainable Lifestyles and Sustainable Consumption and Production.

I engaged in a program to train faculty at Universidad Veritas in Costa Rica in course development. I taught a basic nutrition course for the faculty and met with faculty individually to assist them with incorporation of nutrition information into their courses. Universidad Veritas offers several courses in Health and Human Development within the sustainability focus at that institution, and faculty benefited from training in development of syllabi for additional courses to complement those existing.

The professors at Universidad Veritas kindly took me out to try local food, including to one of their favorite spots for frozen yogurt.

One of the photos captured my meeting with Noel Payne to discuss integration of information on nutrition into two of Noel’s courses: Sustainable Lifestyles and Sustainable Consumption and Production. I similarly worked with faculty to integrate resources related to nutrition into a number of different courses.

During my stay in Costa Rica, I also conducted a workshop related to conducting research in the nutrition field at the Universidad Ciencias Médicas in Costa Rica. This workshop provided faculty with tools to develop research projects and publish in the field.

I also took a few days to travel to Mexico to present my research at the Congreso latinoamericano de Nutrición (SLAN). At this meeting, I shared results of a trial seeking to promote healthy eating in underserved groups using text message.

I also had the opportunity to try a number of tasty local foods, such as pejivalle, as well as tour a coffee farm with one of the professors. In addition, I took several cooking classes to further familiarize myself with local cuisine.

Pejivalle, a very nutritious fruit often consumed with mayonnaise in Costa Rica

I continue to correspond with those with whom I connected while I was in Costa Rica, and engage in discussion on nutrition-related topics. The experience was very beneficial to me professionally, as I am able to incorporate relevant aspects of my experience into my teaching. I am able to draw parallels between the settings in which I work and others. I also gained familiarity with the structure and content of programs abroad to continue to improve the offerings for our students.

– Jinan Banna

Fulbright Specialist to Costa Rica 2018-2019

Calling volunteers for online English conversation practice with New Delhi NGO

Calling volunteers for online English conversation practice with New Delhi NGO

Fulbright alumna Holly Wheeler (Fulbright-Nehru ETA to India, 2016-2017) and U.S. Exchanges alumnus Pradeep Kumar (India, Whatcom Community College, Tourism & Hospitality, 2011-2012) are collaborating to provide English education to students in Sanjay Colony, a slum in New Delhi. Wheeler was an English teacher at Shyama Prasad Vidyalaya and is now an Education Abroad Advisor at Northern Arizona University and Co-President of the Fulbright Association Arizona Chapter.

Kumar studied tourism and hospitality at Whatcom Community College through the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program, a U.S. Exchanges program, and started his own business, Delhi by Locals, after returning to India. He also started an NGO, Learning by Locals, with fellow CCI Program alumni, Lalit Saini (India, Houston Community College, TV and Film Production, 2018- 2019) and Alka Sharma (India, Northern Virginia Community College, Computer-Aided Design and Drafting, 2018-2019) to give back to the local community. Funded by part of Delhi by Local’s profits, Learning by Locals runs English and computer classes several times per week for youth in Sanjay Colony, a slum in Delhi. The NGO also hosts workshops on social issues, organizes field trips, and helps young people connect to job and internship networks.

In response to COVID-19, Learning by Locals (LBL) transitioned to all online courses at the start of lockdown in March. After engaging more with the community, an urgent need emerged to expand course offerings for free to address mental health and learning motivation for the colony, and now LBL has started teaching over 100 new students in 10 new classes taught by LBL and friends around the world, including Wheeler and playwright Harley Adams (Fulbright Student Researcher to India, 2019-2020). Guests are invited, including Learning by Locals friends in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Turkey, as well as Fulbright Association Arizona Chapter Board Member, Larissa Goulart da Silva (Brazil, FLTA to University of Nebraska, 2017-2018). Expanded class topics include not only multiple levels of English, but also computer skills (basic skills, Google tools), art, dance, filmmaking, playwriting, theatre, and emotional/mental wellbeing—all taught online via video conference.

Conversation group leaders are needed for the Advanced English Discussion class taught by Wheeler and Kumar. Fulbrighters and friends of Fulbrighters are welcome, for once or multiple times. The course discussions center around international topics, wellness and crisis response, and global citizenship. The class meets from 6:00-7:00pm India time on Tuesdays and Thursdays now through the month of June.

If you are interested in connecting with India’s next young leaders and supporting the work of U.S. Exchange alumni, please contact wheelerholly@icloud.com as soon as possible to set the date and prep for the informal conversation class.

Career Corner – Focus on your “Paper”

Career Corner – Focus on your “Paper”

In my last column, I recommended using the COVID crisis as a time to invest in yourself. With an uncertain job market, making connections and building your skills are good ways of using your time.

You might also focus right now on your “paper.” What I mean here, are the written ways in which you present yourself (that at one time were only on paper!): resume or CV, cover letter, LinkedIn, and other written forms.

Lead with Fulbright

After returning from your experience in the Fulbright program you need to update your social media and resume to mention your time abroad. Even if your Fulbright experience was short, it was still valuable, and you made important contributions to the community you worked in. Make sure it’s clearly noted on your resume and LinkedIn profile. It’s important to specifically and accurately indicate your service, reducing abbreviations where you can. For instance, if you were an ETA, you might write English Teaching Assistant, so that those unfamiliar with the Fulbright program know what you were doing abroad. Also state the period of your service and country.

