Bulgarian Bluegrass Musician and Fulbright Scholar Lilly Drumeva Lands at WKU

This article originally appeared on WKU Public Radio and is being republished courtesy of the author.  

When you think of bluegrass and country music, places like Kentucky and Tennessee probably come to mind.

A scholar and musician who has been studying at WKU has another location for your list: Bulgaria.

Lilly Drumeva is a Bulgarian bluegrass and country musician who has been conducting research at WKU as part of her Fulbright Scholarship. During her time in Bowling Green, Lilly has worked closely with the WKU Folk Studies Department and Erika Brady, host of WKU Public Radio’s Barren River Breakdown.

Lilly will also travel to Nashville to research the business side of country and bluegrass music, as well as attend an international bluegrass conference in Raleigh, NC. She returns to Bulgaria in November, and will begin crafting her research into a Bulgarian-language book on bluegrass and country music.

She stopped by WKU Public Radio to talk to us about how she first encountered bluegrass music, and how the genre’s roots can be traced back to different part of Europe—including her native Bulgaria.

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What made a nice girl from Bulgaria get interested in American bluegrass and country music?

“That’s a long story. It started 20 years when I was a student in Vienna, Austria. I was studying economics, and I heard country music for the first time when Emmy Lou Harris had a concert in Vienna. So I got hooked and started buying CDs.

I had a boyfriend then who played guitar, and he taught me to play a few chords. And I started buying bluegrass and country music CDs, and when I returned to Bulgaria I formed a bluegrass band, and I called it “Lilly of the West”, because Lilly is my name and also my favorite flower. And—for the Bulgarians—I came from Austria, which is in the west, so I was the “Lilly from the West.”

In 1998, we went to the Netherlands where there was a big bluegrass festival and competition. And we won it—we were voted “European Bluegrass Band of the Year.” And since then we started touring Europe, and we’ve released nine albums to date.”

When you gathered these fellow Bulgarian musicians, did you have to explain to them what U.S. country and bluegrass music was all about? Did they have any knowledge about it before you spoke to them?

“When I came back from Austria, I brought lots of CDs, so we had lots of material to learn from. But also, the three guys I found—a banjo player, a guitar player, and a bass player—they already knew a little bit about bluegrass, because in 1990 Tim O’Brien visited Bulgaria. So the American Embassy invited bluegrass musicians from the states to celebrate the fall of communism. So in 1990, the U.S. Embassy brought Tim O’Brien, Laurie Lewis, and Sam Bush who gave a concert. And that’s when my colleagues heard bluegrass music for the first time.”

You mentioned that you were hooked when you heard Emmy Lou Harris at that concert in Vienna. Were there aspects of the music you felt that you could personally identify with? Why was it so special to you?

It’s hard to say. This is also the topic of my research—why this music is so captivating, why people get hooked. Probably it’s the energy in it, the melodies, the sincerity of the songs, the great voices, the instrumentation…the fact that this is acoustic music from the heart. And also the social element of it. You know, bluegrass is not only music, it’s also a friendship and a comraderie that you find anywhere in the world.

Some years ago I was in the states, and we visited Wisconsin. I didn’t know anybody there, but I found a banjo. He invited me on to his radio show, and just like this I was part of the community, and I was welcomed. And as a bluegrass musician, no matter where you are from you are welcome everywhere in the world.

Is there anything in bluegrass or country music that is similar in any way to—say—Bulgarian folk music?

“Of course there is! Since the United States is a melting pot of many different cultures, these nations brought their cultures and their music with them. For example, if we trace back the origin of the instruments, the banjo came from Africa, the mandolin from Italy, the guitar from Spain, the upright bass from Germany.

There are also instruments that came from Bulgaria. For example, a Bulgarian instrument is the tamboura, which is mixture between guitar and mandolin. And the tamboura was imported to Greece. The British, who fought in Greece, brought it to Ireland and England. And that’s how the bouzouki appeared in Irish folk music, and the Irish settlers brought the bouzouki with them to America.”

