A Fulbright Filmmaker in India

Delaney Ruston
Independent grantee to India, 2012-2013

The convergence of both professional and personal experiences led me to make films on community mental health workers in India as a Fulbright-Nehru Grantee.

It was not that long ago that the thought of mental health care in a global context was a topic very foreign to me. This was true in spite of the fact that I am a doctor with experience in international health. Global mental health was just not discussed, either in my academic or social circles.

Then I read that the World Health Organization estimates that 450 million people around the globe have mental health issues including conditions such as autism, depression, dementia, and many others. I wondered why we never heard more about these stories.

I experienced the silence of the stigma surrounding mental health issues in my own family. I grew up under the shadow of my dad’s schizophrenia. The impact of his illness was enormous and hiding it was devastating. I knew my story was not unique because as a physician working in clinics for the underserved, I saw time and again the impact of stigma on individuals and their families. I decided to do my small part in fighting this stigma by making a personal documentary around my relationship with my father. (Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia, on PBS).

When I eventually lost my dad to his illness, I realized I needed to fight the silence on a bigger level.

I packed up my video camera and started traveling, looking for personal stories in China, France, the U.S., Africa, and India. The stigma was so great that it took a lot of effort to find people willing to share their lives on film.

As part of my Fulbright grant I completed the film, Hidden Pictures, which had its world premiere through the U.S. Embassy in Delhi, in April 2013.

While making Hidden Pictures, I was always on the lookout for solutions to the silent epidemic of untreated mental illness. That quest led me to Dr. Vikram Patel and the Public Health Foundation of India. Dr. Patel is a world leader in global mental health, who for years has been studying how lay people from Indian communities can be trained to provide basic mental health services.

I became passionate about understanding how such programs function. What exactly were these community members trained to do? How widely were such approaches accepted?

I have now spent the past eight months traveling to various NGOs in India to film these community mental health workers in action. In the future, I will make at least three short documentaries. Stepping in for Mental Health was recently completed. To know more about these films and Hidden Pictures, join the Hidden Pictures Film Facebook page. Also, visit, www.hiddenpicturesfilm.com.

Five Months, Five Currencies, and Five Kids: 15 tips to survive Fulbright with a Full House

Loretta L.C. Brady, Ph.D., APA-CP
Associate Professor, Saint Anselm College
Cyprus 2012/2013

I was a 21 year old first generation minority McNair fellow when my mentor told me about her Fulbright to the Netherlands, and I learned that one could travel, do research, and build career-long international connections, all while being paid!  I set my sights on securing one, someday, and tucked the idea away.

By the time it was right in my career for me to pursue a Fulbright I was a married, mortgage-laden, pet- owning mother of five with more than only myself to consider as I perused the Fulbright Award Catalog. I searched for opportunities a year before applying, and it was about two years between looking at awards for 2012 and arriving in Cyprus with my husband, children, and a family friend who was traveling with us to help with the kids. During our semester in Cyprus I traveled to Israel, Egypt (with my three oldest children), Greece, and London (on our way back to the United States, thanks to a well-coordinated layover). We toured all over Cyprus and our kids collected Turkish and Egyptian lira, Israeli shekels, euros, and British pounds.  Some people thought traveling with five children under seven would be a disaster, but we found it a rewarding and enriching experience. Maybe some of these tips will help your big family make a Fulbright work, too.  

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Get organized

Parents with large families will need to prepare not only their scholarship materials but their family’s schooling, recreation, and community materials. Create organized files related to those needs while you are putting your application together. We had a Cyprus folder that included my proposals, contacts I was making for my work, and files related to schooling options, housing options, and community resources (pediatricians, uniform retailers, parks and playgrounds).  Any time one of us came across something that might prove handy at a later date, it was added to the folder for easy reference later. We didn’t have all the details ironed out before hitting “submit” but we had enough pieced together that we could wrap our heads around the first steps should my application be selected.

