I’m proud to announce that UCSD has nine US Student Fulbright Program grantees for 2014-15!
You can read more about this year’s awardees here.
Two months remain on my Fulbright grant period in Vienna, Austria. It is hard to believe how quickly the time has passed! In my previous post I noted the value in having so much freedom as a research grantee to work on my research and pursue my interests, both at the university with which I am affiliated and elsewhere. In this post I would like to share some information on some of the other kinds of opportunities that the Fulbright program affords.
Besides the intrinsic benefits of the many events and activities here in Vienna, they have also served to introduce me to the scholarly community across Europe such that I have had the chance to travel to nearby countries to present my own work.
The first weekend I was in Austria I attended a workshop at the university and met a scholar who works in Bratislava, Slovakia (a short 45 minute train trip down the Danube from Vienna!). A few months later, after his kind invitation, I was attending and presenting my research at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, getting to know scholars from across the Czech Republic and Slovakia who were in attendance, and enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the organizers and Bratislava!
Recent appointments at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, have led to the creation of a strong center of research in my field. My local advisor spends part of his time in Munich (a five hour train ride from Vienna) and extended an invitation to me to spend a week meeting the locals (and some old friends!) in January. Although I couldn’t be sneaked into the busy schedule of lectures and workshops at the center, I did have an enjoyable week listening to the great talks, chatting over dinner or the famous Munich brews, and taking a memorable stroll through the famous English Garden with new and old friends.
Most recently, the Austrian-American Fulbright Commission hosted their annual Seminar in American Studies, this year held in Strobl, Austria in the Salzkammergut (the Austria “Lake District”) for the first time. Fulbrighters from the U.S. and from Austria gathered together to hear lectures by some of the U.S. Scholars (professors on Fulbright grants) on topics ranging from Gender in Education and Society to Food in American Culture to The American Theme Park Industry. There was also time for the Americans and Austrians to join together in breakout discussion sessions to discuss transatlanticism, food practices in the U.S. and Austria, and others. It was a great time for “promoting mutual understanding!”
These have been great experiences for me personally, and I think give a good glimpse of what kinds of opportunities can arise during a Fulbright research grant (especially in Europe). I look forward to continuing the relationships with new friends and colleagues, and with my host country in the future!
Looking back: Where did the last 8 months go?
With only 2.5 more weeks of my grant left, I’m starting to get anxious and excited about returning home. Looking back at an old blog about acclimating and achieving my goals, I’m surprised to learn that I’ve come a long way from the culture shock slump I found myself in 7 months ago.
Personal Blog from October 8,, 2013:
“It’s been 3 months already and I’m still learning to adjust. I’m not feeling very accomplished. I seem to have missed the ‘honey moon phase’ of the culture shock experience. I’m having less than the awesome time that it seems my fellow ETAs are experiencing here. As a secret bule, or secret foreigner, [Note: Christina is Filipino-American] I’m not going on the wonderful excursions that I see others participating in, no dressing in cool traditional outfits, no encounters with exotic animals, no invitations to the mayor’s house. No one is writing news articles about me or asking me to interview on radio stations. I am not treated like a local celebrity as some of my ETA friends. These things have not been a part of my experience in Indonesia, and it is sometimes difficult for me to relate to my fellow ETAs’ experiences here.
“My experience teaching English to international students feels quite useless here, and I’m no natural in an Indonesian classroom. Indonesian schools feel quite inefficient and disorganized by U.S. standards. I don’t feel confident communicating in Indonesian, I’m in a constant state of cultural confusion, and I haven’t started the long process of applying to graduate school. I feel busy, but unaccomplished. Whether I am accomplishing my personal or professional goals, or improving my cultural awareness, it would be nice to feel that I am moving forward. But right now I am feeling quite stuck.”
At my orientation we discussed the culture shock curve and how each ETA would have different experiences of ups and downs throughout the grant. After 1 month at my site, I concluded that teaching in Indonesia was a lot more challenging than I expected it to be. I started my program feeling very ambitious, and I was quickly deflated when I realized that things were not so simple. Even though I have tutoring experience and I prepared myself with many classroom ideas, what worked for me in a U.S. classroom did not necessarily work in an Indonesian classroom. Although people at my school are eager to help, cultural misunderstandings and an inefficient system make it difficult to work at my school. Digital resources are unreliable, the school often has blackouts, and student discipline is handled differently than in the U.S. Before coming to Indonesia, I knew that the environment would be challenging, but I still could not prepare myself enough for it. I’ve learned to accept this situation. After all, I am the first ETA at my school and the first American many people at my school have met. They are still learning how to work with me as I am still learning how to work with them.
Though at times I felt I was far from achieving much, I did reach my main goal of getting accepted to graduate school during my grant. I applied to a Fulbright ETA grant because I felt that a Fulbright program would give me valuable insights for graduate studies in my field of international development. It was challenging to apply to grad school while still figuring out how to live at my site. It can be extremely frustrating dealing with unreliable internet, and people at your site may not understand the stress and pressure of applying to grad school. At the time I applied, I was constantly balancing my current duties as an ETA with finishing my applications. People at my site didn’t understand why I was always tired or so busy. With that said, it is possible to apply to graduate school during your grant as I and several other ETAs in my program did. In order to successfully apply to graduate school while making the most of your grant, I strongly suggest that incoming ETAs gather as many details as possible about their applications and programs in advance of their departure. Consider bringing brochures from the schools you want to apply to in case your internet is not reliable. Completing the GRE, requesting references, and knowing the programs you want to apply to prior to your departure will make the process much smoother.
Besides achieving my goal of getting accepted to grad school, this 9-month grant has been full of other accomplishments and opportunities that have been personal, professional, big and small. I went from zero Bahasa Indonesia to a good conversational level of Indonesian. I tried yoga classes for the first time. I’ve become a more confident person in unfamiliar situations. I volunteered at an English camp at a church in my community. I closely mentored 10 students to compete in a Fulbright English and creativity competition. I encouraged students to participate in their first English competition. I exposed teachers to ideas for being more creative and resourceful in the classroom. I facilitated an American – Indonesian pen pal exchange for my students. I’ve had some special opportunities to meet the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, attend consulate events, and have Thanksgiving dinner at the Chargé d’Affaire’s home. Lastly, I’ve become a part of a large and close network of bright and driven Fulbright Indonesia ETAs.
Christina is a Fulbright ETA in Manado, Indonesia. She graduated from UCSD with her B.A. in International Studies-Political Science. She will pursue her Master’s in Public Administration at NYU Wagner School of Public Service.