VIEWS: 7 PAGES: 13 POSTED ON: 4/19/2010
Jermaine: Good early evening everybody, and good afternoon to the folks in the regional offices. My name is Jermaine Jones and I’m the Program Manager at the Institute of International Education, or IIE for short, with the U.S. Student Fulbright Program where I work with the Fulbright Program for Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the Middle East and North Africa and I wanted to thank you all for attending this first alumni roundtable of this season, the alumni roundtable, obviously, for Africa and the Middle East. Just a couple of house keeping notes. First, you may have noticed that there is a laptop in the back of the room here in New York City. In terms of signing up here, we ask that everyone either now, or maybe after we’ve ended here at 8 o’clock, provide your name and your email address on that laptop so that we can follow up with you with additional information or updates that we might have for you along the way. And, there may be similar signup sheets in the regional offices as well. Secondly, you may notice a lot of microphones around the room here in New York. I have to speak into a microphone as well as my colleagues at this table because we’re actually doing a podcast of this particular event. So it will be placed on the internet and again accessible via, I guess, this newfangled technology or whatever. So folks can listen to it at their own leisure, if they’re not able to attend this, or if you guys want to listen to it after the fact. And you’ll notice here as well in the New York office there is a microphone set up in the very middle of the room and we would ask that you all to come to the front, speak very clearly into the microphone with your questions so that again we can record you appropriately for the podcast technology. I’m going to say a few introductory remarks before jumping into the roundtable. I’ll try to keep my remarks short so that we can get you guys into the nitty gritty of why you’re here. Again, this is for the U.S. Student Fulbright Program and this is considered to be the U.S. government’s flagship program for educational and cultural exchange. It was began in 1946 by Senator Fulbright and by Congressman Hayes to foster mutual understanding between peoples of the U.S. and other countries. The Fulbright programs are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and funded every year by a U.S. congressional allotment to State Department and it’s funded in cooperation with the Fulbright Commissions and Foundations overseas as well as our American embassies abroad. However it is IIE that administers the student programs here on the U.S. side of things. The focus of the program worldwide is cultural exchange. However, the means for facilitating these exchanges is through academic, educational, and community based activities. So again, the underlying principle for the program, for this program, is to, again, promote exchange between cultures on an individual basis. You could call it microdiplomacy if you want to. But again, the most important part of—well, let me put it this way: the most important part of your application is going to be the proposal itself. So you have to have a strong reason for going abroad in terms of a strong proposal for academic or artistic research. And finally, an important feature of the Fulbright program is to provide opportunities for grantees to experience a country or culture in which they have little to no experience. We have had grantees in the past apply to countries in which they’ve had a few weeks, or a few months, or maybe a semester of prior experience. But generally speaking, if you have, I’d say, in the range of a year or more of experience in the country, then you’re going to be at somewhat of a disadvantage relative to others who have less experience but have equally compelling applications. And just a few more remarks about the Fulbright Program. Again these are general or world wide aspects of the program, not specific to Africa or the Middle East. The U.S. Student Fulbright Program is open to people at a variety of different levels: recent U.S. college and university graduates, graduate level students, people in the creative visual and performing arts, as well as young professionals in various professional fields- law, public health, medicine, business, education and the like. You do not need to be enrolled in a graduate program, or any U.S. college or university at the time that you apply. It’s certainly possible to submit your application directly to IIE on an at-large basis. So that’s hopefully something that will dispel one of the frequent myths of the program. In other words if you were not enrolled in a U.S. college or university that does not mean you are not eligible to apply for one of our grants. The grants provide support for one academic year. For Africa, it’s generally 10 months, but it can in some cases be as few as 6 months. But again that’s generally an amount of time that’s limited only to people who either have artistic, creative, and performing arts projects, or for those who are doing dissertation research projects. For the Middle East the grants generally run in the range of 9 to 10 months. And again the grants provide support for