Ask questions

While you will need to inquire about research support and student learning styles, parents of large families will also do well to ask specific questions about what your family is likely to encounter while in country. Program officers may know a lot about the community, but they generally only tell you what you have asked them. Share that you have a large family and ask them about what they think local reaction would be, logistics that would be required, and whether the budget you have available is likely to work for so many mouths once you arrive. If you connect with prior scholars, ask whether they traveled with family and how they found the experience to be.

Consider needs, diet, and infrastructure

While you need to select a country that works professionally for you, pay attention to information about the country’s climate, infrastructure, diet, population, and education system.  This information is often available in various expat forums online and reviewing these will help you get a sense of whether the target country is a good fit for your family.

Be practical

It is easy to get so swept up in big picture things like host institution and kids’ schooling that you forget details like transportation and whether or not cars exist that suit your family size. Most European countries, for instance, have smaller cars than in the U.S. and asking around to various rental agents is wise.

Budget for the unexpected

An education credit may seem generous until you realize it is only going to cover a portion of what would normally be a school day and that on top of tuition you will need to pay uniform and activities fees. Reserving at least 10% of your funds for these unlisted expenses can help a great deal.

Connect early

While it may seem premature to have regular communication with folks before you learn of whether you have a Fulbright award, it is wise to send messages every few months to touch base, wish a happy holiday, or share a thought or idea. Being personally connected will make all the difference for what housing and transportation options you end up having access to, so don’t be shy even if you can’t be sure you will get there this year. We had communicated with so many people so often before our departure date that we threw a party our first weekend in Cyprus and invited everyone we had corresponded with along the way, as well as other Fulbrighters in the area. Most everyone we invited came and it served to make us feel connected to our new community right away. 

Tell your story

We found that people were often excited to hear about our situation and often gracious with suggestions or leads. If I had not shared our interest in renting a village home with a colleague, we never would have had the opportunity to live in an idyllic Cypriot village and would instead have likely ended up in what would have been a cramped apartment too small for our needs in center city Nicosia.  Americans can be very self-reliant, but it is okay to share what your needs might be.

Be gracious and curious

When we would encounter new friends we would ask about them, their work, and their families. This often opened up connections that brought us a chance to host other large families that we met. Often it is only large families that are brave enough to invite you over!

Hold onto routines and traditions

Dealing with homesickness can be a challenge. Having some consistency with your kids (bedtime stories, dinner, family meetings), even in a new environment, can help them feel grounded despite the disruption.

Create a countdown

Our children really benefitted from a calendar they created before we left and then again about half-way through our trip. It included major holidays and family events along with dates that we would travel.  When they needed some reassurance that they would be traveling they were able to refer to it easily and mark off days as we got closer.

Give kids decision making authority

Whether it was in picking which Lego pieces would travel, which friends we would visit, or which items needed to come back home, giving kids some decisions that they get to make for themselves or the family goes a long way to making them a bit more cooperative even in the face of change.

Introduce new foods in familiar contexts

We learned a few recipes before we left and made a point to visit some Greek festivals to expose kids to tastes they would encounter. Don’t be put off if they hate the foods you try; exposure is the key to developing a taste for new flavors. Getting a few tastes in from home base will help them once you arrive.

Delegate (busy boxes) and Diversify (suitcase contents)

Easily the worst part of traveling with young children is the airport experience and the close, not-always-quiet, quarters of the plane.  Packing lunch boxes with quiet but engaging activities, stickers, and snacks can save you some sanity en route. Airlines are bound to misplace at least one piece of luggage when traveling with such a large party, so be sure to put a change of clothes for each person in a carry-on. You might also want to mix and match items in each case so if a bag does get misplaced everyone is equally affected instead of only one person being on the hook. 

Get guidebooks early

Leaving home is such an abstract idea that having something tangible that represents your new location can help kids start talking and preparing. Our kids created maps, charted all the locations they wanted to see, and learned about fun facts in a way that got them excited.