Metrics are Important

Increasingly employers are interested in “how much” of something you did. Metrics speak to your ability to supervise, organization, manage, and other tasks that a potential employer needs done. If you taught as an ETA, mention how many students you had, the number of classes, and how large the school was. If you oversaw a budget, not likely in the Fulbright program, but maybe in another job, indicate the amount, particularly if it was $10,000 or more.

Metrics also look at outcomes: how much was produced or was developed as a result of your efforts.

Create Points of Curiosity

Your resume will be the document that an interviewer will launch the interview from. Create in it opportunities for conversation and curiosity. It is important to draw a reader to you and show how your experiences are not only relevant to their work, but intriguing. I find that listing the countries you have experienced – as a study abroad student, Fulbrighter, or in other projects (but not so much as a tourist) – creates an opportunity for the interviewer to ask questions: especially if you’ve been to some places off the beaten trail. Besides travel, consider other facets of your experience that might cause an interviewer to ask questions. Are you studying an obscure language? Involved in a project that is unique and shows innovation?

Flawless Design and Presentation

A resume, cover letter, and even a LinkedIn page is not about approximation. It is about precision. Errors in punctuation, spelling, or formatting will be noticed by an interviewer and might signal to them (maybe incorrectly) that you are careless or even sloppy. I remind my own students and clients: make sure your punctuation, syntax, and grammar are free of mistakes. We all make mistakes in our writing, even if we have reviewed it multiple times. Please have a friend read your resume or other writing over and give you honest feedback and edits. I learned from my father who was a letterpress operator (they don’t exist anymore) to proofread text backwards, word by word – out loud.

David J. Smith, Adjunct Faculty, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Make Sure That What You Offer is Obvious

You will get a job for only this reason: you have something (skills, knowledge, connections, etc.) that the employer needs. They will not hire you merely because of your enthusiasm, or your education, or that you are polite and inquisitive in an interview. These are important, but not critical. But making the case that you can do something that the employer needs: that’s the ticket to the job. As such, if you have something that relates directly to the position you are applying for, make sure that is obvious in your resume and in your cover letter. I recommend a summary of qualifications section at the top of a resume below your contact information indicating specifically how your skills can contribute to what that specific employer is looking for. This means you need to tailor each resume for each job you apply for.

In the end, your “paper” shows your seriousness and professionalism. Make sure it puts you in the best possible light.

—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.

Alumni Profile: Addison Dlott

Alumni Profile: Addison Dlott

Teaching at SMK Padang Kala outside of Kota Bharu, Kelantan

One of the first things I remember from my English Teaching Assistantship in Malaysia was jotting down a phrase in my phone: We’re all living the same experiences, just different realities. Someone said it to me in passing, but I knew I had to remember it because I thought it so pointedly reflected what cross-cultural exchange was all about.

Meeting my mentor, Nazila, for the first time in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia

I felt the weight of that comment when I stepped into my community. I felt transported back to high school at the semi-rural school I taught at in the state of Kelantan. A group of girls welcomed me into their circle. We hung out after school and listened to music, spent weekend afternoons drinking teh tarik and evenings slurping tom yum in front of the TV. The discussions of boys, music, pop culture and
beauty felt oddly familiar.

“Who’s a better rapper, Cardi B or Nicki Minaj?”

“Is Jason Momoa your favorite actor?”

“What face cleanser are you using?”

“You must have a favorite BTS member!”

My mother, a high school teacher back in the United States, would text me and ask how I was fairing, how school was. I told her that my days mirrored hers, just 12 hours ahead. School began at 7:30 a.m. Ended at 2 p.m. Lunch for upperclassmen happened after lunch for lowerclassmen. The library served as a place for students to hang out. After school held opportunity for sports or other extracurriculars.

The relevance of the phrase was re-emphasized when a student who I connected with over American rock music WhatsApp messaged me to wish me a Happy Easter. Four weeks had passed since I left Malaysia at the urging of the State Department. I asked him how he was, what he was up to. He said he was just at home doing homework, but having a hard time focusing, given the global pandemic.

SMK Padang Kala’s netball team preparing for the championship

“I’m a bit frustrated, bcoz it’s too much.”

I found a moment of clarity after reading his message. My family in the United States and my family in Kelantan were experiencing a collective pain over the COVID-19 pandemic. Culture, values and private lives, of course, change the way we experience the world. But at the root of it, while my former student and I are on opposite sides of the world, we are feeling vastly similar emotions, just in different contexts.

Eating homecooked tom yum with students

Back in my childhood home, I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on my time in Malaysia and mapping my next steps. While I am unsure what the future holds for me, I will continue to pursue creative and personally fulfilling opportunities. And though my alumni status came earlier than I had hoped, I’m thankful for the short time I had to build these bridges of greater understanding. And I believe those bridges will continue to build, even amidst COVID-19, though it may look a bit different than what I initially expected. I messaged him back.

Meeting to say goodbye to students in the afternoon before flying back to the United States

“Same, honestly.”

