A Fulbright Scholar in Berlin: Cultural Ambassador, Political Scientist, and Yoga Instructor

Renu Singh is a doctoral student in the Georgetown University Government Department and a 2017 Fulbright Scholar. Renu holds an MSc in Public Policy and Administration from the London School of Economics and Political Science, a B.A. in Political Science and a B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

Four months ago, I returned from a journey that began in the fall of 2017 when I embarked on my Fulbright. This was my second time living in Germany, but it was a first for living in Berlin. I had lived and worked in Munich right after college as an epidemiologist with training in the natural sciences and a passion for public health policy, and I returned as a PhD candidate in political science and an avid Germanophile.

Being part of the Fulbright community has been an honor and an adventure. Being part of the 2017-2018 cohort was also particularly meaningful, because 2018 marked 70 years since the first Fulbright grantees traveled overseas to begin what has become the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the US Department of State. In 1946, Senator J. William Fulbright proposed a fund to promote “international goodwill” through student exchange using the proceeds from surplus war property sales in World War II. All of these years later, the fundamental importance of cultural ambassadors is as strong as ever, and the experience of being one is just as meaningful.

As a PhD grantee, the Fulbright Program enabled me to conduct critical research in my field across Germany and in Berlin while also building relationships with scholars and practitioners. My dissertation book project focuses on policy change in public health policy in Germany and the United States. I received a grant to conduct fieldwork in Berlin and a few particular Länder (states), which involved archival research at the state and federal level and interviews with various elites in food policy. I felt lucky to be able to speak with people ranging from local German politicians and EU bureaucrats to health professionals and food industry representatives. I was sponsored by the Hertie School of Governance and used the university as an academic base and developed a kind of academic family and support network among the Hertie community. When my research required additional work in involving EU institutions, the German Fulbright Commission was very supportive and even helped me find connections via their EU-NATO Seminar in Brussels and Luxembourg City.

What I did not realize was that being a Fulbright scholar would also allow me to flourish in areas outside of my research and academia. Growing up in a suburb of Massachusetts with strong ties to Portugal, soccer was often the sport of choice and one that I came to love at an early age. In Berlin, I was able to train with one of the city’s women’s soccer clubs. I also am very passionate about promoting health on a personal level and being more applied with my research. As a certified Ashtanga yoga instructor, I regularly volunteer teach at Georgetown and the US Botanic Gardens in addition to teaching my own classes at a studio. In Berlin, I volunteered at the Hertie School and was asked to give a TEDx Talk after running an interactive yoga session as part of the Fulbright Commission’s annual Berlin Seminar.

All of these experiences were incredibly enriching and only possible thanks to the support of the Georgetown Office of Fellowships, The Fulbright Program, and the German Fulbright Commission. The Commission in particular became a source of encouragement, community, and support throughout my Fulbright and beyond when I decided to extend my stay to finish additional research. They provided numerous opportunities to express ourselves, meet likeminded German and American colleagues, and even have a place to celebrate Thanksgiving abroad. Thanks to all of them I have been able to conduct my fieldwork in Germany while making lasting friendships and memories with Berliners and fellow Fulbrighters along the way.

Renu, sitting in a chair doing a yoga pose, as part of her TEDx Talk

Renu, in a seated twist, giving a TEDx Talk in Berlin

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Ben Johnson’s Reflection on Year One of the Marshall

Ben Johnson is a 2018 recipient of the Marshall Scholarship studying human cognitive neuropsychology at the University of Edinburgh. Ben (NHS ’17) is on leave from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine while he pursues his studies as a Marshall Scholar. 

Six months since moving to the United Kingdom, it’s hard to decide if it’s been an age or an eyeblink. Time has flown, but it has also been so full of adventure that almost every week is a remarkable one. One of the first major decisions of being a Marshall Scholar is determining where in the UK you would like to study—from sleepy southern coastal cities, to the incredible super-metropolis of London to Oxbridge’s ancient halls of learning to the cold and rocky north. The flexibility of the scholarship, to attend any UK university, in any city, and study any subject, is a major advantage. For me, I was slightly nervous to choose the road less traveled by selecting to go to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, but the choice has absolutely paid off in the unique cultural experience I’ve had.

The university, which turns 437 years old this year, never fails to impress, with its history as a center for medicine, philosophy, and computer science. It has an incredible list of discoveries and alumni including Bayes, Darwin, Hume, Alexander Graham Bell, Robert Louis Stevenson and many more. Even just walking to class along cobblestone streets has an element of grandeur to it, as Edinburgh tends towards stately stone architecture, reminiscent of Georgetown’s Healy Hall. Despite all the city and institution’s historical ties, I study a rather modern subject, Human Cognitive Neuropsychology, essentially the science of relating neurological techniques such as MRI and EEG to the psychology of memory, personality, and disease. For my dissertation, I will be studying how teamwork changes in the extreme environment and isolation of Antarctica. Since UK master’s programs are only one year long, the dissertation work has come up on me very quickly, but the positive aspect is that I will be able to achieve masters degrees in two different subjects in the two years of the scholarship!