Use bedtime stories to share and prepare

When we arrived we lucked upon a locally written book about our village. I would read up about it during the evening and the next night that would become part of our bedtime story. When we took walks or saw something the kids could talk about the story and it helped them develop knowledge about their new home quickly.

From Harlem to Dakar: My Fulbright Experience in Senegal

As a Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Marie Nazon conducted a qualitative study with the goal of developing an understanding and awareness of women’s experiences with empowerment in self-help groups in Senegal. The study examined how women in self-help groups associate empowerment with changes in women’s social, economical, and psychological conditions after their involvement. Dr. Nazon’s host institution in Senegal was Tostan International where she served as social work consultant for the Tostan Prison Project. She provided support in capacity building, grant writing, program development, mediation, and outreach initiatives in five of the major prisons in Senegal.

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For the academic year 2010-2011, I was one of 13 researchers to receive a Fulbright grant in the African Regional Research Program. This was one of the most exciting, rewarding and productive years of my life and career.  The Fulbright experience brought me into contact with a fascinating array of people and colleagues, from whom I have learned so much about the Senegalese culture and its people. The relationships I made benefitted my life beyond the grant and my research.

My host institution, Tostan International, is a non-profit organization known for its culturally sensitive approach to the community-led female genital cutting and forced marriage abandonment movement in Africa. As an affiliated researcher with Tostan, I had full access to their facilities, resources, and staff. I worked closely with Tostan staff to collect data in two villages where I conducted focus groups and individual interviews with an established women’s group. Prior to data collection, I spent time in the field getting to know the women’s group and the work of Tostan.

During my fieldwork, I learned about a small project in the prison system, the Tostan Prison Project. The prison project provides human rights-based informal education classes with inmates, family mediation, and trains inmates in income-generating activities so that when they are released they have a skill they can use to support themselves. In Senegal, I experienced what life was like behind prison walls. On any given week, I was in at least two of the five prisons where Tostan held programs. I focused my work primarily on the prisons for women and youth. It was a humbling experience for me to provide services for a vulnerable population and it was my work with the prison project that became the defining experience for me as a Fulbright Scholar and as a social worker. The experience with the prison project enhanced my sense of compassion and empathy for others and it helped me learn to be less judgmental.

I undertook some unexpected tasks with the prison project that included being the project manager for the construction of a well in the youth prison, an undertaking that I had initiated and for which I secured funding. At my invitation, the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal attended the inauguration of the well, which was also  the U.S. Embassy’s first visit to the youth prison. In addition to my work with the youth prison, I launched a pilot project in one of the women’s prisons to teach women how to make their own sanitary pads. The project took off and became the Cloth Menstrual Pad Project. The women not only made the pads for themselves but expressed interest in making this an income-generating activity to sell to other women upon their release. The project will be launched at two other women’s prisons where Tostan conducts programs.

In addition to my research and community work, I mentored two undergraduate students at the local university. Also, with access to the U.S. Embassy’s facilities and in coordination with the Media Department at my home institution, I conducted two intercontinental video seminars. One was with students from my home institution in Harlem, New York, and Senegalese students on cross-cultural understanding and study abroad. The other was between a women’s studies class and Tostan staff,  discussing my research and women’s empowerment in developing countries.  What a thrill it was for my students in Harlem and the students in Senegal to overcome time and distance to converse on topics of mutual interest!

I returned to my home institution in Harlem, New York excited, energized, and with a new commitment to my students and my department.  Six months later I returned to Senegal for a short follow-up trip and was invited to do presentations on the Cloth Menstrual Pad Project among other activities. The experience inspired new research interests and contributed to my scholarly activities such that I presented my work with the prison project at the International Social Work Conference. In collaboration with a colleague I met at Tostan, I developed a study abroad program in Senegal focused on women and sustainable community development.