 

At the end of the day, we’re all just living the same experiences, just different realities.

 

Addison Dlott
Fulbright ETA Malaysia 2020

14 Days of Quarantine, 14 Days of Connection

14 Days of Quarantine, 14 Days of Connection

Returning to the states came with the clear reality of a 14-day quarantine period for the community of recently returned Fulbrighters. In some cases, Fulbrighters who faced early completion were isolated in their childhood bedrooms, others in hotels or the homes of friends out of caution for family members with pre-existing health concerns.

In this time of crisis, the returned Fulbright community has self-organized events to continue community building. Many folks are still in touch with their host communities through WhatsApp, Instagram and other social media assets. Others have organized small gatherings using Zoom to reconnect with their peers during this time of social isolation.

The effort to capitalize on this period of uncertainty has been captured by the planning of several alumni calls targeted at helping recently returned Fulbrighters develop professionally and personally. Through 45-minute calls, Fulbright alumni have had the chance to share their reflections from their time abroad and reflect on how these formative experiences have shaped their current professional pursuits. Recently returned Fulbrighters have shared the positive ramifications of this programming. As shared by Todd Abbott, a recently returned ETA after attending a call led by alum Michelle Lemeur, “hearing about Michelle’s journey through graduate school and into the international development sector really helped me to reframe some basic next steps for my career.”

The calls not only have surfaced benefits for the returned Fulbrighters but have offered a sense of connection between years of Fulbrighters. As shared by 2016 Alumnus Jordan Kronen, “the calls allowed for meaningful and thoughtful conversations that helped bridge the gap between cohort and amidst a pretty isolating period in our world’s history, it provided a platform for a much-needed distraction and connection.”

Not only serving as a professional resource but as a source of social support, recently returned ETA Addison Dlott describes that “with empathy and humor these calls have been what we have needed to stay connected, validate our experiences and help us through these uncertain and stressful times.”

Connections between cohorts have proven to sustain after these calls with recently returned ETA Alia Flanigan sharing that, “the calls help provide me with new contacts that I’ve reached out to after the calls to talk further about career plans and goals.”

Beyond connecting between generations of Fulbrighters, the calls have also allowed for collaboration between cohorts around the world. As shared by returned Fulbrighter Thomas Ruhl, “I have been loving these calls, not only are they great for professional development and sorting out life after Fulbright, but they’re also a great way to see people I did my grant with, as well as new faces from people who did their grants in other countries.”

-Dustin Liu

Fulbright ETA Malaysia 2020

Below is a youtube playlist of clips from the webinars that have different advice for returning Fulbrighters.

Fulbright Iceland Announces the creation of a new Fund – Bruce A. Fowler Mobility Fund

Fulbright Iceland Announces the creation of a new Fund – Bruce A. Fowler Mobility Fund

This article was published by the Fulbright Iceland Commission, announcing that Bruce Fowler, a member of the Fulbright Association national board, has made a generous gift to start a new Fulbright disability fund in Iceland, inspired while on a Fulbright Insight Trip last summer:

“In this time of uncertainty and upheaval, good news is much appreciated. The Fulbright Commission is, therefore, excited to announce that a dear friend of Fulbright Iceland has made a generous gift of 10.000 USD. These funds will be used to provide extra support to a US scholar or scholars with a disability. See the Fulbright Catalog of Awards Iceland page for more information at https://awards.cies.org/.

Our generous benefactor is Bruce A. Fowler from the Fulbright Association Board of Directors in Washington, D.C. Bruce visited Iceland during the summer of 2019 on an FA insight tour. During his travels, he encountered various accessibility barriers, but did not let that stop him from having a wonderful visit. He decided that he wanted to help disabled American scholars interested in cooperation with Iceland and thus he set up the Fulbright Iceland-Bruce A. Fowler Mobility Fund. Funding is open to US Fulbright scholars to Iceland with a disability that leads to additional costs that are not covered specifically through the Fulbright Program. Funding may be available for a wide range of disabilities, including, for example, hearing, vision or movement impairment. The funding could be used to assist with specialized housing needs, in-country transport or specialized assistance. We hope that knowing that there is some extra funding available in-country will encourage excellent scholars who might have been hesitant to apply.

The Commission joins Bruce in hoping that his generous contribution will encourage others to make a charitable donation to Fulbright Iceland. If ever we needed a strong Fulbright Program, it is now. Funds donated to the commission are used only for program costs. Find out more at https://fulbright.is/partners-and-support/.”

(Source: https://fulbright.is/fulbright-iceland-bruce-a-fowler-mobility-fund/)

Keystone College honors Fulbright Association Board Member Dr. Jay Nathan

Keystone College honors Fulbright Association Board Member Dr. Jay Nathan

From left: State Representative Karen Boback; guest speaker and Fulbright Association colleague of Dr. Nathan Nancy Neill; Dr. Jay Nathan, Ph.D.; Keystone College President Tracy L. Brundage, Ph.D.; and incoming Keystone College Board Chair Elect Jim Clark

La Plume – Keystone College recently conducted a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony for the new Dr. Jay Nathan International Guest House.