One of Lilly Drumeva’s original songs is being showcased at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Wide Open Bluegrass conference Sept. 24-28 in Raleigh, NC.

You can find Youtube videos of Lilly Drumeva and Lilly of the West performing here.

The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program and is supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world. For more information visit http://www.iie.org/cies. 

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.

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.

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.

Fulbright Scholar Program Also Serves Learning Technologists

This blog post originally appeared in EDUCAUSE Review Online and is republished here courtesy of the author, Meg Stewart.

“The world is changing. Our disciplines are changing. Our students are changing. But is higher education keeping pace?…For education to do better we cannot just keep doing the same things.” —Diana Oblinger

Professional development within and around international educational exchanges might become essential as we increasingly export U.S. higher education expertise while importing new ideas and ways of knowing from abroad. This is where the Fulbright Scholar Program comes in: It offers professional development opportunities for learning technologists, digital librarians, technology-fluent faculty members, and administrators who have valuable and sought-after expertise to share in an international higher education context. In the interest of ending the cycle of “doing the same things” and with an awareness that geographic boundaries are not barriers to learning and knowledge-sharing, I ask you to consider applying for the Fulbright.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars or CIES, the Fulbright program has been providing international academic exchanges between the United States and other countries for more than 60 years. The program provides scholarships for individuals in all fields to undertake innovative projects, graduate-level study, teaching, and research, while also enabling participants to become cultural ambassadors. Instructional technology skills such as co-curricular course design, instruction, software demonstration expertise, digital analysis and research, coding, and programming, as well as a background in discipline-specific research, make digitally fluent higher education practitioners potential Fulbright grantees. You might be surprised, as was I, to find that your educational background and experiences qualify you to apply for a Fulbright grant. Depending on the country for which you apply, a technology professional likely possesses proficiencies that are rare to nonexistent there.

The EDUCAUSE “Top-Ten IT Issues, 2012” lists as issue number one “updating IT professionals’ skills and roles to accommodate emerging technologies and changing IT management and service delivery models.” The Fulbright grant experience affords an opportunity for updating the administrative, project management, teaching, and research skills of a technology professional as he or she gains international experience. The Fulbright grantee will gain in-depth knowledge of the host country’s higher education system and learn about new institutional frameworks for learning. Often, a returning Fulbright Scholar becomes a catalyst for initiating educational, social, and cultural exchanges between the home campus and institutions abroad. The long-term benefits to both the learning technology practitioner and his or her home institution are many.

I was a Fulbright Scholar in 2009–10 and have skills similar to many readers of EDUCAUSE Review Online. Prior to being awarded the Fulbright, I worked (since 1998) in higher education as an academic technology professional supporting faculty use of geospatial and other technologies in the learning process. I have a master’s degree in geoscience and understand how to manage research and curricular projects. Although I have several adjunct teaching experiences at a variety of higher education institutional types, I never held a full-time teaching position. I consider myself an alternative academic. I have participated in or managed assorted and interesting teaching-related technology integrations and given talks on several of those projects. A few of those implementations, I turned into journal articles. My teaching and my record of publications helped strengthen my Fulbright application.

Meg Stewart

The author showing features of Google Earth software in a GIS class at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus

I was on my Fulbright grant for 11 months to teach and do research at the University of the West Indies in Barbados and was affiliated with a graduate program in environmental resources and climate change studies. I helped teach the GIS class, gave faculty development workshops, wrote curriculum for geography lessons, and helped integrate and teach how to use different technologies in a field-based class taught in Belize. My office door was always open, and students and faculty members regularly came to seek advice and guidance on aspects of their research projects. No one  employed in the department or on the university campus knew how to use GIS or other geospatial technologies, so I frequently had visitors. As far as research goes, I worked with a PhD student who had mapped the marine environment around the islands in the Grenadines. Her many map layers were in GIS software, so I exported her GIS data set and created a Google Earth project file for easy sharing. She and I traveled to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada to talk about her project and show locals how to use the new Google Earth project file that I created. I took photographs and made a video to document that trip.

