Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Following J. William Fulbright: The Transformative Power of Pre-Academic Programs

 Fulbright Pre-Academic Program Participants in front of statue of J. William Fulbright

My Fulbright Pre-Academic Program at the University of Arkansas was a fantastic introduction to living and studying in the United States. In just three weeks, I was able to get to know 37 other Fulbrighters from around the world. I also had the opportunity to meet American graduate student mentors, the staff of the University of Arkansas, and several host families and lecturers. Meeting all of these people from different backgrounds, and with different perspectives, has enriched my knowledge of the world.

The Pre-Academic Program schedule was rich and intensive, and it gave us confidence, courage and support. We lived with American host families, visited an elderly residence home, and even conducted simulations in which we practiced initiating conversations with new people. For me, however, the most memorable part of the Program was visiting Little Rock Central High School and Museum. This high school was at the center of the desegregation struggle in the 1950s, and is now famous as the home of “the Little Rock Nine,” the first group of African American students who tried to attend the school but were initially refused entry. This experience introduced our group to the struggles of the Civil Rights era, an important period of American history.

Another memorable part of our day in Little Rock was that on the return trip, some students sang songs from their home countries into the bus microphone. This funny experience broke the ice and was entertaining, which made our trip back go by much faster! From this I learned that journeys are what we make of them.

Fulbright students in front of Little Rock Central High School
Just a few hours before the closing ceremony of the Pre-Academic Program, my professors asked me to give a speech on behalf of the Fulbright group. I was thrilled and honored to do so! I decided not to prepare a memorized text, but to tell the story of every Fulbright student: a narrative that begins with a dream, continues toward making the dream come to fruition, and ends with the challenges and excitement of the dream (a Fulbright grant) coming true. I was often reminded during my time in the program of the dream of J. William Fulbright. Being at the University of Arkansas, walking in his steps, and seeing his statue—with his head held high but in a humble posture, was a privilege. Destiny or some other force brought us all together to start our journeys in the same place as J. William Fulbright.

Fatima studies Filmmaking at The City College of New York. She aspires to become a documentary filmmaker and to use the art form to bring attention to social issues such as women’s rights and access to education.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you dear Fatima for your warm and heartfelt tribute to the values of your Pre-Ac Program and it's impact. I know that your degree program will be equally enriching as you continue to fulfill your dreams.