The guest house, located on College Avenue, is named in honor of Professor Jay Nathan, Ph.D., who hosts high school students at Keystone each summer through the Professor Jay Nathan, Ph.D. Endowed Cultural Immersion Program.

A longtime resident of Lackawanna County, a Fulbright Scholar, and a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Fulbright Association, Dr. Nathan’s goal is to encourage young people to visit other countries and learn new cultures and customs.

“I think the more people learn about other nations and other cultures, the more they may be able to understand each other and come together once they become adults. That’s really the purpose of cultural immersion. It can lead to a greater understanding and the realization that we are all citizens of the world.”
Professor Jay Nathan, Ph.D

During several recent summers, Dr. Nathan has enabled students and their chaperones to come to Keystone from around the world. In 2016, Keystone hosted students of Mongolian heritage. In 2017, the college hosted students of Nepali heritage, and in 2019 students of Hungarian heritage visited campus. They lived in residence halls, participated in a variety of courses for education and enrichment, and visited important sites in the local community and in larger cities such as New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.

“We could not have chosen a more appropriate person for whom to name our international residence than Dr. Jay Nathan,” said Keystone College President Tracy L. Brundage, Ph.D. “For so many years, Dr. Nathan has epitomized the very meaning and purpose of international education and cultural immersion.”

Guest speaker for the event was Nancy Neill, a business communication consultant, author, and a Fulbright Association colleague of Dr. Nathan.

 

(Source: https://www.keystone.edu/2020/03/06/keystone-college-to-name-international-guest-house-honoring-dr-jay-nathan/)

 

Alumni Profile: Alia Flanigan

Alumni Profile: Alia Flanigan

After 3 days of creating a dance with these girls for Sports Day, we took a selfie!

My Fulbright experience is and will always be memorable. From getting that acceptance letter on March 22nd 2019 to coming home unexpectedly on March 18th 2020, I will never forget my time in Malaysia and all the new friends I made.

Moving to a small town called Kuala Krau in Temerloh,

Alia and her students from Form 2 (14 years old) Amanah (best class) on her first day of school! These students were filled with so much energy!

Pahang was very new and different. The first day of school I was excited to meet my students and fellow teachers at SMK Kuala Krau. I was greeted by huge smiles. I got to introduce myself to the students more times than I could count. Every classroom, every new group of students. My name is Alia Belle Flanigan. I am 22 years old, my birthday is April 5th, and I am from New Jersey. I have one sister, a mom, a dad and a cat.

My first time really bonding with students was creating a creative movement dance with 30 female students. The positivity and excitement I got from these girls allowed me to have more confidence about my placement at SMKKK. I was co-teaching 14 classes a week where I mostly played creative games with Forms 2 and 4, and helped prepare Forms 3 and 5 for their exams. I never taught before, as I majored in International Relations so it was something new and exciting. I eventually became a tutor for a group of Form 1 Setia students. My mentor Ruby said no students have asked for tutoring before. Tutoring became a daily activity.

Maddie and Alia met their mentors, Nani and Ruby in Kuala Terengganu! Ruby, Alia’s mentor took a selfie of the four!

My Speaking Workshops became more popular as the weeks went by. We did a scavenger hunt, board games, jeopardy, singing and crafts. These students were filled with energy and we had so much fun together. I wish I had said goodbye to them at our last workshop instead of ‘see you after break’.

Pahang ETAs went to Kuantan for a Pahang vs Selangor soccer game. We all bought Pahang t-shirts to cheer on our home state!!

On weekends, we stayed busy by going to different places around Malaysia. We went to Penang for Chinese New Years, the Cameron Highlands, Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, Kuantan, and explored our town. My roommate and I became really close as did the Pahang ETAs. I was placed in a lucky location: the center of Pahang. We were not far from everyone else (farthest drive was 2 hours). The town of Temerloh and Jerantut, both 30 minutes from us, provided us both with nice restaurants, grocery stores, and street/night markets.

I thought moving to a tiny rural town in Pahang, Malaysia would be a challenge at first but instead, we were welcome instantly and we started to thrive. We attended a Zumba dance class in Temerloh, ate roti canai with students, had custom-made baju kurungs made, and planned English Camps. Maddie and I submitted our proposal for the Elephant Sanctuary Camp in April the day before we got offered voluntary leave.

When the voluntary leave offer came out on Friday March 13, all Pahang ETAs decided to come together in Jerantut for one last big night together on Saturday. The next morning, while we were finishing up our roti breakfast, we were notified that airlines were closing flights in the near future. After everyone made calls to family members, almost all of us decided to go home.

Deciding it was time to go home was a really hard decision. I was not ready to say goodbye to a new world that I just said hello to. None of us were. Since it was break for the school, I was able to say goodbye to a few students that were in town and I saw my mentor the morning I was leaving. Maddie and I packed up everything, said goodbye to our mentors and drove to KL Tuesday to leave Wednesday morning.

Flying out that Wednesday still feels like a daze. Being at an airport around 4:30 am where there were no people, no lines, and everyone had gloves and a mask, it was scary thinking this will be the last memory of my experience. I had such a wonderful time over the 2.5 months, I decided to only think about the positive moments to keep it that way.

