Thursday, February 15, 2018

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.

January 2018

This year we had a white Christmas in West Lafayette, Indiana. It was a magical moment opening the blinds in the morning and seeing all that snow fall!
A couple of days before Christmas, my friends Samantha and Andrew invited me to their house to help decorate it and get it ready for Christmas. It was my first time decorating a Christmas tree, and I had a lot of fun doing so. It was also great to feel welcomed and included.
Then on the day after Christmas, I went once more to my friend’s house but this time for outdoor snow activities. With the help of my friends (and 2 gloves wrapped around my freezing hands), I made my first snowman, and a snow angel! We also snow-tubed down a nearby hill.

February 2018

Winter in West Lafayette, Indiana can be cruel, especially when you come from a warm country. This didn’t deter us at the Purdue Fulbright Association from making the most out of it and organizing a day at the skating rink. Those who participated that day were from Egypt (myself), Cambodia, Turkey, the Philippines, Paraguay, and Colombia. Most of us had little to no experience with ice-skating, so slipping and falling on ice were inevitable! Nonetheless, it was a fun day, and we all managed to improve our ice-skating skills.
Photo credit: Ivan Henares
Mai with her friends at the rink
Skating for the first time!

March 2018
March was an eventful month for me, since there was the spring break and the Fulbright Re-entry Workshop.
The workshop was eventful and memorable as with all the Fulbright workshops, orientations and seminars. It was a time to meet old friends and also make new ones. This time it was also a time to say goodbye and try to get mentally prepared for going back home. There were various speakers throughout the workshop with AMIDEAST, Department of State, The Fulbright Association, and also a panel of Fulbrighters who were done with their program and went through the experience of going back home.
I would honestly say that Fulbright orientations and seminars are an integral part of the Fulbright experience. I have attended three such events throughout my stay in the United States and they were all amazing in different ways.
After those eventful three days in DC, I went back to West Lafayette, Indiana to catch up with some work. Then I headed to Chicago to spend the last of my spring break there, which also happened to include a Saint Patrick’s Daycelebration (apparently that’s a big thing in Chicago!). The day starts with the river dying event and it was just amazing how green the river gets! I was also amazed by the amount of green everywhere and by the people’s costumes (it was like Halloween but in green!). Next on my agenda was attending the Saint Patrick’s Day parade. The parade was so long that I ended up just attending half of it….but only after I got a lot of green beads and candies that were thrown from the people and floats participating in the parade.

April 2018

The Purdue Fulbright Association (PFA) organizes a “Farewell Dinner” at the end of each year to honor and say goodbye to Fulbrighters graduating that year. This year it was the 9th annual Farewell Dinner, and since I am on the PFA board and finishing my master’s degree at Purdue, I participated in organizing my own farewell event, and so did two other board members!
Also, this month I had the chance to cook an Egyptian dinner for my friends and they loved it!

May 2018

Finally, it’s here! The day I have been anticipating for 2 years! Officially a master’s degree holder from Purdue University!
I am grateful to Fulbright for giving me the chance to study at such a great university, and I am grateful for the experiences, the friends and the connections that I have made along the way.

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:

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