that full academic year period and therefore they’re designed to support self-designed study of some kind, or research which can include activities such as university coursework, library or field research, classes in music or an art school, research or work with NGOs or local government agencies, or a combination of other projects. It’s basically up to you as the applicant to design how your project will look, so it’s really something that’s going to be driven by you as the candidate in terms of deciding what you want to do while you’re overseas. And the program has experienced significant growth, over the past several years especially, and for this past competition, the application deadline for which was October 2007, we received over 6,700 applications worldwide, which was a record year. And we expect to offer I’d say in the range of 1500 grants or so for all fields and disciplines, in over 140 countries around the world. Now during the course of the grant term, grantees are expected to be engaged full time in the activities of their project as laid out in their original project proposals. And, as I mentioned before, they’re also expected to interact in a variety of ways with their host community, and that can be done in a variety of ways, such as participating or helping out with various NGOs or non-profits in their host community, through sports or arts activities, visits to schools, community organizations, helping out with American embassies in the host country that might ask you to speak or give other presentations to the local community. So, there are different ways of interacting with the host community. But again, that’s a vital part of the Fulbright experience. Now let me tailor my remarks a little bit more to first, Sub-Saharan Africa, and then to the Middle East and then I’ll let these other folks at the round table speak. Sub-Saharan Africa first. You’ll notice either in the brochure, the hard copy brochure, copies of which are in the back, as well as on the website, that there are 26 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region to which candidates of all degree levels can apply. There are a few countries, a handful, that aren’t listed as being completely off limits altogether, but that also don’t have country summaries in the brochure. A few of those are Sierra Leone, both Congos, the former Zaire Congo and Congo Brazzaville, and Rwanda and there are a few others as well. These are countries to which only advanced level graduates can apply. Unfortunately, undergraduates, BA level applicants are not allowed to apply to those countries. The reason being that these are countries that have fairly small U.S. embassies, and the embassy staff in these countries are so small that they really don’t have a lot of time to offer support and guidance to people that aren’t more mature and able to carry out research on a more independent basis and without a lot of, again, guidance or support from the embassy. So again, those are the countries to which only advanced level—generally speaking that means PhD level students are able to apply. It’s the responsibility of each candidate or grantee to secure their host or institutional affiliation for Sub-Saharan Africa. There are many countries outside of the region where that’s taken care of either by the Embassy or the Commission in the host country, but that’s not the case for Africa.. In this part of the world of the world it’s up to you as the candidate or the grantee to work out your own affiliation with a prospective host institution, college or university, NGO, research institute, archive, in your prospective host country. And generally these don’t necessarily need to be confirmed by the time you submit your application to IIE. Our application deadline is usually around October. This year it’s going to be October 20 (2007). Two deadlines actually: October the 20th for the electronic submission of the application. And then October 22nd, that’s the date by which the hardcopy application must be received here at IIE. So again, it can really help your chances if the affiliation is confirmed by those dates, but it’s not a hard and fast rule that it must be by that time. A few other notes on Sub-Saharan Africa: Multi-country applications are possible for every country in the region except for South Africa. By multi country application I mean, one application, focusing on one project proposal that would be divided between 2 – 3 different countries in the same world region. Now again it’s possible, but I have to say that it’s not something that’s necessarily encouraged by the Program, primarily because it can be very difficult to secure the necessary clearances and approvals from each country. And if you apply to 2 or 3 countries, and one country says no, that can really jeopardize your chances of receiving the grant overall. So it’s best to apply to one country, ok? And I think it’s also very important to keep the language considerations in mind. And I would stress that even in countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria, that might have English as either the official language or one of several national languages, you shouldn’t automatically assume that you’ll be able to get by with English alone. It’s really going to