Even though my Fulbright experience was cut, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to go. As the days go on, I think about what activities I had planned for my school and the goals the students and I had together. I hope Kuala Krau and all the families stay safe and healthy during this time.

Pahang ETAs head to KLIA at 4am to catch their 8am Tokyo flight!

I am grateful for Fulbright for getting me home during a world pandemic safely and quickly. With one layover in Tokyo, I was able to fly straight into Newark Liberty Airport where my parents were waiting for me to take me home. Now that I am home, I keep in touch with my mentor, students, and fellow ETAs through social media and Zoom calls. As everyone is unsure of next steps or looking for jobs, I was able to contact my grad school. I started my Masters in International Relations at Central European University in the fall of 2019 before Fulbright and I will be able to return in the fall of 2020. I am lucky to have a plan for the future.

 

I hope to return to Malaysia and Kuala Krau down the road and see those huge smiling faces again.

Alia Flanigan

Fulbright Malaysia ETA 2020

Alumni Profile: Laura Savage

Alumni Profile: Laura Savage

Students play a board game to practice English speaking in the classroom.

First day of school, SMA Mahmudiah in Kuala Berang, Terengganu.

My vision was fuzzy as I blinked my crusty eyes open. I couldn’t tell if I was still dreaming or if the sound was somebody buzzing to get into the room. I stumbled toward the living room of the hotel suite and realized that it was just the phone ringing. I picked it up.

“Hello?” I answered, trying not to sound like I had just woken up from an embarrassingly deep slumber.

“Hi, this is your representative from the US Embassy. The State Department has just issued a level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory, we are sending you back to the United States. I need to know your final destination.”

I stuttered out a location, before clarifying with the speaker on the other end what was actually happening. Part of me still felt like I was in a dream, though I knew that the sensation of the cold tile on my naked feet was far too real for it to be a dream.

Let’s rewind a little bit.

Two and a half months prior to that dizzying hotel room phone call, I started a Fulbright grant, working as an assistant English teacher in Malaysia.

Upon starting the grant, it had been more than a year since submitting the application, as the Fulbright program in Malaysia runs from January through the end of October. From the time I received the news about winning the grant to the time I departed, I had almost nine months to prepare and I was more than ready.

Though the arduous nearly 18-hour plane ride to get to Malaysia was brutal and, by far, the longest flight I had ever been on, I was brimming with excitement at the opportunity to participate in the Fulbright program and to live in such an extraordinary country like Malaysia. I met a number of other grant recipients on the plane, many of whom I would form close friendships with and end up working with on larger projects as the year got started.

Hanging out with students after school.

When I found out my placement, Terengganu, my heart pounded wildly, and thoughts raced through my mind. How will my community react to me? Would I find friends? Will my students like me?

The following week, I met my mentor: a young, modern, energetic, and endlessly optimistic woman named Mahira. She welcomed me with open arms, as well as an open mind. She assured me that students and other teachers would love having me and that I would thoroughly enjoy my time in Terengganu, a state located on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. The first day I met her, she invited me to her wedding the following month.

Dinner at the house of U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia, Kamala Lakhdhir, with other teaching assistants in Terengganu.

Though I was nervous in the beginning, my first day of teaching at school reminded me of my previous experiences teaching, which helped me to quickly settle in. School assembly, schedules, student speeches, announcements, eating in the kantin, maintaining class interest and control, the usual stuff, just as one would see in schools in the US and around the world.

I was there for the long haul, a whole year, potentially two or more, and I went in with the mindset of wanting to develop deep and meaningful relationships, have lasting and positive impacts that students could also take outside of the classroom, feeling connected above all else. Though at times, I undoubtedly felt like an outsider as a foreigner, with basic Malay skills, a different look, and a different religion, these differences proved no barrier to connecting with others.

The night before Mahira’s wedding, I went out with the other bridesmaids, her best friends. We talked, we gossiped, laughed, shared stories, and ate cake on the floor of the hotel room we were staying in. I didn’t feel different, I felt connected and that’s what humans crave, connection with other people.

Bridesmaids with Mahira on her wedding day.

Mahira, her husband, and I on her wedding day.

Bridesmaids on Mahira’s wedding day.

 

I began training for the Kuala Lumpur marathon and ran daily in the afternoons, despite the 90-degree temperatures. I formed regular routes and sometimes on days when I would mix up a route or take a rest, the neighbors would wonder where I was or why I wasn’t running. Two weeks before I got the call to be evacuated, I bought a bicycle with the intention of joining a bicycle troupe. My friend Fakhira, a fellow biker, drove me 40 minutes to pick up a bicycle and helped me select the perfect one. I went biking once with the group, we went out for food and tea afterwards, and I told them I would go biking with them weekly so I could berlatih Bahasa Melayu saya. After daily studying for a month and a half, I felt that I was really catching on to the local dialect and was determined to become conversational by the end of the year.

Eating with neighbors after going on a run.

It was heart-wrenching to call Mahira, Fakhira, students, and neighbors and tell them that I would not be returning back to Terengganu. It all happened so fast and few people saw it coming, we all thought there would be more time together. Once in a while, I think about the lesson plans waiting for me on my desk at school, the extracurriculars I was going to do with students, the field trips I had planned, the biking troupe I joined, my new, shiny, blue bicycle, my freshly painted bedroom, my Malay phrasebook, the neighbors who might wonder where I am.  It’s only natural.

