Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Welcome picnic for newly-arrived Fulbrighters at Purdue University
When I first arrived at Indiana University, I received a welcome email from a Turkish Fulbrighter who was the President of the Purdue Fulbright Association (PFA). My first thought was, “NICE, there is a network of Fulbrighters here that I can join!” Well, I did join that group, and I can proudly say that I am now one of its board members and outreach officers.
My first introduction to PFA was through a picnic at which all the previous Fulbrighters prepared food and welcomed newcomers. The organizers even gave us a campus tour and hosted a reception party that was coordinated between various Purdue offices.
The welcome picnic was just the beginning of my experience with PFA. Throughout the academic year members continued to organize fantastic events. We held frequent picnics where we we shared food, stories and played games. We also attended plays, concerts and variety shows. We even went to a "Wolf Howl" night, an evening program at a nearby wolf sanctuary!
PFA field trip to Wolf Park (Wolf Sanctuary)
I would like to point out that organizing such activities is hard work, which requires the cooperation of our team members: the President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Communications and Outreach officers. We work so well together because we are all Fulbrighters. We share similar experiences, policies, rules and procedures. Some Association leaders have been at Purdue for more than 5 years, so they often provide younger members of the leadership team with advice.
I'm really proud to have been chosen as the outreach officer of the new board. I'm responsible for the communication between the group and other Purdue and West Lafayette, Indiana organizations. In fact, the group is very popular with Purdue offices and professors. Many professors and deans are either previous Fulbrighters, or they simply enjoy interacting with international students. They work with us to organize Fulbrighter reception and farewell parties, and they sometimes even invite us to dinner at their houses!
Ahmed is from Egypt and studies Computer Science at Purdue University. Ahmed plans to serve on the PFA leadership team until his graduation in May 2016.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Nour crossing the Golden Gate Bridge
It was around 5:00 p.m. when I landed in California. The first thing that came to my mind were the lyrics from the famous song, “Hotel California”:
Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place…
And indeed California is such a lovely place!
I traveled to California to complete a summer marketing internship in a growing medical tech company in the San Francisco area. The professional experience I gained while there was amazing, but the cultural experience was the most memorable. I have been fortunate enough to visit several metropolitan areas in the US such as Washington, DC, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, and Houston; San Francisco, however, was the most special. I fell in love with everything there: the beautiful weather, the kind people, the peaceful ocean, and the diverse cultural identity. I love California because it has a lot offer. If you love the sea, the gorgeous ocean is there for you to enjoy; if you are a climber, Yosemite’s cliffs and domes should be your next challenge; and if you are like me, a fan of big cities, then San Francisco is your destination!
Nour visits the Sutro Baths near San Francisco
I met wonderful people everywhere I went who were from different backgrounds. Everyone from my host family members, boss, and coworkers, to the random people I met along the way, made me feel welcome. Californians also felt incredibly happy when I told them how much I loved their state and appreciated their hospitality. Nearly always, peoples’ reactions to my being a Fulbright scholar from Iraq were variations of, “Wow, that’s awesome! I really want to visit your country one day!”
Now, my new friends in California know a little bit more about Iraq. For example, I taught them the word “yalla!” Yalla means “hurry up” or “let’s go” in the Iraqi Arabic dialect. They also learned that the equivalent term of “what’s up” is “shako mako.” I believe that the Californians I met now know enough vocabulary to survive in my country. J
Just like California, the US has a lot to offer as well. I find that the US has kind people and diverse culture, and that it also provides amazing learning experiences to international students. The famous Arabic traveler and Scholar, Ibn Battuta, once said: “traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” So “yalla” my fellow Fulbrighters, let’s try to visit as many places in the US as we can during our time here. Every city is different and offers tons to explore!
Nour visits the Googleplex in Mountain View, California
Nour is pursuing an MBA and plans to work for an international NGO in the field of international development.
Friday, July 22, 2016
I thought I knew everything about the Fulbright Program, but that was before I began working with Fulbrighters as an intern at AMIDEAST. My first experience with Fulbright actually came while working at Michigan State University’s (MSU) Office for International Students and Scholars. At MSU, I helped Fulbrighters connect to campus and community resources. However, since joining AMIDEAST in May 2016, I have begun to see the administration side of the Fulbright cycle. Every day I am learning new facts about the program that illustrate the level of planning needed to ensure successful Fulbright grants for students. My new role has also allowed me to see how many international Fulbright students have overcome great adversity to come to the United States. This realization compels me to work hard to support Fulbright students in every phase of their Fulbright grants.
Summertime is an exciting period to be an intern at AMIDEAST, as my team is preparing to welcome a new cohort of fall 2016 Fulbright students from 13 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. These students’ academic interests are incredibly diverse---- I’ve seen students enroll in programs as diverse as Aerospace Engineering, Public Health, and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL). In addition to welcoming our new students, I’m also looking forward to the award announcements of the new Alumni Community Action Grants and the Alumni Development Grants. These opportunities provide alumni with opportunities to remain engaged with the Fulbright Program, give back to their communities, and in the case of the Development Grants, gain additional learning experiences such as attending educational conferences and conducting collaborative research.