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On a personal note, this experience contributed immeasurably to my social and personal development. I made lifelong friends and professional contacts. But what made this experience special was that the Fulbright grant gave me an opportunity to give my teenage daughter an experience of a lifetime. My daughter started high school in Senegal. She had an opportunity to explore and learn about a totally different culture and to learn French.  Moreover, she experienced tremendous personal growth. She is now studying French at a local college and plans to travel with her school on a study abroad program in Ethiopia. The Fulbright grant is one of the few travel research grants that is family friendly. Fulbright is an opportunity for you and your family to step out into an unknown world and to have a deep engagement with a culture unlike any you have had before. It is a life-changing experience that can leave you forever transformed.

Dr. Marie C. Nazon is Assistant Professor/Counselor with the Department of SEEK Counseling and Student Support  Services  at The City College of New York. SEEK is an opportunity program and stands for Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge.

Core Fulbright Scholar Program Deadline Approaching

The deadline for the 2014-15 Core Fulbright Scholar Program competition is Thursday, August 1.

Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program opportunities for faculty members, administrators, and professionals exist around the globe. This year there are nearly 600 awards in virtually every academic discipline and in six world regions.  The Fulbright Scholar program offers teaching, research, or combined teaching/research awards.  Applicants may search for awards by program and by academic discipline by visiting our online Catalog of Awards.

Please also keep in mind several program innovations have been introduced this competition to meet the changing needs of U.S. academics and professionals. These include the global TEFL award for teachers of English as a foreign language, flexible grant length options, post-doc and early career awards, and supplemented salary stipends.

Here are a few specific opportunities to consider:

Algeria (4382) Multiple Disciplines

Applications are sought in a wide range of disciplines from geology to architecture to communications. Grantees will teach at the undergraduate or graduate levels, with an emphasis on American studies. Numerous Algerian universities are available as potential host sites.

Bahrain (4384) Business and Economics

Two grants are available for scholars to teach and/or conduct research. Special foci include fostering sustainable and productive public-private partnerships and issues relating to trade relationships and policy. In addition, short term Flex grants for Bahrain are available through the Middle East and North Africa Regional Research Program. Flex grants support research opportunities for 1 to 3-month segments (in the same country) over two to three consecutive academic years, for a total of approximately one semester (4 to 6 months).

Belgium (4535) NATO Security Studies

The grantee will teach an elective course in transatlantic security studies at the College of Europe, Brugge, and will be invited to attend the Belgian Fulbright Commission’s annual EU/NATO seminar, offering an opportunity to visit NATO headquarters.

Brazil (4456) Fulbright-ALCOA Distinguished Chair in the Environmental Sciences and Engineering

This award for mid-career researchers and senior faculty is part of the dynamic new academic exchange partnership between the governments of the U.S. and Brazil. The scholar will teach graduate and undergraduate courses, organize seminars, and collaborate with Brazilian faculty with the objective of highlighting the contributions of U.S. scholars to the development of environmental and engineering scholarship in Brazil.

Canada (4473) Visiting Chairs in International Development Studies

This award presents an opportunity for scholars in a variety of fields, from conflict analysis to international development, to teach and/or conduct research as a Visiting Chair at Carleton University, with an additional affiliation at the prestigious North-South Institute or McGill University.

Colombia (4520) Fulbright-Colciencias Innovation and Technology Award

Scholars in a variety of STEM fields including energy, biotechnology, agriculture and information technology are encouraged to apply to this award. Colciencias is the Department of Science, Technology, and Innovation within the Government of Colombia and is responsible for advancing public policies that promote the development and transmission of knowledge in these areas. Flex grants that support research opportunities for 1 to 3-month segments (in the same country) over two to three consecutive academic years are available.

Fulbright-Fogarty Postdoctoral Public Health Award (Sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh, Peru) (4001/4002)

This group of awards is available through a partnership with the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center. Grantees will conduct public health research at Fogarty-affiliated sites in one of eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh or Peru.