The beauty of the modern-day is that even though I’m now on the opposite side of the world, I can still connect. I chat with students on Instagram, I send voice messages via WhatsApp to my friends, I still ask for recipes from teachers. I’m still here. We still exist. Those relationships transcend any program, those connections transcend any pandemic, those friendships have no borders and have no politics.  Though I might not be back to Malaysia as a Fulbright grantee, I know that I’ll be back one day and, perhaps, no longer as a foreigner but as a local who has some connections there.

Laura Savage

Fulbright Malaysia ETA 2020

Career Corner – What to do with your time: Invest in Yourself

Career Corner – What to do with your time: Invest in Yourself

We live in a time like no other.   Looking back, we will reflect on the surrealness of it all.   Scientists and researchers will study this period for broader understandings of human behavior.  There will be much to ponder.

But right now many might be feeling some internal dissonance.  Some may feel lost and disoriented, with the sense of much time on their hands.  Others may feel they have much more than ever before to do but are having difficulty focusing.  And many are experiencing both – bouncing daily between idleness and panic.

Job seekers might feel a sense of dread.  There is the appearance that the entire hiring world – except maybe food service, first responders, and healthcare —  is at a  standstill.  Given that,  there are steps that can be taken now, and ways of setting your thinking that can benefit you in the future.  These six steps can provide you with something meaningful to do and remain in control,  which provides not only psychological reassurance, but also invests in yourself so that when “normal” returns, you will be in much better shape than others.

Make Connections

Now is the time to make connections.  We should all, of course, be reaching out to our family and friends, and even folks we are only acquainted with who might be on their own and need our encouragement.  From  a career exploration standpoint, reaching out to possible mentors, peers, and even professionals you don’t know right now is a good investment of time.  Because many are now working from home, their daily routine has been recreated, possibly allowing for more time to connect. They might be seeking the chance to take a break during the workday.    Use LinkedIn or other means to schedule informational interviews and pursue other ways of connecting.

Confirm Before You Apply

Hiring is still taking place, especially in areas that are on the front lines of dealing with the pandemic.  In fields that are insulated from budgetary fluctuation, hiring committees are still meeting, albeit virtually, and starting dates continuing, but likely delayed.  Make sure that before you apply for a position, that you confirm that it is still available.  In government, there has been some move to freeze all hiring.  If you can, make every effort to reach out to the hiring manager before applying.  You might find a position listed as active on an aggregate site, like Indeed, only to learn upon contacting the hiring manager that the position has been pulled for the time being.

Work on Skills and Aptitudes Online

We have all gaps in our experience and training.  And we all have said “If I had the time, I’d take a course in ________ (fill in the blank).” Online learning can assist you in building a range of skills and knowledge:  from YouTube videos to asynchronistic and synchronistic formal courses at community colleges, options abound.   Language courses, tech and social media training, and certification offerings, all can be found online.   Consider taking courses that better position you to deal with financial issues like budget management or grant writing.

Good Habits and Routines: Now is the Time to Make Them Stick

It takes on average 66 days to create a habit.   What good habits dealing with not only career strategies, but with a healthy lifestyle can be started now?   If you are taking more walks, or engaging in yoga online, could you continue that once the crisis is over?  If you are making a practice now of reading journals or attending webinars in your field, then once things are back to the way they were (or almost were), you might have “hardwired” these as professional routines.

Manage Day to Day, But Create a Vision for Six Months Out

There is obviously a high degree of uncertainly right now.   Day-to-day might be devolve into a tedious routine. The conditions for looking for work will be uncertain for a while.  Make plans on a weekly basis.  What should you be doing? Set goals for the week: review your resume or LinkedIn or set up informational interviews or attend professional webinars.   But also think six months out on what you might doing. Create a vision for the future.  What kind of work would you want to do?  Maybe go back to school? (A number of universities including Tulane University are offering special enrollment and tuition discounts for returning Fulbrighters and recently Returned Peace Corps Volunteers).  A common vision among those similarly situated, fosters camaraderie and inspires collaboration.  Share your ideas (consider the implications for your field) and plans with your friends and colleagues and explore what your situation might look like in six months.  This is will give you hope and set goals to focus on.

David J. Smith, Adjunct Faculty, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Take Care of Yourself and Others

Taking care of yourself should be the first priority, but sometimes is the one thing that gets left off the list. This can mean different things to different people.  For some it is physical exercise, but for others, it might be an emotional need.   How are you feeling?  Are you dealing with stress, isolation, or feelings of distress?  Don’t let it settle in but take proactive steps to prevent a deeper sense of despair or unhealthy living.  And of course, check in with others: family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances.  That sense of offering yourself to others provides you with a sense of meaning, and as a result helps your own emotional state.

—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.

Alumni Profile: Josh Leib

Alumni Profile: Josh Leib

The Power of Perspective

Leaving for Croatia

Teaching in Vukovar, a city close to Osijek

A life I built over five and a half months crumbled in three days.