be dependent on exactly what you want to do in the country, where in the country you’re going to be, as well as who you’ll be working with in the host country that will determine whether or not English alone will be sufficient, or if you’ll need to know either an indigenous language, or another language like French or Portuguese or something along those lines. And, finally moving on to my general comments concerning the Middle East and North Africa. Again, you’ll see in the website as well as the hard copy brochure that there are 12 countries in the region that accept applications for the U.S. student Fulbright program. And again these are applications open to candidates of all degree levels. Multi country applications are available to every country in the region except for the following: Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Morocco. But again, I would just stress that they are a possibility but they are by no means preferred or recommended, so just keep that in mind for the reasons that I mentioned earlier. Candidates interested in receiving additional language training, primarily in Arabic, should consider applying for one of the critical language enhancement awards or C.L.E.A. Awards, for short, and again, the complete details on those particular awards are given in the handbook as well as the website. And I’d be happy to answer any questions that you might have about that as well during the course of this session. And I would also just stress what I mentioned before, during my notes on Africa, about being careful to think about language considerations. Again, not every project is doable with English alone so be very certain that you think through what you want to do during your grant term and also to read through the language requirements as laid out in each country summary, given again in the website as well as the hard copy brochure. I’m going to finish my comments here and I’m going to introduce our panel. We have panelists here in New York, obviously, as well as in two of our regional centers. I’m going to introduce them first and then again ask them to jump right into their presentations. They’ll be presenting for roughly 5 – 7 minutes on various aspects of their Fulbright experience, what they found in the host country, as well as how their Fulbright experience changed their life post Fulbright. And I will introduce them in the order in which they’ll be presenting. On my left is Toja Okoh. She was a Fulbrighter to Nigeria during the 2006-2007 academic year. And on my far right is Steven Wood who had a Fulbright grant to South Africa during the same year, 2006-2007. They are two panelists who will be presenting on the Sub-Saharan Africa side of things. For the Near East and North Africa we have four people. First off is Robinette Dowtin who was in Morocco during the 2006- 2007 academic year. And again on my immediate right is Jonathan Noble who was in Syria during 2003-2004. After these four present I’ll ask that we move on to the alumni in our regional centers. First up is Joe Livingston who was a former colleague of mine; he worked here at IIE for a few months, but before that he held a Fulbright grant to Jordan during the 2002-2003 academic year. And then moving further west, our final presenter in the San Francisco office is Dominic Bocci who was in the United Arab Emirates during 2006-2007. So without further ado, let’s jump into what our alumni have to say. Let’s start off with Robinette Dowtin. Robinette? Toja, I’m sorry. Toja, sorry about that. Thank you. Toja: Good evening and thank you for inviting me to be on the roundtable. My name, again, is Toja Okoh and my Fulbright year was 2006-2007. I participated in the Fulbright program in Nigeria and I arrived their December, December 1st actually, 2006 and stayed until August 15, so about 8 months was my time there. My field of study is African History; I’m a PhD student at New York University. My project focused on pre-oil Niger Delta and trying to… the project itself focuses on the ethnicization of politics in the Niger Delta and trying to explain historically these communities in light of its recent history which is pretty much dominated by oil politics. My Fulbright grant fits in largely with my research agenda but also I was really interested in applying to the Fulbright precisely because of the community connections and networking that I was also interested in making. I’m one of those rare Fulbrighters that actually has roots in the country. My father is from that region, but I had spent very, very little time there as a child and so had an opportunity to go back with this particular project in mind. So I was really keen on making connections with the communities that I was going to be researching, which is somehow connected with my own community but then also I got a chance while I was in Nigeria to travel to the northern parts of Nigeria which people in the south don’t often do, and get a very different perspective and be able to talk about the Niger delta in the north while I was traveling with the U.S. Embassy, particularly the U.S. Ambassador in Nigeria. So I had a really broad experience, not just for my research project, but also as a Fulbrighter, and getting a real, sort of, Fulbright experience with