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Fulbright Program for U.S. Students

Fulbright Foreign Student

Issue 27 | July 2011

Meaningful Introductions to Diverse Cultures
table of contents

A Geographical Expedition toward My Doctorate in Worcester, Massachusetts

by Pheakkdey Nguon, 2010-2011, Cambodia

Pheakkdey Nguon, 2010-2012,
Pheakkdey Nguon, 2010-2012, Cambodia, visiting the National Mall in Washington, DC  
In September 2009, I was ecstatic when the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia called to congratulate me on being selected as a Fulbright student to pursue my doctoral research project.  After taking the TOEFL and GRE tests and filling out all the necessary documents, my journey as a Cambodian Fulbright Student in United States began.  I am currently a first-year doctoral student at Clark University's Graduate School of Geography, in Worcester, Massachusetts.  My research focuses on measuring the effectiveness of the United Nations Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD+) projects in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing local communities’ ability to initiate (or continue) existing community forestry projects and conserving biodiversity at project sites.

My introduction to U.S. academic and social life was through three wonderful weeks attending the Institute of International Education (IIE)-designed Fulbright English Refinement for Graduate Studies Program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  The program staff was very helpful from beginning to end.  The most interesting part for me was the fact that in spite of the diversity of countries and fields represented, the participants found it extremely easy to communicate and learn from one another.  Within three weeks, I learned so much about my roommate's and other participants' lives in countries such as Poland, Russia, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Argentina and Panama.  I also had many great conversations with my roommate about our doctoral research projects, although we are in totally different disciplines.  By the time the program came to an end, I realized that it had given me time to familiarize myself with life in the United States and with what to expect at my university.

Time really flies.  Now into my second semester, there are so many things about the Fulbright Program for which I am very thankful.  First of all, I could not ask for a better school to pursue my research.  Clark University has all the right elements: internationally renowned yet extremely helpful faculty members, supportive yet intellectually challenging classmates, and a very nurturing environment.  Secondly, I am not required to work as a teaching or research assistant for the first two years of my program.  This is something that I really appreciate because it gives me time to focus on my classes and to structure my doctoral dissertation plan.  Finally, the Massachusetts Fulbright Association has been very active in organizing social events to help foreign Fulbrighters experience U.S. culture.  I spent a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with Professor Margaret Kerr, who was a U.S. Fulbright fellow to Thailand, and her family.  We started the day by hiking at an historic location in Worcester where Margaret told me about the town's history.  After the hike, we went to her home to help with the cooking.  In addition to the various dishes that were prepared, David, Margaret's husband, roasted a 25-pound turkey that took seven hours to cook.  In David's words, "We cannot have a Thanksgiving Day without an oversized turkey."  We had a great dinner that night.  In short, thank you, Fulbright.

To comment on and interact with other Fulbrighters about Pheakkdey Nguon's article on the Fulbright Community on State Alumni, please click here.  


Experiencing the United States: A Ukrainian Fulbrighter's Viewpoint

by Nataliia Sharkova, 2010-2012, Ukraine

Natalia Fedorovna, 2010-2012,
Nataliia Sharkova, 2010-2012, Ukraine, experiencing Halloween with a local Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle 
The experience of being a Fulbrighter and conducting research in an educational system that is new to you is really challenging.  In your host country, it takes time to think over your ideas, find where to push your research in new directions and to manage your time as effectively as possible.  Quite often, you do not realize the importance of being your home country's cultural ambassador in the United States.  You are, first, a representative of your culture, a kind of sum total or repository of all the stereotypes you have brought with you.  Everyone is looking at you and checking if all that they have heard or read about your country is true or whether it is a distorted impression of somebody else’s experience.

Since my Fulbright research at the University of Rochester's Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development is on infusing culture into foreign language instruction, one of the most important things I have done during my grant is to present on the role Ukraine has had in forming the world's scientific and cultural heritage.  This has been an opportunity to tell people about the history of Ukraine, show pictures of my country's beautiful landscapes, and give people an opportunity to experience Ukrainian hospitality, generosity and patriotism.  I take every opportunity to share my “comparative analysis” of American and Ukrainian cultures in different spheres, starting generally with the educational systems and ending with adolescent development issues and youth culture.  This presentation is not only a result of my thinking, but it is also a good opportunity for others to better understand their own cultures, review well-known international phenomena from an unusual perspective (mine), notice things that are taken for granted and re-evaluate them.

Experiencing the United States and deepening an understanding of your own background is something not only found by reading books, analyzing current research, using new technologies and communicating with scholars during a professional development colloquium, but also through travelling.  You can never feel how tiny Europe and Ukraine (the biggest country in Europe) are if you have not taken a 40-minute drive through Chicago.  You will never know how rich a culture's heritage is if you only see Rembrandt, Monet, and Constable paintings in a gallery in Rochester, New York.  That is only one U.S. city.  You cannot experience how accessible Harvard University is unless you enter one of the auditoriums there; and, how old it is unless you go to one of the libraries and see volumes of John Milton books.