Like most Fulbright ETAs, the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ended my grant in Croatia and forced me to return to the United States. I scrambled to say goodbyes, close bank accounts, clean my house, and pack. I visited my advisor, Ivana, to say a last goodbye to her family. I brought an American football for her nine-year old son and taught him how to throw. “That was fun!” he shrieked, “When can we do this again?” I meekly smiled back at him, “we’ll find a time.” The pain was overwhelming.

Now that I’ve returned to the US, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my Fulbright grant. I think that the most valuable aspect of my experience was a series of lessons I learned during my time in Croatia that illuminated different perspectives.

Unfamiliarity characterized the beginning of my Fulbright experience. I applied for a position in a region I knew nothing about (the Balkans), in a country I had never visited (Croatia). I was then placed in the agrarian eastern part of the country (Slavonia), in the city of Osijek. Most literature on the Balkans is written by foreigners and muffles locals’ voices. That’s why, in Osijek, I searched for personal perspective. I wanted to learn about Croatia primarily through conversations with Croatians. I set off on my Fulbright ETA grant as a student disguised as a teacher.

Teaching in the American Corner

Teaching in Vukovar

My first lesson was Slavonia’s self-image. When locals discovered that I was an American, they often asked the same question: “Why?” While Americans might ask this question politely, Croatians asked me caustically, implying “Why would you ever want to come here…? Most assumed I had come to Croatia believing I would live on the Dalmatian coast, but was deceivingly sent to Osijek. “Absolutely not!” I’d assert, a little shaken that they weren’t entirely wrong. I explained that I actually was very happy with my placement. Since I wanted to develop a better understanding of Croatia, I genuinely enjoyed living in Osijek because I was able to see how Croatians lived outside of the country’s touristy regions.

I learned that because Croatians are often emigrants—with large diasporic communities in Germany, Austria, Ireland, and America—someone voluntarily contradicting this trend was baffling. Slavonians regularly complained about Croatia’s weak economy, massive brain-drain, and corrupt government. This image of Croatia differs greatly from how many Americans see the country—as pristine beaches and the shooting location of Game of Thrones—and was an eye-opening experience for me. To Croatians who actually cope with the hardship of living in Croatia, touring the country was one thing, but choosing to live here—and not even on the beach!—was insane.

Lecture to Economics students

The next lesson I learned was Croatians’ understanding of time. While Americans obsess over productivity and efficiency, Croatians value socializing. Early in my grant, I had coffee with some of my students from the university where I taught. I drank the espresso in five minutes, chatted for fifteen more, and then got up to leave. “Pomalo,” (slang for “relax”) they said, “What’s the big rush?” An hour and a half later, they were all still on the same coffee and we were all still chatting. Spending large portions of the day unwinding with friends and family is Croatia’s national pastime.

Coffee with friends

As an American raised on phrases such as “time is money,” I never was able to fully adopt Croatians’ ability to relax. Conversely, a common Croatian idiom is “tko to može platit,” or roughly translated, “Who can pay for this?” A more comprehensive translation might read as “No one could put a price on how great this experience is.” This phrase describes invaluable, outwardly unproductive moments when the speaker is particularly relaxed, likely on a beach with a coffee and a cigarette. I asked my friend who taught me this phrase if it applies to family moments, like watching your kid walk for the first time. “No,” she shrugged with a smile, “someone could pay me to miss that.” According to my Osijek friends, relaxing is true happiness; money is only a means to achieve this goal.

My next lesson was historical context and occurred unexpectedly. I got coffee with my advisor on my last day in Osijek. She thought that I was making the right decision to leave. Hand-rolling her cigarette, she told me “You don’t know what a crisis looks like—what food shortages and economic uncertainty is—but we do. This is not something you want to experience.” She was referring to the brutality that Osijek endured during the Yugoslav War in the 1990s, and she made me think about how hard life has been at certain times for Slavonians.

Book reading at the American Corner

I placed myself in my region’s timeline. I tried to imagine a scenario in which Osijek was my actual home. Where a disease had decimated the population and livestock, or a foreign army was invading, or an authoritarian government was rising to power—all of which had happened in Osijek.

As I considered the hardships Slavonians endured over the past hundreds of years, my own situation did not seem so dire. Historical contextualization gave me a different perspective to see my own circumstances. Instead of lamenting the shortening of my grant, I began to appreciate how phenomenal my Fulbright had been up until the pandemic.

And this leads to the ultimate lesson that I learned in Croatia: every aspect of my grant offered me a new perspective. I am immensely grateful for the inimitable five and a half months Fulbright provided me. The early termination of my grant does not diminish the value of this past year. As an ETA, I immersed myself in Osijek and absorbed all the lessons the city had to offer. My experiences from this past year are not simply negated because I am now here and not there; they stay with me as valuable lessons, indelible marks that will forever enhance my perspective.

Josh Leib

Fulbright ETA Croatia 2019-2020

Alumni Profile: Arcadia Trvalik

Alumni Profile: Arcadia Trvalik

Fifty-four weeks ago today, I read the word “Congratulations,” upon opening my email; my first thought was, “wait…what?!” Upon receiving my Fulbright grant, I was astonished and euphoric, my excitement vibrating in the background of every conversation I had with colleagues, friends and family for months to come. How much has changed in these fifty-four weeks.