traveling and really talking and broadening my scope, my interests. So now I have a broader community not just in the Niger Delta but I think also in the north particularly in Kano, Kaduna, and parts of Abuja and Sokoto. My career goals and where this fits in as far as the Fulbright experience- I made connections that were sort of professional connections but I also made some really, I think, life connections with people that I will continue to have connections with throughout my life. Overall I think the most striking part of my experience as a Fulbrighter was that I… beyond learning about my project and getting a different perspective on the project itself, I got a different perspective of myself. And really, sort of… I was actually moved and pushed in ways that I don’t think I could have been pushed if I hadn’t made the trip, and I hadn’t spent 8 months in the field, and in some ways I wish I had spent more time there to really sort of let it sink in. The program and sort of being on the ground really pushed my own sense of being an American, especially an American with roots in Africa, and getting a different perspective about myself and the expectations and assumptions that I carried with that particular background. I really grew through that experience and it really reshaped my sense of being and belonging not just as an American but also sort of as a world citizen. I didn’t expect that from the Fulbright, and that was something that really shifted my perspective. In many ways I came to sort of a different understanding of the project itself; it became a bigger project than just a research project. It has now become something that I think I will engage in in various other aspects, not just as an academic which I will become but also I would like to be an advocate for the Niger Delta communities in the future and as I develop my academic career. So I think I’ll end it there and talk later. Steve: Good evening, my name is Steve Wood. I was a Fulbrighter in South Africa for 2006-2007 and my field of study was sociology. I guess I was one of the few students that was currently in school and I applied as at-large. So I was one of the people that was still in school but was able to get a Fulbright as an at-large candidate. The reason I applied for a Fulbright was I needed money to fund my dissertation research in South Africa. I was looking at prison reform and more specifically organizations that provide prison oversight in post-Apartheid prisons, and ultimately comes down to human rights issues: are prisoners being treated properly? Does the public have access to information about what’s going on inside their prisons? Are the prison officials being held accountable when they start to mistreat prisoners? So I was looking at the judicial inspected prisons, which provides an oversight of prisons and that was the focus of my dissertation. And hopefully tomorrow if everything goes right I will have my PhD, officially. Luckily with the Fulbright I was able to go all across the country. I visited all nine provinces. I was up towards the Mozambique area, Zimbabwe; I was in the former homelands; I was in the big cities; I was in the small towns; I was in the informal settlements, townships, you name it. And if it hadn’t been for the Fulbright, I don’t think I would have ever had that opportunity. So I was lucky in that way. In terms of some of the challenges that I confronted, I think, especially in South Africa, you need a car and cars are very expensive there. And, it’s not safe to walk around, like it is here in New York City. And I made the financial decision not to get the car. So for me that was a big challenge especially when it came down to looking for places to live and getting around. So, in terms of challenges, I think that was one of the biggest challenges I faced while I was there. In terms of some of my more memorable experiences, just getting to meet so many different people, and getting to talk to ordinary South Africans about the United States, about the education system. So many South Africans thought I would be able to help them get into school here in the states—I don’t know how the other Fulbright Scholars fared in that way—or they thought I could help them get work in the states. But, other than that, it was a great experience to be able to be able to interact with so many different people. And, something that Jermaine pointed out, even though in South Africa, English is one of the 11 official languages, what I found was that even people who spoke basic English, it was sometimes very difficult to have anything more than a very basic conversation with them. And I only spoke English. I didn’t learn Zulu, I didn’t learn Xhosa, I didn’t learn Swati or Afrikaans. I stuck with English and I was basically able to get by with that but I did find it to be quite a bit of a challenge every now and then. I don’t know… is there anything else that I’m… I think I’m done. Robinette: Good day everyone. My name is Robinette Dowtin and I was a participant in Morocco in the 2006-2007 academic year. My project was looking at the intersection between Islam and women’s dress. So basically I was going around different regions of the country, the highways, the byways, the big cities, the small