Hungary (4236) Laszlo Orszagh Chair in American Studies

The Laszlo Orszagh Chair teaches and directs research at the undergraduate and graduate levels in topics ranging from American history to art to ethnic studies. Additional activities will depend on the specific host institution; scholars are encouraged to give presentations at other Hungarian universities.

India (4431) Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Awards

With the largest number of grants offered worldwide, this program offers scholars of all disciplines the opportunity to teach and/or conduct research in India’s expansive and dynamic higher education system. Grantees in South and Central Asia may also apply for a regional travel grant to give lectures at institutions in eligible countries in the region. In addition, scholars may apply for a flex grant to complete their research in multiple short term stays over two consecutive years.

Italy (4533) All Disciplines in the South of Italy

This award is open to scholars, particularly in science and technology, who wish to work from and focus their teaching and research on the south of Italy.

Jordan (4402) Nursing

This opportunity welcomes applicants specializing in adult health, oncology, women’s health, and community health nursing, among other related disciplines, to teach two graduate courses and one undergraduate course.

Kuwait (4406) All Disciplines

Private universities in Kuwait seek senior scholars to make an impact on the future direction of their institutions, especially in fields relating to American Studies. This award offers a unique opportunity to engage in dialogue and exchange ideas within the Arab higher education community while enjoying a standard of living similar to that of the United States.

Taiwan (4123, 4124, 4521) Arts, Education, Humanities, Professional Fields and Social Sciences

Available for teaching, research or postdoctoral research, these awards welcome scholars in a range of specializations including art, dance, film, public policy, journalism and international affairs. Scholars will teach or conduct research in Taiwan’s dynamic and concentrated academic community.

Tajikistan (4446) All Disciplines

Applicants in fields from economics to education to global health are sought to teach classes at the undergraduate or graduate level, with some additional time for research, in this beautiful, mountainous country. In addition, grantees will be able to apply for a regional travel grant to give lectures at institutions in other eligible South and Central Asian countries.

Pakistan (4444) All Disciplines

Scholars will have the opportunity to increase understanding and engagement between the people of the U.S. and Pakistan through teaching and/or conducting research in a variety of disciplines. In addition, grantees will be able to apply for a regional travel grant to give lectures at institutions in other eligible South and Central Asian countries.

Filmmaking through Fulbright

Kavery Kaul
India, 2012-2013

Five months in India! The possibility of a long-term experience abroad inspired me to apply for a Fulbright. This motivation was also predicated on the discovery that a Fulbright Scholar could be a filmmaker, like me, and is not limited to just researchers and professors. Creative expression, documentary exploration, non-academic field research – these fields are welcome in the Fulbright program. And Fulbright even allows families to accompany the grantee, which was important in my case.

With a Fulbright grant in hand, I flew to Kolkata to make a documentary about the American writer Fatima Shaik, whose grandfather sailed from Kolkata to the United States in 1893. Mohamed Musa was one of the first Indians in the U.S. He was also the only Bengali Muslim in Fatima’s African-American Christian New Orleans family.

I took Fatima on her first trip to India in a reverse journey that tells a story of the Indian diaspora and the making of America. It’s also a look at present-day Kolkata and New Orleans, as well as an insight into intercultural/interfaith differences that merit recognition, but need not keep us apart.

For me, it was a return to the city where I was born. I was able to have many cups of tea with the filmmakers, writers, historians, artists, and philosophers of this city. I spent time roaming the streets of Kolkata and the villages of Hooghly to prepare for the principal cinematography I completed with an international Indian and American production team.

In Kolkata, I was affiliated with the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute (SRFTI) where I spoke to students about my work and theirs. In fact, the production team of my documentary included SRFTI faculty in major roles, with students as assistants.

For my children who were in Kolkata with me, there was a warm reception at the neighborhood stores whenever they went by themselves. They were inspired by the places they visited. For all of us, it was an opportunity to develop close professional and personal relationships—the ties at the heart of a deeper, lasting friendship between peoples.

