Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fulbright Friends 4ever : Advice for Graduating Fulbright Students

         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.


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