Monday, April 16, 2018

A Day in Balboa: Big Dreams of Exploring America’s Natural Resources

For a nature loving person, being in the United States means America-size dreams of exploring America’s natural resources and national parks. That’s why during my first break from school, which was Thanksgiving, my husband and I set off to San Diego, California. California is home to a lot of tourist attractions, and it has beautiful mild weather which made for an amazing trip. One of my most enjoyable memories there was the time we spent in Balboa Park.
View of the zoo and Skyfari
Balboa Park is a unique blend of nature, ancient architecture, museums, theaters, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. It is one of the largest and oldest parks in the United States. The San Diego Zoo felt like all of the world’s forests in one place but with an aquarium! There are endless views of greenery, huge trees, curving pathways, and rock stairs to get you through, upwards, and downwards in the jungle, not to mention an Aerial Skyfari Tram offering breathtaking views from above the zoo and a fast way to go back and forth across.
Aside from the views, we very much admired how every place and every activity took into consideration the elderly, the physically disabled, and the children. There were special pathways for wheelchairs and parking for strollers; everything seemed to be modified to be able to fit their needs so that everyone has fun, and enjoys the experience. I also loved how cooperative and cheerful all the staff were, always smiling and showing real interest in the park and in its visitors. The bus tour guide in San Diego showed us around and shared the history of the zoo, the story of each of the animals, and how the zoo is helping a lot of the endangered animal and plant species. Her lively demonstrations, along with the fun facts and curious excerpts of information scattered around, made the visit a sweet mix of education and entertainment. There is a research center as well, the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, which we learned has excellent contributions in leading the fight against extinction.
The Botanical Building
Decorated for the holidays, Balboa was a very delightful walk. We enjoyed listening to a Christmas themed musical band, and even witnessed a wedding taking place in the pretty park. I especially liked the Japanese Friendship Garden, which felt like a magic door to a piece of Japan, with its beautiful out-of-a-painting gardens and Japanese-style houses.
MennatAllah in the Japanese Gardens
Short on time, and transportation means, we couldn’t visit the famous Yosemite National Park, but. Hopefully we’ll be able to visit next time!
MennatAllah is a student at University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston where she is studying towards a Master’s in Biomedical Sciences. She is from Egypt.

Monday, March 26, 2018

From Tech to Fashion: How Fulbright is Helping Me Achieve My Dreams

After graduating from Ain Shams University in Egypt, where I studied computer science, I split my time between building my tech career and designing glamourous attire for women in my circles. The indescribable feeling of seeing these women beautiful, happy, and empowered because of my dresses was the thing that kept me motivated.Growing up I felt so lucky because my mom would create gorgeous handmade uniforms for me to wear to school that I designed myself. As I went through life, I realized that the kind of modest attire that my mom used to make for me was something that a lot of girls didn’t have. In college, I started drawing unique dresses with bold cuts and glowing fabrics, and I found a tailor in my neighborhood who was very talented in cutting and sewing, but not in promoting his work. I showed him my designs and he loved them because they were still within our culture, but still different. I remembered the feeling I had when I realized that I wanted other girls to feel that way too. I began working with the tailor, gave him my designs and guess what happened? He went from a startup tailor to having considerable number of recurring customers who felt happy, beautiful and satisfied with the culturally appropriate yet fashion forward designs.
Shaymaa showcasing a project at Babson
13 years passed and I became a tech executive in a multinational firm, yet my passion for building a fashion brand and enchanting women’s lives did not go away. Day after day, this dream became clearer and bigger in my mind. In January 2016, I was reflecting on my previous year and setting up my goals for the New Year. As I did this, it all became crystal clear, and I knew what I should achieve next in my life and career., However, this meant making a courageous decision of quitting my job, going back to school to study entrepreneurship, and building my fashion startup. I have to confess, the idea of leaving behind all that I built and start over again was terrifying for me and my family, yet I had a strong feeling that this was the right thing to do.
Shaymaa working with other Babson students
I embarked on the process of looking for graduate schools and sponsorship programs. It was a lengthy process that needed lots of persistence, hard work, and dedication, but I was so excited to be accepted to the prestigious Fulbright Program to study in the United States. It was a huge moment for me and only then did I realize that I would receive the kind of empowerment and support that I was aiming for. I was granted a scholarship to study Entrepreneurship at Babson College, and I received tremendous support from the Fulbright team to make it happen. Supporting women entrepreneurs is one of the top priorities of the Fulbright Program, and this gave me great confidence that the Fulbright team will understand and support my bold steps.
Now, here I am, enjoying my learning experience at Babson College and getting closer to achieving my dream of building my fashion startup. The school has its unique style of teaching entrepreneurship through the Entrepreneurship Thought and Action (ET&A) program. I learned that taking actions is what it takes to build my startup even if those actions are small steps. Action is the only way to get my idea proven and tested by the target customers instead of just doing extensive theoretical studies like I’ve done in the past.
Thank you Fulbright!
I believe that the world is a better place when there is a strong support system for women where they can make decisions of their own for their personal benefits as well as for society. Thank you Fulbright for helping me work towards mine.
Shaymaa is currently studying Entrepreneurship at Babson College and is from Egypt.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Year in the Fulbright Life: Omnia G.’s Story