In a traditional sense, Fulbrights tend to go to those with a sabbatical leave. But not always. As a staff member at a college, I took an unpaid leave of absence to go on my placement abroad. The Fulbright grant provided a stipend that I found sufficient for living in Barbados and included an allowance for subsistence, housing, books, and travel to the host country and back home. Grants pay for up to two accompanying dependents, and I brought my family.

The Fulbright Scholar Catalog of Awards, which goes online every February 1, provides a list of Fulbright awards to be granted for the coming academic year. For instance, this past February 2013 the 562 awards listed are for placements in academic year 2014–2015. A complete Fulbright application is then due six months later, on August 1. Some of the items that might be necessary in a Fulbright application include a five-page proposal with a teaching and research statement, a five-page CV, three letters of recommendation, and, if you propose to teach, two examples of course syllabi. Sometimes a letter of invitation from the host institution is necessary. Taking a close look at the individual award description will explain in detail the items you need for your proposal.

A lot of information is available on the Fulbright Scholar Program website to help you investigate the Fulbright. I recommend spending time reviewing the site, paying particular attention to the following:

  • Types of Fulbright Scholar grants: There are several different types and lengths of grants including Administrator grants, Specialists, and Core. Lengths of Fulbright placements vary from 2 weeks to 12 months, so be mindful of the amount of time you wish to dedicate to your grant. This year there is added flexibility in the timing of grants and Fulbright scholars need not go for long periods of time.
  • Catalog of Fulbright awards: The Fulbright Core awards can be searched by global region, country, discipline, type of Fulbright grant, and keywords. In the advanced search you can narrow the results to just teaching or just research or both, and by need for a PhD or not.
  • Webinars: Online presentations given by knowledgeable CIES  staff members are given frequently and are also archived.
  • Contact Program Officers: Designated CIES staff members oversee exchanges around the world regionally, and each award lists the names of those officers. They are informed of the latest developments and are helpful in answering your region-related questions.
  • Contact former (or current) Fulbright Scholars: As you narrow your search to a particular country, it is advisable to contact former grantees who went to the country you’re looking into. Questions about daily living, taking family members, and host country institutional concerns, as well as many other questions, can often be answered by the U.S. Fulbright Scholars who recently lived and taught in that country.

Colleges encourage students to study abroad. On some U.S. campuses whole offices are dedicated to supporting sophomores interested in spending their next academic year in another country, learning in a new environment, taking classes in another language, and living with locals. We tell our students that this experience will add value to their liberal arts education and make them more well-rounded, more agile, more employable. Can we not claim those same benefits to international educational experience for ourselves? Working, researching, and teaching in another country, pushing our comfort zones, experiencing new cultures and educational environments so different from our own broaden our scope and make us more conscientious and valuable citizens, and, yes, employees.

In a world that is interdependent and technologically accelerating, a learning technology professional in higher education may find a Fulbright Scholar award a good fit for next-stage professional development. Creating cross-cultural bridges can benefit the scholar professionally, build capacity and capability at his or her home institution, and have lasting benefits to the host country in which the scholar is placed.  I encourage you to seek a Fulbright grant. If you would like to hear more about the Fulbright Scholar Program, invite me or any one of the over 20 Fulbright ambassadors to come speak at your institution.

The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program and is supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world. For more information, visit http://eca.state.gov/fulbright/

Fulbright Specialist Profile: Doug Mitchell

 

As The Chronicle of Higher Education discussed in its October 28 issue, the Fulbright Scholar Program has expanded its traditional model to include short term opportunities for collaborative 2-to-6 week projects at host institutions in over 100 countries worldwide. For more than a decade, the Specialist Program has promoted the sharing of technical and theoretical knowledge between professional and scholarly counterparts at global institutions. Through the Specialist Program, professors and professionals are not only able to connect with institutions outside of the United States, in which their knowledge and experience are of great value, but are also able to further these linkages and projects indefinitely into the future.

 
In this video, Fulbright Specialist Doug Mitchell, a journalist and public radio practitioner, discusses the impact of his Specialist grant to Chile to help launch a student-run internet radio station at his host institution.

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