cities, the no cities interviewing women of various cultural backgrounds about representations of women in the public space. I wanted to know how that fared with religion, tradition, practicality of dress, fashion. Was it a mixture of these things or was it none of these things? So basically I spent my Fulbright term doing that but I was a beneficiary of what we called then the Language Training Initiative. I forget what you all changed the name to. Basically what I did was three months prior to beginning my Fulbright period I studied Arabic, both types of Arabic. I went into Morocco with French as a second language, but I studied modern standard Arabic for 3 months, for three and a half hours a day Monday through Friday, and then I took private lessons on Saturdays and Sundays dealing with Islam, dealing with Morocco, dealing with women. And then for an hour and a half to two hours every evening Monday through Friday I studied Darija which is the colloquial language of Morocco, and I actually lived with a Moroccan family for the entire time I was there which stemmed from a 2004 SIT program in which I spent approximately 8 weeks studying Arabic and Moroccan culture in Morocco. And so I was very blessed to be able to benefit from that Language Training Initiative because when it was time for me to actually begin my fieldwork, I conducted all the interviews on my own, having gone in there not knowing very much, forgotten all of my Arabic. I was able to accomplish my goal independent of a translator which really helped facilitate the interviews much better than had I had a translator with me. So I would definitely encourage taking advantage of that, of the language initiative. I guess I would say as far as my future goes or is concerned, I applied for both the Fulbright and graduate school at the same time with the intention of deferring admission and I found out about both at the same time, within the same hour, and that was a very good thing, a very good.day. So I actually was accepted to go to graduate school; I also go to NYU like Toja but I’m a first year student. So I was planning on looking at West Africa, looking at the jihads, looking at 18th, 19th century and once I got to Morocco and really delved into my project I decided to change my entire area of study and that’s what I did. I was approved by the department. So, Morocco and Fulbright definitely played a critical role and what I’m choosing to do with my future. As far as a memorable moment I think I’ll take it on a personal level because Morocco has held a very special place in my heart for quite some time and I don’t want to romanticize it at all, but I definitely feel and I really believe it’s a part of having spent time with the family there and really kind of acclimating myself to a certain culture. I was definitely taking a step that I’d never taken before. I’d never lived with a family, I’d never been by myself in that sense, this young African American Christian woman in this predominantly Muslim, Arabic speaking community in which I felt completely alone in the beginning but I just really didn’t by the end. I’d had a day which was just a rough day. I’d lost a very valuable piece of merchandise that I’d purchased 2 days prior, I was called a really bad racial slur, I found out someone was fraudulently using my bank account, had taken almost all of my money. That was a very bad day for me. But I decided not to tell my Moroccan family because they were really over the top about their students, they wanted to really make sure we were taken care of. But I believe one of my sisters must have leaked the information to my father and he came into our room and he was crying. He’s rather sickly, himself, but he was crying so much. And I was like, you know, ―baba what’s wrong with you?‖ And he was crying because he said, you know, ―I’m hurting because you’re hurting. And you are my child. God might have given you to me through another set of parents, but you are the child that god meant for me to have and so your pain is my pain.‖ And so at that moment I realized this is definitely not about race, color, or creed. I definitely felt without a doubt a member of my family. So I would definitely encourage Fulbright to be a part of your experience as well. Jonathan Hi, my name is Jonathan Noble. I was a Fulbrighter to Syria in 2003-2004 and I wanted to talk a little bit today about my project but also professional career path opportunities after Fulbright, particularly for folks who may not be looking at a career in academia. I went to Syria with two purposes. One was to improve my Arabic, and I worked on that through a number of avenues. One was through studying at the University of Damascus. I also had private lessons during the entirety of my stay. The other was to do some research and I did end up doing work on heritage tours and projects in Syria and how they were being used as a development tool in different parts of the country. I think what I want to talk a little bit about today is what Fulbright prepares you for in your career, or in a career once you’re done. I think particularly Syria was an excellent opportunity. I finished my bachelors degree and then went immediately after summer to Syria and I was really unsure about whether I