For the next year, Fulbright MENA will be showcasing a handful of students as they study in the United States with their new series, A Year in the Fulbright Life. Each month, spotlighted students will share an update as they continue on their Fulbright journey.

September 2017

“Recently I volunteered at the Heart of Ghent 10k race in Norfolk, Virginia. Ghent is a very beautiful city and I always see people run here, but in this race, they ran for charity. One of the charities helps homeless children in Kenya. It was very fun, and I met a group of very nice Americans who I volunteered with. My favorite moment was when a runner would say thank you for the water that I gave out, even though she was exhausted from the race. It was such a nice day, and I loved being able to spend more time in my American community.”


October 2017

One of my American friends, Taylor, recently took me to get ice cream at Coldstone so I could try homemade American ice cream! I’ve gone past the store a million times but never noticed the ice cream shop. Taylor has been a really great friend since I arrived. She introduces me to American culture, clarifies what I miss due to differences, and is also deeply interested in different cultures. I’m lucky to have such a great friend who helps take care of me when I need it!


November 2017

This month our program went on a field trip to the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services in Richmond. It was a two-hour drive, but the laboratories were amazing and definitely worth it. At the lab, they run experiments on bioterrorism, chemical weapons, food adulteration, and newborn screening. I really enjoyed my time with my classmates at the lab learning all about the work they do there.


“I went to the Hampton Roads Reptile Expo with my friend Taylor, where spiders, snakes, worms, and frogs were all on display. I saw plenty of snakes with gorgeous colors. Because of this experience, I was able to overcome my fear of animals and reptiles and even held a lizard! It was amazing.


December 2017

This semester I asked for a rotation in Dr. Anca Dobrian’s lab to gain hands-on experience working on endothelial cells! I learned a lot and met such wonderful people in this lab. Dr. Dobrain is an excellent primary investigator and Bronson, her Ph.D. candidate, was an amazing instructor. By the end of the semester, Dr. Dobrian invited the lab students and techs to dinner at a Greek restaurant. Many of the meals had Middle Eastern and Egyptian elements, and it was the perfect end to a tedious semester.


Omnia is from Egypt and is studying Biotechnology at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA.
Follow updates from Omnia and other Fulbright students on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Check back here every month for more updates on the blog and Medium Series to see what Omnia does this year!
You can view other Fulbright Life stories here: https://medium.com/@FulbrightMENA/

A Year in the Fulbright Life: Muhammad’s Story


For the next year, Fulbright MENA will be showcasing a handful of students as they study in the United States with their new series, A Year in the Fulbright Life. Each month, spotlighted students will share an update as they continue on their Fulbright journey.

August 2017

Egpytian Fulbrighter Muhammad recently arrived at the University of Arizona where he will be begin his Master’s studies.


He shared photos of his introductory event at graduate housing as well as photos from his tour of campus.

Muhammad with other graduate students at University of Arizona.

Stay tuned for more photos from Muhammad at he settles in on campus.

September 2017

“Since I arrived on campus last month, I participated in the Buddy Program at the University of Arizona. This program connects international students and American students to meet with new students and help them settle in and get to know the culture. We played pool and my favorite- table tennis. It was a great way to meet people from different cultures and get to know them more, especially since so many of them are interested in the science fields like me!”


October 2017

October has been busy here in Arizona. I attended my first football game and even though I didn’t know the rules, Arizona’s team was so good that I could not stop cheering for them! We won the game by a large margin.


We also had an “Egyptian Day” for students learning Arabic (Egyptian colloquial), and a friend and I cooked Kushari (a traditional Egyptian meal) and wore traditional Egyptian attire for students. Students and professors loved the food and atmosphere we created.


We have a small family of Fulbrighters who gather for coffee every once in a while and check on each other. They are majoring in many interesting fields and certainly making a change in their communities. This time’s theme was “Brazilian and Turkish (Arabic) Coffee” which was an amazing gathering.

