Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Fulbright Experience

It was three o’clock in the middle of a workday, my phone gave out the usual “you’ve got mail” tone, and as I looked at it I knew I had received the single most important email of my life.

It was almost a year ago when I received the news that I had been selected as one of 12 Fulbright applicants to represent Jordan. That day I rushed home to tell my parents. They were thrilled. That week we ate a lot of “Knafeh” (traditional sweets) in celebration. As the celebrations of getting a full scholarship from the most prestigious award toned down, nervousness set in. I was going to leave my room, my house, my parents, my job and my friends and head out to start from scratch.

It was not easy: the few months leading to my departure to Atlanta were hectic and packing your life in a suit case proved tricky, which was even trickier with baggage weight limits. But all that stress soon dissolved as the experience of being a Fulbrighter proved to be a once in a lifetime chance to study, travel and learn about new cultures. In addition to the valuable education I got in the classroom, the education I received through cultural and social activities is priceless.

Being part of Georgia Tech and the Fulbright Association Georgia Chapter, I participated in many activities. I visited a cowboy ranch, attended a season of American football games, danced in an Indian Garba, and had meals from all over the world. I met fellow Fulbrighters from countries across the globe, and they were often the first person I had ever met from that country. But while I was enjoying that I realized that a Fulbrighter’s mission is to introduce their culture to other cultures as well. I spent a lot of time answering questions from my American, European, South American and Asian friends about our magnificent culture, and about my faith (Islam). It was truly rewarding to shatter stereotypes some of my friends had. I felt privileged to be able to reflect the beauty of my culture and religion to them.

Life hands a person only a handful of opportunities in their lifetime. The opportunity Fulbright gave me was a portal to learning and exploration. Everything that happened after three o’clock that day was part of my adventure, one that is just beginning.

Yasmine R. El Gharaibeh is a Jordanian Fulbrighter pursuing an MA in Public Policy at Georgia Institute of Technology.

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