My Fulbright Experience in Aligarh, India

Afzal A. Siddiqui, PhD
Grover E. Murray Distinguished Professor
Texas Tech School of Medicine
India

Through a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program grant, I went back to my alma mater, Aligarh University, after over 30 years to spend six months teaching and researching. This turned out to be the most productive and rewarding experience of my life. So much has changed in the years I have been away from India. There is now a tremendous amount of Western influence in every walk of life that was not there when I left India in 1982. The benefits of free-market economy can be seen all over India – indeed this great country is definitely on the path of tremendous growth and development. This has also resulted in the expansion of academic institutions, many of which are now privately owned. I visited and gave seminars at several of these and was impressed by the outstanding talent.

My host institution has a top notch faculty specializing in a very important area of research, parasitology. The research they are carrying out is very relevant to India. They are developing newer and more sensitive methods to diagnose parasitic infections that cause high mortality and morbidity both in humans and animals. These faculty members also excel in teaching- still doing it the old fashioned way with chalk and a blackboard. I found the students to be attentive and dedicated. Students still stand up when the professor walks into a classroom to show their respect.

On the administrative front, the United States-India Educational Foundation staff is extraordinarily efficient, friendly and helpful. USIEF is headed by Adam Grotsky, a brilliant, pragmatic leader who has expanded the Fulbright Program in a very constructive manner. USIEF staff, Diya, Vinita, and Bharathi, have stellar organizational skills and they are always there to find a way for things to work smoothly for the Fulbrighters from the United States.  The impact of their hard work with the Fulbright Program can be seen in so many areas and this continues to influence academia in India in a positive manner.

Overall, Fulbright was a great experience for me both personally and professionally. I strongly recommend scientists from the United States to pursue this excellent program at least once in their life time. I would welcome anyone to contact me if they require any additional information before applying to this program.

India has approximately 80 U.S. scholar grants across four award categories for the 2014-15 academic year. The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in India, also known as the Fulbright-Nehru Program, offers the largest number of Fulbright U.S. scholar grants worldwide.

Flex Grants Offer More Options for Scholars in 2014-2015

As the need for more versatile ways to conduct research abroad is growing, opportunities for scholars to spend multiple semesters away from their institutions are not keeping pace. Many scholars must respond to changing priorities across fields that emphasize both international experience and collaborative and innovative research. In response to these changes, the Fulbright Scholar Program invites academics and professionals to submit applications for research projects that require multiple short term visits over a period of two to three years.  In addition to their research activities, Flex scholars will engage with their host institution and community by giving talks, acting as a mentor, and participating in conferences and seminars. Flex grants are offered in all six world regions.

While international collaboration is a goal and a frequent outcome of all Fulbright Scholar grants, Flex awards particularly facilitate these types of continued relationships. Annual visits over multiple years compel scholars and administrators to invest in long term partnerships.

“This grant has enabled me to become acquainted with numerous
colleagues, not only in my host institution, but in others as well. This, in
turn, has resulted in various plans for future collaborations both in the
classroom and in my research. It has been an invaluable experience
that I will try to pass on to my colleagues and students.”

The demand for flexible grant opportunities also reflects the increasing role of technology in the interplay between institutions of higher education. Institutions and individual faculty alike are leveraging new ways of sharing information as options for online learning and collaboration multiply and traditional restrictions on choosing cross-institutional partners have fallen.

“I will certainly keep in touch with all these people and will collaborate
in terms of publications [and] seminars, which I plan to give as soon
as I have completed my research”

Flex grants may also be more suitable for research that can benefit from longer or intermittent periods of study and reflection. A more flexible option will greatly facilitate research if a project aims to study phenomena over time or to revisit information gathered during an initial period of investigation. This option can also be helpful for those whose research is seasonal or logistically limited.

For more information on countries that offer Flex opportunities in the 2014-15 competition and on how to apply please visit http://www.cies.org/us_scholars/us_awards/catalog/2014-2015/FLEX/.

