#IEW2015: Wisdom Beyond Our Own Borders

By Diyyinah Jamora, 2015-2016 Killam Fellow from the  University of Ottawa to the University of Maine

I come from Canada, born in Vancouver and studying in Ottawa. Just this August, I packed up my things and moved to a new university and a new home to call my own for the next four months: Maine. I had never been to New England or even seen the Atlantic Ocean prior to living in Orono. Looking at a map of the United States you would think, “so basically it’s Canada.” But I quickly learned that living in a small town in Maine is incredibly different than back home, and studying at an American college is a very different educational experience.

During my exchange semester at the University of Maine, I’ve been fortunate to attend the 2015 Cohen Lecture: America’s Response to Global Instability where I heard from the Honorable William S. Cohen, former Secretary of Defense, General Joseph W. Ralston, former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, and Ambassador Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. General Ralston made a point that really resonated with me: all wisdom does not reside in the United States. When dealing with a foreign culture, we must bring viewpoints of people in the regions who are wise leaders, and get their input. We need to bring in people who understand.

There truly is immense wisdom beyond our own borders. In my American college classes, I have met students with opinions and perspectives that were very different from my own. The debates in my political science courses at times get very heated. During my exchange I have met so many passionate individuals with different worldviews. I have been exposed to beliefs and stances that I had never personally encountered before. Some, I will admit, were shocking. I have heard many life stories, and acquired new experiences of my own. I have argued, I have agreed, but most importantly, I have grown.

I have learned, and I have reflected. I have modified my own worldview, and continue to evolve as I learn new things. The more I listen to others, the more I begin to understand. I try to pursue knowledge straight from the original source, and try to rely less on secondary interpretations. And I will continue to seek wisdom beyond my own borders, and consider those ideas that may not necessarily agree with my own.

I encourage you to pursue an understanding of a different culture and gain new perspective. It is such an eye-opening experience to become immersed in a society other than your own. Go on a cultural or educational exchange! To my mind, I have promised growth. There is so much wisdom in the world if you only are willing to listen and give it a chance.

#IEW2015: A Fulbright Fellowship is a Lifelong Journey Available to All

By Cheryl A. Camillo, 2015-2016 Fulbright Scholar from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to the University of Regina

In reflecting upon International Education Week (IEW), I came to understand that a Fulbright fellowship is a lifelong journey. The exchange experience does not start when one arrives in the host country, or even when one begins the Fulbright application, rather it starts when one first realizes the benefits of international exchange, which can happen as soon as one recognizes a difference between countries or their cultures.

Looking back, my Fulbright journey started when I was very young when my great-aunts from Italy first shared some of the practices they brought with them from “the old country.” Just by visiting with them on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I learned that one could make food and drink by hand in addition to purchasing it at a store. For example, I learned that we could make spaghetti by rolling dough we made on the kitchen table and we could make wine by stomping the purple grapes that grew on the trellis in front of Aunt Dorothy’s garage. While this knowledge might seem commonplace, that was not the case. Many of my primary school classmates believed that spaghetti came only from a box or can, in the form of “SpaghettiOs”.Camillo Photo #3

Because I grew up just miles from the Canadian border, I soon became exposed to other foreign practices. Starting in the 1970s, Ontario road signs declared the speed limit in kilometres per hour and consumer packages provided instructions in French as well as English. These changes not only provided occasional mental exercise (I would convert the provincial speed limits into miles per hour for my grandfather by multiplying them by .6), they made me realize that I could enjoy visiting a place with different customs.

By the time I was in my late teens, I appreciated that foreign countries offered serious social policy alternatives too. My ‘aha!’ moment came when my friend Anne (“Anne from Canada” as I called her) recounted her experience getting medical care during a flu epidemic that struck on both sides of the border—she walked into a Ontario clinic with her provincial health insurance card and saw a doctor the same day while we in Buffalo called our family physicians to schedule appointments at their convenience, usually for some day the following week.

Due to these life experiences, when I became a health policy researcher it was natural for me to look to Canada for policy options that could be applied to the U.S. context. And when, thanks to Fulbright Canada, I moved to Regina, Saskatchewan to begin cross-national research, I immediately adapted to life in a place I had never set foot in, including when behind the wheel of my car.

So to students and researchers who are intrigued by studying or working in another country but feel unqualified or unready, I say that in this highly connected, globalized world you have probably already begun your journey. You can describe your trajectory in the personal statement you will submit as part of your Fulbright application. Good luck!