November 2017

Among the many benefits of international education is the immersion experience, in which you are introduced to new cultures, traditions, and most importantly people. I “tried” to play American football with some American friends to understand why it is very popular here, but I guess it is not similar to soccer (our football) as I ended up breaking my glasses. Fortunately it was not too bad, but it was quite the experience!




I was fortunate to be invited by my host family to Thanksgiving dinner. I got to know more about them and the culture and how and why it is celebrated. The food was traditional and amazing and the company was exquisite.

December 2017



I visited a neighborhood called Winterhaven where they have a Festival of Lights that started in 1949. The houses are decorated with beautiful lights in various shapes and sizes and compete for best decoration and humor and other categories. Hundreds of people visit the neighborhood to enjoy the light festival. I realized that there is more to Tucson than just what meets the eye.


My host family has visited Egypt and told me they yearn for the traditional food. As a devout Egyptian epicure, I could not help but invite them to a most traditional meal: Koshari. They invited some friends and family and it was a fabulous night of sharing stories about traditions and cultures in the Egypt, United States, Pakistan, and China.

Muhammad is a first-year Fulbright student at the University of Arizona where he is working towards an MA in Islamic Studies. He is from Egypt.
Follow updates from Muhammad and other Fulbright students on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Check back here every month for more updates on the blog and Medium Series to see what Muhammad does this year!
You can view other Fulbright Life stories here: https://medium.com/@FulbrightMENA/

A Year in the Fulbright Life: Mai E.’s Story

For the next year, Fulbright MENA will be showcasing a handful of students as they study in the United States with their new series, A Year in the Fulbright Life. Each month, spotlighted students will share an update as they continue on their Fulbright journey.

August 2017
“My second year in the United States started as my first year did, with the attendance of a Fulbright Gateway orientation seminar. But this time, instead of being a participant, I was invited to be one of the panel members and speak to incoming Fulbrighters about my experience over the past year.
his was a great opportunity for me to reflect on my past year, be part of another Gateway seminar in a different way, and as always, meet new amazing Fulbrighters!”



Mai in Indiana

September 2017

I visited Chicago and met many other Egyptian Fulbrighters over Labor Day weekend. It was great to catch up with friends and get a break from my normal routine.




In a big city like Chicago, there is something for everyone’s taste. While I enjoyed visiting the popular attractions, like the Willis Tower and the Shedd Aquarium, my favorite was the not-so-famous Lincoln Park Conservatory, where I saw a variety of plants of dazzling beauty.




Overall, the trip was a success, and I look forward to exploring more cities during my time in America.

October 2017

During the last weekend in September, I got a chance to go back in time to the mid-1700s when I attended the Feast of the Hunter’s Moon, which is a re-creation of the annual fall gathering of the French and Native Americans that took place at Fort Ouiatenon.



Mai and her friends at the festival

All around I could see people dressed in the 1700s style, food being cooked over the fire, and several booths demonstrating activities from that era.



Open fire cooking at the festival

I went to the feast with some members of the Purdue Fulbright Association. My Fulbrighter friends from Indonesia and Pakistan joined me for a tour around the feast, where we tried fire-cooked turkey legs and dressed in 18th century clothes! This was my first time attending a reenactment themed feast, and it was very fun to live in the past for that afternoon.



Mai dressed up in colonial garb

A week before that, I was at the event’s venue, volunteering in setting up the booths. A lot of people were volunteering, including entire families. It gave me an idea about the hard work and dedication from the local community to set up such an event, and it made me appreciate it more.



Mai volunteering and helping to set up a tent

November 2017

Walking around Purdue’s campus in the fall is a really nice experience-the colors never cease to amaze me! After such a walk on Halloween (and after a tour looking at the craziest costumes that people decided to put on), some friends and I decided to get our pictures taken with the statue of John Purdue (founder of Purdue University) only to realize later on, that October 31st was John Purdue’s birthday!




November/ December 2017
“Celebrating American holidays is one of my favorite parts of the Fulbright experience, and this is especially true when it comes to Thanksgiving!




Since this is my second Thanksgiving in the United States, I knew what to expect and I was looking forward to it. Why Thanksgiving? You may wonder. For me it’s because it’s in the fall (my favorite season), the food factor is there (can’t get enough of those turkeys), and because of friends!




Pictures below are from one of the Thanksgiving dinners I attended this year organized by Purdue Chi Alpha.

Mai is a second-year Fulbrighter from Egypt who is working towards her MS in Computer Science at Purdue University.
Follow Updates from Mai and other Fulbright students on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Check back here every month for more updates to see what Mai does next this year!
You can view other Fulbright Life stories here: https://medium.com/@FulbrightMENA/