Research on Thailand’s Vegetarian Festival: How Social Support turns Pain into Pride

Andreas Schneider

From left to right: two helpers in Schneider’s project, the visiting monk at the shrine, Schneider, the president of all Phuket shrines.

By Andreas Schneider (Ph.D., Indiana University)
Associate Professor of Sociology
Texas Tech University

During my Fulbright grant in Thailand, I sought evidence of how social support creates situations in which people achieve positive identities, a process instrumental in rendering their subjective experience of pain. To study the rendering of pain, I interviewed the Ma Song, a group of religious devotees that engage in extreme forms of self-torture during the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket.

The Vegetarian Festival started as a form of redemption for the successful recovery of a community from a plague. The festival has been held annually since 1825 by the large Chinese immigrant community in Phuket Town and increasingly elsewhere in Thailand.

The Ma Song are chosen by the leaders of nine shrines in Phuket.  They often volunteer because they experienced life threatening events.  According to the local interpretation of Chinese Taoism, during the festival, the nine embody the gods’ will incarnate on earth in the bodies of the Ma Song.  I gained the understanding that the Ma Song follow a Chinese logic of fair trade: they volunteer their bodies to be used by the gods in exchange for being kept alive through the gods’ use of their bodies in the future. The Ma Song inflict on themselves mild to extreme piercings that are displayed in processions, fire walking, and the climbing of high ladders with steps of blades.

The challenge for me was to conduct interviews with the Ma Song during the time of the festival while they were not occupied with the festival itself or suffering from the physical aftermath of their activities. Having finished the interviews before the main events, I was able to conduct a photo documentation of the piercing ceremonies, processions, fire walking and the ladder climbing photographically.

I was especially touched on my last day during the purification ritual where thousands of devotees walked across a symbolic bridge to be stamped by the Ma Song with the seal of the nine emperor gods.  Blonde and 6’4”, I clearly stood out of the crowd. My colleague Supatra Supchukul (Patti) from Burapha University remarked that I was the only white guy she had seen, though I did not feel out of place.

Because of the recent sensationalization of the religious practices of minorities through the posting of explicit images on the Internet, I had to work delicately to obtain the collaboration of the Kingdom, the Shrines and the Ma Song. Despite this, the collaboration and support for my research in Thailand was overwhelming. The National Research Council of Thailand in Bangkok approved my application to conduct research in Thailand and informed the Phuket Provincial Cultural Office to support my case with the Governor of Phuket and the Presidents of the local Shrines.

Meeting all these people was half the fun. However, I was grateful when Supatra Supchukul (Patti), came to Phuket to support me in my ongoing research project, easing communication about our work. Patti’s presence was also instrumental in approaching the female Ma Songs that recently were allowed to participate in most of the events in one of the temples.

My Fulbright Experience in Brazil at Univali – Universidade do Vale do Itajai

By Professor Mohammed Rawwas
University of Northern Iowa
Professor of Marketing

My Fulbright in Brazil, where I taught and conducted research in business and marketing, stands out as one of my best teaching experiences.  I enjoyed the company of the university’s warm and helpful administration, professors, and students.  The International Director made every effort to make my family and my visit comfortable and rewarding and the university’s president and vice president were open, cordial and sincere.  They were very much interested in what I was offering in terms of research and teaching experience, and placed a great value on this exchange program.   Consequently, they asked me to give several lectures to undergrads and MBA and Ph.D. students in different locations in Brazil.

The professors I worked with were also very hospitable and warm-hearted.  Many of them attended my classes and showed genuine interest in my teaching and research.  They asked me to give a presentation about my research and many had interests similar to mine: consumer behavior, sustainability, business ethics, and new product development – all topics that are crucial for building a growing Brazilian economy. The discussion was very rewarding and I learned a great deal from my Brazilian colleagues.

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Professor Mohammed Rawwas with his graduate students.