Interning at AMIDEAST has not only provided me with tangible work experience, but also a deep understanding of the Fulbright Program and a strong appreciation for the determination of MENA youth. As a future graduate student in the International Education Program at the George Washington University, my time at AMIDEAST has given me an important hands on perspective of the U.S. higher education system and its impact on international students. For this reason, I look to forward to continuing to support initiatives such as the Fulbright Program in the future and to advance as an international education professional.
Ohorodnik will attend the M.A. in International Education program at The George
Washington University in fall 2016, and plans to pursue a career in educational
Monday, June 13, 2016
A Place Where Out-of-this-World Dreams Become Realities: A Fulbright Student’s Visit to Space Center Houston
The Fulbright Group in front of the Saturn V Rocket
In May 2016, I attended the 2016 Houston Fulbright Enrichment Seminar on Technology and Entrepreneurship. This seminar brought more than 30 visiting Fulbright students together to discuss how properly combining technology, innovation and entrepreneurship can solve 21st century problems. In fact, one of the most memorable events of the weekend was visiting what I consider to be the coolest place on earth---- Space Center Houston. Space Center Houston is the visitor center for the NASA Johnson Space Center, and it houses several famous NASA spacecraft. Although I’m a computer science guy, I enjoy learning about other branches of science, especially space exploration. I also admit that I LOVE NASA. It’s the ultimate example of an organization that reaches its goals by embracing technology and testing new ideas.
As soon as we entered the museum, I was immediately drawn in by the technology and exhibits on display. I looked at every information panel, touched a rock from the moon, explored the Apollo Mission Control Room and stood next to the ACTUAL Saturn V Rocket. Until that moment, I had only seen those objects on TV or read about them in books. For me, however, the most rewarding part of the visit was having the opportunity to share my passion about space with other Fulbright students. For example, I spoke to fellow Fulbrighters about recent advances in space research, and how NASA’s discoveries have contributed to fields such as medicine and transportation.
Although I already knew a lot about NASA, nothing compared to standing in the control room (pictured above) where space missions were decided. The museum was extraordinary, and the spacecraft and other artifacts were well preserved. I will never forget my visit. I would never have had the chance to experience this incredible museum if not for the Fulbright Program, and I sincerely thank the AMIDEAST staff for organizing such an unforgettable event.
Ahmed in front of the Space Shuttle Independence
Ahmed is from Egypt and studies Computer Science at Purdue University. He will graduate in December 2016, and will pursue a career in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning research.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Fulbrighter Maaly supported by fellow Fulbrighters at Fulbright Enrichment Seminar
Any member of the Fulbright Program team will tell you ----the most rewarding aspect of their work is meeting Fulbright students in person. As a Fulbright Communications Officer, I don’t often get face-time with our students. I’m usually writing, posting and creating content that showcases their unbelievable achievements. During the past few months, however, I’ve gotten lucky and had several opportunities to break away from my computer and interact with Fulbrighters during Enrichment Seminars, at volunteer projects and on college campuses. For me, these experiences confirmed a Fulbright fact - that Fulbrighters are among the best and the brightest - but they also revealed a lesser-known truth; Fulbright is friendship.
Fulbright students Nada (right) and Sara (left) in art studio
I first discovered that Fulbright friendship “was a thing” during a visit to the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) when I met second-year Fulbright student, Nada, to discuss her thesis project. As Nada and I sat in her studio drinking cups of hot tea, she explained the planning process for her art curation project, which included everything from venue scouting to networking with artists. When I said that implementing such a project seemed daunting, she immediately mentioned that Sara, another Fulbright student, had helped her throughout the process. In fact, she said that she also chose Sara as one of only four artists to be featured in her exhibit. As it turned out, Sara was later able to join us, and together they told me the story: they met as Fulbrighters, became roommates, and then grew to be best friends.
Fulbright students Najat (right) and Nourhan (left) in Philadelphia
After my “ah-ha” moment with Nada and Sara, I began to notice close Fulbright ties at every Fulbright event I attended. At an Enrichment Seminar in Philadelphia, for example, I overheard phone-number exchanges, agreements to collaborate on research, and future plans to meet-up. I also received countless “would you take a picture of us” requests. Before snapping the photo, I always asked the students when they met----often the answer was, “yesterday.” Likewise, at the 2016 Fulbright Reentry Seminar in Washington, DC, the “Fulbright Alumni Engagement Wall” (a space to brainstorm ways to continue the Fulbright mission as alumni) was filled with pledges to collaborate with fellow Fulbrighters to solve issues in their home communities. One student even wrote that he hopes to marry a fellow Fulbrighter---that’s taking friendship to a whole new level.