wanted to have a career in academia or perhaps go on and work in the public sector or do something like that. And it was a great time and opportunity, a chance for me to figure out what I wanted to do, and particularly to have a regional focus and find out through that where I was perhaps best placed. I work for IIE in Houston now on exchange programs with countries in the Middle East. I think that my experience there has really prepared me for a career in the public sector in a way that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I was able to meet with people from all walks of life, whether they were officials, my neighbors in the community that I lived in and interact in the region, in Syria and Damascus with people on a daily basis. And that prepared me for experiences I had afterwards. I stayed in the region for two years and worked for an NGO there and then came back to the United States, and I didn’t get a masters degree, but left after I was done. And I think meeting people, being immersed, taking some of the theoretical knowledge I had learned while I was a student getting my bachelors degree and applying it to an experience in country and in the region was really invaluable. And I think one of the things people should think of is I think Fulbright is an opportunity not only to further your academic career but also for you to look into opportunities and chances that may come professionally later. I also wanted to touch on some of the memorable experiences I had. Syria at the time was a pretty small program. I think there are more students that are studying there now than when I was there in 2003-2004 but I became really close with a number of the other Fulbrighters that were there and I think it was really important for me to have, to be part of a community of scholars and likeminded Americans who had a goal of working as ambassadors, working to learn more about Syria, and to sort of act as… to be people who could talk about American politics in a way that wasn’t part of official policy. And to just be American citizens and learning about another place, to have that community and to be able to talk... We had Thanksgiving dinner together and did a number of things together that were really good opportunities for us to get to know each other and to kind of miss home a little bit less. I think that was one of the most memorable experiences that I had being on Fulbright and I would encourage anybody who wanted to apply for it to do so. I think it’s a great program. Jermaine: Can we move on to the Washington, D.C. office and have Joseph Livingston speak? Joe: Good evening everyone. Jermaine can you hear me ok? Jermaine: Yes, I can Joe. Joe: Great. Well, first, thanks for having me. It’s always great to be back at IIE for an evening. It was a year ago, I think, that we were all doing these panels together, so it seems like kind of a return. I guess I wanted to talk a little bit about my project and then provide a bit of information on some of the differences of what I experienced when I actually arrived in the country versus what I expected. And then I’ll move on a little bit to the career relevance, and there are certainly a number of questions in DC about language prior to when we started and so I thdefinitely want to touch on that as well, if I get the chance. So, basically my project, which now seems like ancient history since 2002-2003, I began right after graduating from college. And what I was looking at was social class structure of Palestinian and refugee society in Jordan. And more specifically I was trying to look at how social structure is set up in historical British mandate Palestine- look at the class structure there and how that might have juxtaposed itself onto Palestinian society in Jordan. So I looked a lot at migration patterns, which families moved where, how people set up their lives, whether it was in Amman or small villages or refugee camps, what determined those factors. I did this through extensive qualitative interviews. I had a survey set up that was very open ended so I basically worked with NGOs, with professors, with some representatives from some NY UN organizations, think tanks, etc. and found ways of getting in touch with Palestinians, living in camps, living in affluent parts of Amman, living in East Amman in less affluent sections of the city and basically would sit with families for several hours at a time, and kind of use that as a means of finding out everything I could about their lives: where they come from, what they’ve learned, about their family. When I started it was really more about linking it back to Palestine, rather than trying to understand ??? and the whole transition better. When I finished I was really much more interested in how economic indicators, people’s professions, their level of education, their income, how all these things impacted people’s attitudes towards returning to Palestine in the prospect of some future peace process or final status negotiation. So you definitely go through a lot of transition during that whole process. I was fascinated for about a month with migration patterns and movements and how those choices were made and I was kind of thinking about that more broadly. So, I think that’s sort of a good segue