#IEW2015: Meaningful and Deeper Value in International Education

By Justin Park, Fulbright 2015-2016 student from University of California-Los Angeles to Concordia University.

What is it about international education that challenges us to see the world in a different way? It is not only about recognizing the difference in language, culture and society, as we can be well conscious of it while being at home. It’s not just about checking off the places we have been wanting to visit. It has much more meaningful and deeper value to us as students.21812837799_9ce331c1a8_o

As a Fulbright student in Montreal, I am given the opportunity to study my passion and interests in a brand new environment. One might think, how can Canada be that different from the United States? Speculations like these are all assumptions that we hold until they shatter in the light of new perspectives and thoughts following our arrival to a new place. Personally I see it as a first-hand opportunity to study immigration in a global context, to observe the naturalization process for African immigrants in a setting that is unique for its own immigration history and policy, and attempt to understand the thought process of immigrants to Canada. It may be possible to study this phenomenon without leaving the U.S. since the ever-developing technology allows us access to information at our fingertips.

Yet I find it especially important to be in the right context for things at the right time, an experience which from an education standpoint is invaluable. For example, Canada is among many countries in the world that deals with a large number of immigrants at a time when the pace and the direction of international migration are always in flux. In my spare time I try to meet as many people as I can through volunteering or random encounters, and I have heard some incredible stories. I feel extremely lucky to be studying immigration in Montreal for a year.

Justin is a recently returned Peace Corps volunteer from Dschang, Cameroon, where he was an education volunteer for two years

International education is becoming more and more pertinent than ever before. What we know and see can always be tested in a different environment, situation, or country. And by doing that we broaden our knowledge and deepen our understanding of the world. Challenging oneself to a new culture and values is always a good idea, a sentiment I’m sure was shared by Senator J. William Fulbright.

#IEW2015: Finding My Place In Canada

By Allison Turner, 2015-2016 Fulbright Student from Purdue University at the University of Waterloo

I’ve been in Canada for two and a half months. I’ve been in graduate school for two of those months. What have I learned after all of that international education-ing(?). This: if you want to feel alive, go study abroad…but be prepared for quite a ride.

In the first few weeks of my program, I felt lonely and frustrated. I’m used to a packed schedule, but graduate school started off very slowly. I only take one course this semester, and the remainder of my work involves the solitary tasks of reading and writing. I had lots of questions, but I felt silly asking them. Most of my classmates enjoyed the company of a friend close by; I struggled to keep in touch with old friends and mentors, who were a nation away.IMG_3964

However, I made an effort to resolve these issues, and things have improved as a result. Instead of doing my reading and writing alone, I now choose to work in a more collaborative “shared research space.” My classmates have been friendly and supportive beyond what I expected. They take the time to answer my silly questions, which has made me more confident asking them. They also frequently ask me how I’m doing and include me in excursions and workshops—actions we Americans sometimes neglect to do (and something I’m now working hard to improve upon).

“Last week I traveled to a Lake Erie forum for my research, where I learned firsthand about issues and initiatives in the area.”

Finding ways to get involved has also made me feel more at home in Canada. I’m a Master’s student representative for my department. I’ve taken on a leadership role in a student group, running the promotions committee for a festival happening next March. I am volunteering with a community group similar to one I volunteered at as an undergraduate, and it’s been fun to compare and contrast their approach. I attend fitness classes every week, where I come across students from different fields of study and from other foreign countries. Last week I traveled to a Lake Erie forum for my research, where I learned firsthand about issues and initiatives in the area. I also stopped by a greenhouse, national park, and provincial park on my way back to campus.

Finally, it’s been fun to learn unique things about Canada, while sharing stories from the United States. For example, I learned a lot about Canadian politics when I watched the election results with my classmates, and I got to talk to my classmates about the early stages of the American presidential race. I’m in awe of the Canadian tradition of wearing a poppy to remember their veterans, wishing we had something similar in the United States. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed trying some Canadian food!

In sum, international education has taught me to embrace the exhilarating and the challenge—because the sum of this journey has forced me to grow as a person and as a global citizen. In the process of “acquaint[ing] Americans with the world as it is,” as Fulbright puts it, international education also requires us to be acquainted with ourselves. In the process of “humanizing mankind,” we undertake a very human experience. International education gives students the tools to transform the world because it first gives them the tools to transform themselves.