 

Students were very curious and keen for knowledge.  I gave many lectures to different groups of students at a variety of locations, teaching undergrads in the university’s Balneario Camboriu campus (a fifteen-minute drive from home), MBA and Ph.D. students at the Florianopolis campus (a two-hour drive), and non-business students at the Itajai campus (a one-hour drive).   The most interesting class to me was to listen to Ph.D. students presentations discussing their dissertations.  My role was to answer their questions and provide guidance.  I was very impressed and pleased with the seriousness and the quality of their research.  This type of interaction made my stay extremely valuable and rewarding.

Although the university’s main administration office was located in Itajai, we were offered accommodation in Balneario Camboriu (a resort town on the Atlantic Ocean).  During the summer (winter in the northern hemisphere), it was very crowded.  In autumn, during our visit, it was mild.  The beaches were clean and populated by vacationing families. We used to walk every evening on the beach to watch the sunset and wait for fishermen to bring in their catch.  Fish was abundant, large in variety and high in quality, and prices were very affordable.  The town had one main street that was full of boutiques, restaurants, and bakery shops, and looked like a petite avenue of ChampsÉlysées.  At the end of the street, there was a monstrous Wal-Mart that the Brazilians called Biggy.  Kibbe and Soufieh, two Lebanese dishes, were offered everywhere, including in the main street.  It seemed that the nine million Lebanese who immigrated two hundred years ago to Brazil definitively left their mark on Brazilian culture.

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Professor Rawwas’ children at Foz Do Iguassu waterfalls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The major trips we made were to Foz Do Iguassu waterfalls and Bonito village.  Foz Do Iguassu waterfalls span three countries: Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.  The falls, totaling 275 in number and stretching for almost two miles, have a flow capacity equal to three times that of Niagara Falls.  Bonito village is located in the deep, tropical west of Brazil.  Wildlife was abundant, including parrots, toucans, macaws, owls, and emus.  We snorkeled in a river, white water rafted and watched various species of fish. In sum, we enjoyed every minute of our experience.  Our life will never be the same after experiencing this rich culture and its warm and friendly people.

Engaging Early Career Academics: New Fulbright Postdoc Opportunities

“My Fulbright experience has certainly changed my life and has helped immensely in furthering my career.  The impact was evident in the responses I received for applications to new positions after my Fulbright research was complete. I ended up taking a very prestigious position for my next postdoc which I would not have been able to get had it not been for the Fulbright award. This is the kind of impact which will propagate throughout my career and I am very fortunate to have had this opportunity.”

–          Fulbright U.S. Scholar to Israel, Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

The Fulbright Scholar Program, and its sponsor, the U.S. Department of State, are eager to engage postdoctoral and early career academics through new opportunities in a range of countries and fields.  Postdoctoral/early career grants target U.S. scholars who have recently completed their doctoral degrees – typically within the five previous years.  There has never been a better time to apply for Fulbright U.S. Scholar awards open to early career academics, with over 170 awards in more than 80 countries worldwide offered for the 2014-2015 academic year.

In addition to primary research or teaching activities, postdoctoral and early career scholars will be asked to give public talks, mentor students, and otherwise engage with the host country academic community.  Fulbright Scholars will also be expected to connect with graduate students in the host country and to be involved with host university training in cutting edge research in their specializations.  Grant lengths range from one semester to 20 months, depending on the host country.  There are also flexible options available to scholars currently unable to spend extended periods of time abroad.

Postdoctoral awards are available in all fields of study, from STEM, to the arts, humanities and social sciences.  Public health scholars should take special note of the Fulbright-Fogarty Postdoctoral Awards for research at a National Institutes of Health Fogarty site in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi or Zimbabwe through the African Regional Research Program, or in South Africa, Bangladesh or Peru.

The Fulbright Scholar Program presents excellent opportunities for recently minted scholars to deepen their expertise, to acquire new skills, to work with additional resources and to make connections with others in their fields, all while serving as cultural ambassadors and meeting the public diplomacy intent of the Fulbright Program – to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.  To learn more, visit the Catalog of Awards or contact scholars@iie.org.

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