into the open-endedness and the flexibility of the Fulbright award. When you first find out about this it may appear as a very rigid, academic type of award. And there is definitely an academic component. And certainly the project is a means to receiving the Fulbright award and having this wonderful broad experience. But once you’re in country, and I’ll be frank, the level of supervision over what you’re doing on a day to day basis, in many places—and of course each country is going to be a bit different and you’re going to want to speak to your program manager about those nuances—but in many cases you really have a tremendous amount of freedom as to where to take your Fulbright and how to conduct your life on a day to day basis. So, many Fulbrighters that I’ve seen in Jordan and in other countries have found opportunities to volunteer, sometimes through unpaid internships, certainly to travel around the country where they’re being hosted and that’s just one aspect. From the research perspective, from the academic perspective, people really do go in very different directions. I mean, to go in with a history project and then change to an art project, or something like that, is a serious change you’d have to consult on that, but minor changes and fluctuations in how you do your research, who you meet with and what you’re really trying to accomplish, those are things that are easily done, again, in my experience. So I would go in with the attitude that while this is in theory an academic grant, the heart of the Fulbright experience is the intercultural awareness, the intercultural experience, the opportunity to meet people, to understand their way of life, to try to understand the similarities of the host culture that you’re interacting with, to learn about them, to allow them to learn about you, to leave them with an experience of, with knowledge of what American’s are about because really we’re all serving as ambassadors over there teaching people about our ways of life and we’re not doing it from the government perspective, cause when we’re out there we’re the common people from the U.S., we’re the average man, and we’re not connected to government. It gives us some distance and allows us to talk to people about politics, about history, about life, about music, about society and people will really be very grateful for the opportunity. And I can tell you that when you come back to the states people will be incredibly thankful for the opportunity to hear about the people’s lives that you’ve discovered. Because you know, if you’re from Kansas or a small town in upstate New York as I was, people really don’t know anything about some small village in Jordan. So take the opportunity to really get off the beaten track. One thing I’d say is a challenge for Americans in many cases especially in countries with big Fulbright programs, especially countries with big ex-pat populations, is the bounds between how much time you’re going to spend with other Americans and other ex-pats versus how much time you’re going to spend with the local population and there’s no right answer to this except to say that you’re on a Fulbright so as much as you feel comfortable I would try to take advantage of those opportunities and for the sake of language, for the sake of interaction, for the sake of getting as much out of that limited experience as possible I think that helps make it worthwhile. But, you know, that’s not to say to cut your ties with your fellow Fulbrighters; that’s unrealistic. There’s a reason people feel the need at times to be around other people who are more like them in certain cultural ways. Last thing I want to say is- career relevance. I think Jonathan did a good job of really explaining this. There is a trajectory that Fulbright can put you on professionally, it certainly doesn’t need to be academic; it is for many people. It can help you when you’re going through graduate school applications and the research experience alone… certainly you can use that very research for grad school thesis or a PhD. It will certainly help to facilitate that level of research in the future. Outside of academia there really are many types of jobs that are well served by the Fulbright experience from working at NGOs to working for the government. A lot of people who have a lot of academic knowledge about the subject simply don’t have the on the ground experience, and that can translate to not having linguistic experience, but it can also mean that they simply don’t really get what’s going on in these countries and I can say that I’ve now lived in Jordan for two and a half to three years and the Arab world is an extremely complicated place. And so I think that experience really goes a long way towards beginning to understand these nuances. I currently am in the Foreign Service. I joined after leaving IIE and I’m preparing for my first assignment to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. So far me, the Fulbright experience very much fits on a continuum to where I am now. Jermaine: Alright, thank you so much Joe. That was fantastic. That was really good. Can we move on to San Francisco now and Dominic Bocci? Dominic: Is this working? Jermaine: We can hear you. Dominic: OK, wonderful. So I am Dominic