#IEW2015: Enlightened Curiosity via International Education

By Bailey Anderson, 2015-16 Killam Fellow, University of Texas – Austin to Memorial University of Newfoundland

International education has been an important aspect of my life since, as an insecure 16 year old, I decided to go to Argentina for a year as a Rotary Youth Ambassador. My experience there taught me more about myself, the world, and my own background than any amount of time in my small home town could have. It taught me to search for the value in every experience and every person and that fear of failure is one of the worst reasons to let life slip you by.

Since I completed my Rotary Exchange in 2013 I have been involved with international education in a number of ways, including volunteering as a counselor for rotary students, working in the University of Texas’s International Office, and of course studying abroad. In addition to my initial Rotary exchange I have studied in Panama and now in Newfoundland as a Killam Fellow. I have spoken with people whose experiences abroad were as good as or better than they imagined, and people who have described them as some of the most challenging times of their lives. Regardless, time after time, the common theme in their stories is one of enlightenment.

The opportunity to spend close to 5 months somewhere as beautiful as Newfoundland is just a bonus.

An international education, be it in a country as close to home as Canada or as distant as China, forces a person to be flexible in their understanding of the world. It causes one to recognize differences in beliefs and cultural norms for what they are. Not better or worse in their own right, just different manifestations and understandings of globally similar needs and desires.

International education provides a platform for growth. It pushes a person to explore and adapt, to integrate into a structure that is in many ways unlike their prior experiences and emerge from it as a more dynamic being. But perhaps the most incredible aspect of international education is that it shows us how similar we are as humans. It goes beyond images of politics and protest that so often fill the news. It breeds understanding and tolerance, and mends rifts between cultures.

My life has been shaped by my experiences with international education, specifically by the people I have met and the seemingly strange—yes, even in Canada—and challenging situations I have encountered. I don’t know where I would be now or where I would be headed if I hadn’t made the initial decision at 16 to go abroad, but I am beyond thankful that I did. There is a saying among Rotary Exchange Students (adapted from a quote by Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammer) that if everyone in the world had the opportunity to study internationally when they are young, there would be no more war. At the very least, I believe that it would create a generation of perpetually curious and tolerant people.

#IEW2015: Scientist In The Studio

By Dr. Lomax Boyd, Fulbright Scholar 2015-2016

The studio of the National Film Board of Canada is one of the last places you might expect to find an American biologist.

Having spent years in a laboratory, my outlook on the world was solidly scientific. I had gone through the gauntlet of scientific training, published a respectable paper, and was set for the next step in a traditional scientific career. But what was once a side interest while in graduate school—producing intimate, visceral documentary films about science—had morphed into a fully fledged passion. The problem, however, was that no one funded that kind of passion! Or so I thought.

LomaxNFB1The personal motivations, backstory, and struggles a scientist goes through in the pursuit of their research always takes a backseat to the research itself. But in a studio, as in good storytelling, these emotional layers are everything. Audiences connect with a story, regardless of the particulars, that captures the plight and triumph (or failure) of others. I wondered if the ever growing polarization we see between science and the public—take your pick of controversial issues— could, in part, be attributed to way science is presented as a process devoid of emotion, intention, or even characters?  

My curiosity fizzled as I discovered the dearth of opportunities afforded to scientists eager to learn from storytellers and visual artists. There was no institutional framework for this odd intersection of interests. Yet I wanted to research how documentary— an art form dedicated to the representation of human experience—could help dissolve the cultural tension between science and the public. I had to think creatively, and internationally. There was only one program which afforded the intellectual freedom I needed: the US Fulbright Program.  LomaxNFB2

I set out to see if techniques in documentary storytelling, when combined with the latest in media technology, could help reframe how science is represented. One of the wonders of international education is that you get to experience, first hand, the way other governments invest in their communities. For the last 70 years, the National Film Board has been dedicated to the preservation and presentation of Canadian culture. They have led the world in emergent forms of storytelling. As part of my Fulbright, I am producing a series of short stories for a new digital platform that seeks to capture intimate moments in the lives of everyday Canadians. They are personal, yet universal. This new cinematic reading series will enable a new type of media-rich interaction, while preserving the narrative structure that captures our hearts and minds. Desire, struggle, and resolution are the core elements in literature’s greatest works, and they are equally befitting of the scientific process.

But working between fields is risky. Am I a scientist or an artist? Will my experiences be valued by the scientific community upon my return home? Regardless, my international experience has already begun to transform my future as a scientist and provided a means for everyone, regardless of previous education, to experience a little bit of science.