And it wasn’t just in-person that I noticed close Fulbright ties; I found the support Fulbright students extend to one another on social media as equally inspiring. Here’s an example: on April 7, 2016, the Fulbright MENA Facebook Page congratulated Fulbrighter Tameem Addeeb on winning the Commitments Challenge at the Clinton Global Initial Initiative. Within minutes, fellow visiting Fulbrighters from across the U.S. offered warm messages of support - “Congrats Tameem,” “Mabrooook” (“congratulations” in Arabic), “So proud of you;” in addition to an impressive number of emojis 😊. My advice to Fulbright students is to keep this up. If you cherish support and friendship from your Fulbright colleagues now, chances are that you’ll need their guidance even more in the future ---as Fulbright alumni. So the message to future graduating Fulbright students is this: stay positive, stay engaged, and most importantly, stay connected. Oh, and keep sending those positive Facebook messages. Fulbrighters are friends-4ever.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Jambally Mohammed surveying by using GIS technology
I received an Alumni Professional Development Grant in 2015 to conduct a collaborative project to prepare Akre Citadel, an ancient fortress in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fact that the site is a national Iraqi landmark, and yet has never been officially documented, inspired my team to conduct this research. This collaborative project was facilitated by frequent on-site visits to the citadel, participation in the Heritage and Technology Conference in Capri, Italy, and also by continuous close cooperation with the Center for Cultural Sustainability at the University of Texas, San Antonio.
In order to ready the Akre site for inclusion as a World Heritage Site, my team and I used Geographical Information System (GIS) standards for mapping, documenting, analyzing, and modeling it. As part of our research, the citadel’s historic and visual data was collected, an image-based list of historical attributes was generated and 2D models were created. Importantly, the on-site research followed international standards for creating inventories of architectural heritage sites.
The second aspect of our collaboration was writing and then presenting a paper on our restoration efforts at the “Heritage and Technology: Mind, Knowledge, and Experience Conference” in Capri, Italy from 11-13 June, 2015. The conference proved to be an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with international academics in the fields of GIS and archaeology, and also to meet with our mentor, UTSA faculty member Dr. Angela Lombardi, who was also in attendance. Finally, as Italy is a country known for its expertise in preserving world heritage sites, my team took the opportunity to visit several historic areas in Rome in order to learn different restoration and management techniques.
Akre Citadel site in late afternoon
We were proud to conduct this entire research project in partnership with University of Texas at San Antonio. We worked closely with Dr. Lombardi, who is an internationally-recognized scholar in the field of architectural preservation. Her guidance and mentoring greatly contributed to the project’s success. Furthermore, my study of GIS and community planning as a Fulbright student prepared me to conduct this research project. In fact, I largely depended on the skills that I learned through my master’s program in GIS and Community Studies at Texas Tech University. Moving forward, my team and I are planning to take the next steps toward applying for world heritage status, which include categorizing the site based on the International Standard for Documentation and Assessment, and also creating a standard coding system for the site’s attributes.
Jambally graduated from Texas Tech University in 2011 with an M.A. in GIS and Community Studies. In the future, he plans to use the skills he learned from the Akre Citadel project to preserve other neglected historical sites in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Monday, March 21, 2016
Maroua with team members Slim, Wael and Soufien (from left).After completing my Fulbright grant and graduating with a degree in Urban Design from the University of Colorado, Denver, I decided to apply my newfound skillset by planning a redesign of the center of my home city, Sfax-Tunisia. Four architects and I designed an ambitious plan to improve public spaces while preserving the city’s heritage. The name of the proposed project, Trans. Ur, was chosen because the area is a transitional space between the old city and the new, and also because “Sur” or “Soor” is the Arabic word for rampart--- a medieval defensive wall.
Strategies of the Trans-Ur Place design program.
Unfortunately, the two substantial problems in this city section are first, that it is congested with car traffic and street vendors, and second, that it is also choked by pollution. Our comprehensive plan to improve these issues is to re-structure the spaces of ancient city center by using modern principles of design. Applying new architectural theories that I learned in graduate school will create a more vibrant and enjoyable space. Our project aims to improve existing flow by encouraging green, multi-use transportation in four phases:
The Trans.Ur Hub: During this phase, my team proposes to create a transportation hub that includes space for metro lines, buses and bicycles. This change will make the area more connected, walkable and accessible.
The Trans.Ur Historic District: New features implemented during this phase will highlight historic elements such as the ramparts, the Medina, the Kriaa market and the mausoleums. Under our plans, the city’s historic center will be well-preserved and sustainable.
Trans.Ur “ACT”: The “ACT” phase will place attention on “use” and “activities.” It will focus on making the plaza the entertainment section of Sfax, and will involve creating spaces for street workouts, parkour and free-form games. Enacting these changes will ensure that people can create their own spatial practices in the downtown area.
Multi-use activity area to be implemented during “ACT” phase.
Trans.Ur “24”: The “24” or 24-hour phase aims to make the area an engaging 24-hour zone complete with a dynamic nightlife scene. To achieve this, we plan to create a multi-use paved area that will serve as an all-hours venue for dance, theatre and folk shows.
Maroua Chaouechi graduated from the University of Colorado, Denver in 2015 with an M.A. in Urban Design.