Bocci and I was in the Fulbright year 2006- 2007. I applied to the United Arab Emirates and I was housed out of Dubai and I did Islamic Studies. And actually, as opposed to a lot of the people that just presented, I didn’t really know what I was going to do with my life. So after college I was working abroad in Egypt and I decided that I needed some more time to figure out what my research interests were. So I applied to the Fulbright in order to spend more time in the country, get more language skills, really narrow down what I wanted to study. At the time I was working with Islamic law and court systems, specifically in Egypt and I wanted to expand that over to the Gulf. Originally I thought I wanted to study in Saudi Arabia, but that wasn’t available so I figured Dubai was pretty great. So that’s the way I went. So I ended up doing an independent research project working on Islamic custody law in the courts of the U.A.E. and how federal courts differed from local courts, both the Islamic courts and other courts that they had. So I was living in Dubai and I was also living in Sharjah, the emirate next door, so they’re about 15 minutes apart. And my institution I selected was the American University of Sharjah and I actually set that up through my alma matter which was UC Berkeley. So, to a lot of you who are applying you should basically go back to your undergrad institution if you’re not already there and start talking to a lot of people about who they might know or who they can set you up with to talk about the country that you’re in. I’m going to specifically talk about what I wish I knew regarding the Fulbright before I left, or what I wish I knew when dealing with my research now having come full circle and knowing what my project was going to ultimately be and what my experience was going to be like. I think it’s really important to understand that you could really, quite frankly, end up all alone in the country that you go to and so you’ve really got to be excited about your project and you really have to take full advantage of what you’re gong to do. I happened to have… there were other Fulbrighters in the U.A.E. but we didn’t really work together at all. And so, when I first arrived, I just automatically assumed that someone was going to come pick me up from the airport and that everything was going to be great, but I foolishly didn’t arrange that myself. I just kind of thought it would happen. That’s something you’re going to learn is going to be a massive problem on your Fulbright. Things don’t just happen without you doing them; it’s kind of a revelation you’ll end up learning. So anyways, all the connections you end up making you’re pretty much going to forge for yourself. So you’re going to have to network and be really, really industrious and get a lot of stuff done. Also, I can’t speak for the rest of Africa, but I just want everyone to know… living in the Middle East is kind of difficult especially if you’ve never done it before. So there are a lot of great things about the Fulbright, in fact, I couldn’t even imagine not doing it. But, I mean, take a really realistic look. I mean, if you haven’t lived abroad, flexibility is going to be the key thing that you’re going to really need to hone. This is not even bus schedules, we’re talking you may need to rework a whole aspect of your research proposal because you didn’t quite realize that it was a sensitive issue at the time to ask 500 Muslim women about their divorces, which is a problem that I kind of got into. Not easily of course. I ended up working through the university and everyone was incredibly helpful. Because I basically went with the assumption that I just wanted to learn as much as possible about the U.A.E. and try and really understand what the courts were doing. And I think your genuine interest will ultimately shine through and people will be more than willing to help you. The only other thing is that , to those of you who are applying at large, don’t be afraid. I actually did it from Egypt, and doing it fro abroad is pretty difficult considering that a lot of the countries you’ll go to… well, I guess it doesn’t matter whether you’re broad or not. A lot of the institutions you want to work with may not have email addresses and even when they do they probably don’t check them very often. And so you really want to make sure that you kind of know where your project is going and who you want to work with and how realistic it actually is. But, basically, if I say one thing today, for those of you that are applying at large, you should really probably persuade a friend to also apply with you because you’re going to need someone to go over your stuff and really analytically look at what you’re doing, because if you do it by yourself, you’re going to get really lost. So, it’s a great experience, I really liked it. It fit perfectly into my career goals. I’m applying to PhD programs now, and I’m ultimately using the research that I did, working with the courts in my PhD program and it’s really great. I wouldn’t have exchanged it for the world. I hope that was good! Here you go. Jermaine: It was very good Dominic, thank you. Thank you all actually. Thank you very much.
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