Talking to SMK Hosba students my experience as an Emergency Medical Technician in America.

For my grant, I taught at SMK (national secondary school) Hosba, in Changlun, Kedah, Malaysia, nestled just thirty minutes from the southwestern border of Thailand. Driving to school the first morning, through rolling blue hills shrouded by mist and set against the backdrop of a coral sunrise, my nerves quaked, but were soon remedied. I felt instantly welcomed into the SMK Hosba community by my new colleagues; my teacher mentor, Madam Noorita; our principal, Mr. Mazlin; and the unflaggingly friendly students. Not a single day passed that I was not offered breakfast, lunch, a snac k, a treat, another snack, a dessert, or a “teh tarik” – Malaysian milk tea. Never before had I realized the impact of a simple offer of nasi lemak could have on making me feel more invited and less “other,” in a place where I was very much so. I was amazed, challenged, and occasionally caught speechless by my students’ questions during discussions in class:

“Miss Cady, what was World War I?”

“Miss Cady, do you like Justin Bieber?”

“Miss Cady, do you like Malaysian food? What’s your favorite food in America?”

“Miss Cady, have you been to New York City?”

“Miss Cady, why do you want to be a doctor?”

Following up on these questions and seeing where those discussions led were some of my favorite moments at school. Among my students were aspiring doctors, lawyers, engineers, and teachers; fashion designers, photographers, artists and detectives.

Assisting a student with a grammar exercise.

Swiftly, smoothly, weeks flowed into the next as challenges slowly seemed less daunting and relationships became stronger. After several months of planning, budgeting, working with local community members and colleagues, I led a weekend English program for twenty outstanding students about sustainability, global supply chains and environmental stewardship, including a local hike and a beach clean-up. I coached the choral speaking team (kind of like spoken word poetry in English, as a group), and at our regional competition, the team took second place. I joined Zumba classes with my students, and assisted my school’s chapter of the Red Crescent Society. In early March, my school was given the prompt for the annual English drama competition – multilateralism and global partnership.

“Miss Cady, what is ‘multilateralism’?” Fatin, one of the members of the choral speaking team asked me, looking confused. “I’ve never known this word.”

SMK Hosba Choral Speaking Team wins second place at the regional competition at Universiti Utara Malaysia on February 16, 2020.

Multilateralism, I explained to Fatin, Aiesya, Syaza, Ayu and the rest of the students, is when multiple groups work together to solve a problem. “It’s like seeing something from many sides,” I added. “Usually, it’s used to describe when many different governments or organizations are working on something together – like the United Nations.” The students nodded. I prompted the students for a topic.

“Coronavirus, Miss Cady?” Fatin offered. We nodded in unison. The virus, like a hum, had quietly played in the background nearly my entire time in Malaysia – it could not be ignored.

So went the week leading up to our March break. We stayed after school; picked characters; detailed our plot line. Twenty-four students jumped on the opportunity to become involved.

“Can I be the Prime Minister of Turkey?” Sarah asked. “How many COVID cases does Turkey have?”

“I’ll be a doctor from the United Nations,” Nurin declared, “but I think let’s have many doctors, right? From the different countries? So they work together? Maybe all the doctors work together, so they find the cure, then tell the countries, maybe?” Ideas flew around the room, in English and Bahasa Melayu, as 24 high school students in rural Malaysia furiously worked to put together the best English drama in SMK Hosba history.

“Miss Cady,” Fatin asked. “This makes me so nervous. I hope that COVID does not come here.”

“Me too, Fatin.” We shared a distant gaze out the window of the classroom, into the jungles of rural Kedah, into the future, and what was to come.

Beach clean-up and sustainability discussion at Pantai Merdeka beach, in Kedah, Malaysia.

Five days after my conversation with Fatin, I landed home in the United States, evacuated due to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation. While seemingly everything has changed since we planned the coronavirus play – in my own life and across the world, and in ways we will be working tirelessly for decades to fully understand – some things have not. My students still frequently reach out to me on WhatsApp, and through my teacher Instagram (@cikgu_cady); they are still fantastically respectful, and curious about life in America. Teachers and friends I made in my community reach out as well, all wanting to make sure me and my family are well in the midst of such unprecedented times.

We are now navigating a new ambiguity, a new unknown as a global community. As an EMT, I am preparing to join the front lines fight against coronavirus, and trying to figure out how to do so as safely as possible, without exposing my family, friends or partner. My students, upon hearing my plans, have been incredibly uplifting and supportive, from their own shelter-in-place and quarantine orders on the other side of the world.

Fulbright Malaysia ETAs have dinner at the Ambassador’s Residence, January 8th, 2020.

I am so honored to have had the chance to continue to build connections and community across the globe as a Fulbright grantee – to be welcomed with open arms, and warmly supported during my transition home from the other side of the world, in a time of great unknowns and change. To the next passionate, accomplished and driven applicants who have an exciting email to open in their future – congratulations. I wish you the best of all the unpredictable and wildly wonderful moments that lay in your midst. And if you were looking to refresh your memory of the meaning of multilateralism – I know twenty-four proud and accomplished scholars that would be more than happy to help.

-Arcadia Trvalik

Fulbright Malaysia ETA 2020