The United States is a diverse country.  It is possible to see many people from different backgrounds and cultures.  Be open to these differences; absorb the good and the new.  Share your own Fulbright experiences and knowledge.  You will discover many interesting things that will not only broaden your outlook, but that will also shape your own philosophy of the world.

To comment on and interact with other Fulbrighters about Nataliia Sharkova's article on the Fulbright Community on State Alumni, please click here.  


Connect and Share Your Experiences with Fellow Fulbrighters on State Alumni and Facebook

State Alumni

If you are not already familiar with State Alumni, it is a social network sponsored by the U.S. Department of State exclusively for all current and past participants of State Department-sponsored exchange programs, including the Fulbright Program.  To register for State Alumni and gain access to the Fulbright Community, go to https://alumni.state.gov.

The Fulbright Library

The Fulbright Library on State Alumni is a new way to share, connect and collaborate with other current and former Fulbrighters.  It offers a platform, categorized by subject area, for you to share your articles, blogs, classroom materials and other media related to your areas of interest and research, particularly work related to your Fulbright grant.

If you are already a member of State Alumni, you may access the Fulbright Library at https://alumni.state.gov/fulbright/library.

Share your photos with the Fulbright Community!

  • Step 1: If you haven't done so already, please register for State Alumni at https://alumni.state.gov.
  • Step 2: Once your account has been verified, login to State Alumni and navigate to the Fulbright Community from your community menu on the home page, or go directly to https://alumni.state.gov/fulbright.
  • Step 3:  Click on "Multimedia Gallery" to view existing photo albums, podcasts and videos. 
  • Step 4: To add your own photo album, click on 'Create a New Album' on the right hand side of the multimedia gallery page.
  • Step 5: Create your album by adding a title and description.  Please be specific.  Adding your name, home country, Fulbright country, field of study and year will help others to easily identify you and your photos.  Click "Save."
  • Step 6: Click "Add Photos" to begin adding photos to your album.  Photos may be added one at a time (Single File) or as a group (Zip Archive allows uploads of .zip, .gzip, and tar files). 
  • Step 7: For each photo or group of photos, enter appropriate titles, captions, keyword tags and a location. 
  • Step 8: Edit your album or the individual photos in your album, if necessary.
  • Step 9: The Fulbright Community Manager will be alerted of your new album and will approve materials before they appear live on the site.  Until they are approved, photos will display a "pending" status.
  • Step 10: Enjoy the Fulbright Community galleries and articles!

    Note: In addition to adding photos to the Fulbright Community Multimedia Gallery, you may also upload photos to the general Photo Gallery for all State Alumni members or to your user profile.  If you have a podcast or video to share, please email it to Fulbright@alumni.state.gov.
The Fulbright Program Facebook Page
The Fulbright Program now has an official Facebook presence where you can join discussions, comment on wall posts, and learn more about the program's many facets.  We encourage you to visit the Fulbright Program's Facebook page regularly to read about Fulbrighters in the news, ask questions, and engage with fellow Fulbrighters from around the world.


A Call for Short Videos

Have you made a short video about your Fulbright experience?  Submit it to the newsletter! 

We are looking for informative interviews about your Fulbright experiences in the United States.  The video should run no longer than 10 minutes and highlight the positive impact the Fulbright Foreign Student Program has had on you, your host campus and local community. 

Acceptable formats include: electronic files such as wmv, Quicktime, DV, mini tapes, DVDs, etc.  All videos will be edited and screened for their relevance and appropriate content. 

The footage can show you:

  • Giving a campus or dorm tour
  • Engaging in a cultural activity 
  • In the classroom
  • Talking about what it's like to live in the U.S. or other Fulbright experiences
  • Engaging with the local community
  • Interacting with other students
  • Visiting sites, monuments, buildings, etc.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the format or content of your videos.  We look forward to reviewing them!


A Call for Articles with Photos

We welcome articles with accompanying photos for future issues of the Fulbright Foreign Student Newsletter.  Articles should ideally be about your experience of being in the United States as a Fulbright grantee (and cultural ambassador), discuss your research and classroom experiences, as well as any personal examples about how you’ve achieved the goal of the Fulbright program: to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. 

The length of the article should be no more than 500 words and not require much editing in order to be published.  The accompanying photos (preferably high resolution, 300 dpi or above) should show you engaged in program activities, be illustrative of your article's content and include captions.  Please submit your articles with photos within two weeks of the release of this newsletter.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We look forward to receiving your articles!