As I alluded to, Edinburgh is a cultural gem. While my British friends have taken me out for UK-wide holidays such as Bonfire (Guy Fawkes) Night, I’ve particularly enjoyed Scottish holidays such as St. Andrew’s Day and Robert Burns Night. For Burns night, the tradition is to eat haggis and recite Burns’ deeply Scottish poem about the dish, “Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware/ That jaups in luggies/ But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer/ Gie her a Haggis.” Other wonderful activities have been many ascents of the rocky summit of Arthur’s Seat overlooking the city, and trips through the midlands to Sterling Castle and Linlithgow Palace as well as up to the Highlands to see Inverness and cycle along Loch Ness.

The Marshall Scholarship, named after American Secretary of State George C. Marshall, is a living gift from the people of the United Kingdom to the USA. In addition to the tuition fees and living expenses that it covers, there are a number of remarkable events throughout the year that the Marshall organizes. These have been very special indeed such as our initial reception at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with opportunities to meet Members of Parliament and high ranking diplomat staff. Additionally, the Marshall staff advertises speaking opportunities to UK universities, and so to date I have given two talks already, at Newcastle Uni and Uni of Exeter, on the Marshall Scholarship and my research on space medicine, both of which have led to additional connections and opportunities for me, as well as being funded opportunities to check out new cities. A big event that is coming up in a few weeks is the Marshall class trip to Belfast, in Northern Ireland. I’m very much looking forward to it, not just because of Northern Ireland’s pivotal role in recent UK history, but also its current complicated involvement in the Brexit negotiations. It is certainly an interesting time to be in the UK.

Lastly, and perhaps the element that is only beginning to make itself clear to me, is the wide variety of highly talented people that I have been meeting in the Marshall class. From musical composers to policy buffs, future diplomats and future doctors, there is an array of interesting futures ahead for my fellow Marshall Scholars – it will be incredible to watch them all achieve their potential and continue to be friends with so many highly capable people I wouldn’t have otherwise met! For next year, I am looking forward to moving down to London, continuing my exploration of space medicine, and enjoying the people, places, and events of the Marshall and the UK.

Ben standing in front of a cream-colored building with lots of windows

Ben standing in front of the Guildhalls of Brussels.

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Max Scurlock’s Reflection on the Critical Language Scholarship – Tajikistan

Max Scurlock is a second-year graduate student pursuing an M.A. of Arab Studies. Max is a 2018 recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship.

Last summer, I had the great fortune to travel to Tajikistan and study Persian through a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), an award sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. CLS programs allow American undergraduate and graduate students to study – with full funding – one of 15 languages deemed critical to U.S. national security at various international destinations.

First, some context for my own experience. Having studied Arabic at Ohio State, my undergraduate institution, I decided to take Persian during my senior year. In addition to the obvious geographical linkages between Arabic and Persian-speaking countries, the two languages share a tremendous amount of vocabulary and roots (although from a grammatical perspective they are structurally dissimilar – Persian is far easier for native English speakers).

Most U.S. institutions, Georgetown included, teach Farsi, the variety of Persian spoken in Iran. Most people in Afghanistan speak Dari, another variety, and most in Tajikistan speak a third, known as Tajik. There are also some Persian speakers in Uzbekistan, notably in the ancient Silk Road cities of Samarqand and Bukhara. I discovered upon arriving in Dushanbe – Tajikistan’s capital city and our home base during the summer – that Tajik varies considerably from Iranian Persian/Farsi, possessing heavy Russian influences. This is largely a result of Tajikistan’s incorporation into the Soviet Union in the 1920s. We primarily studied Iranian Persian but took a few Tajik classes to assist in local communication.

My experience in Tajikistan was uniformly delightful – as much as I enjoy Georgetown and the D.C. area, I was far from ready to leave after our program expired. Having previously travelled in the Middle East and North Africa, I quickly adapted to life in Tajikistan, though not without confronting the usual cultural hurdles. Each student in my program was assigned host families, with whom we conversed, ate, and explored Dushanbe. My host family experience was excellent – speaking little-to-no English or even Farsi, they remained exceedingly patient in conversational situations, as I was quite out of practice when I arrived (I did not take Persian during my first year at Georgetown as I was finishing Arabic requirements).

I tremendously improved my Persian while in Tajikistan, thanks to the support of several dedicated language professors, CLS staff members, and a local Tajik language partner. I also developed lasting friendships and professional relationships with several of my fellow CLS students. We were fortunate enough to travel and camp extensively throughout Tajikistan, experiencing what may be the most beautiful country I have ever visited.

Central Asia, which includes Tajikistan and four other former Soviet republics, is a fascinating and under-researched region. Central Asia since 1991 has experienced the rise of authoritarian rule, civil wars, and poor intraregional diplomatic relations. The latter has significantly hindered the Central Asian states, which had reaped the benefits of economic interdependence during the USSR period.

Religious extremism has also emerged in the region. Substantial numbers of Tajiks have travelled to fight in Syria or pledged allegiance to extremist groups. A week or so before our departure, Islamic State supporters killed multiple American and European tourists, including two Georgetown alumni. Fringe American news sources seized upon this incident to declare Tajikistan, among other things, “ISIS territory”. This betrays ignorance about the country and the region – such incidents are rare and Tajiks are extremely welcoming towards visitors. The U.S. government and citizenry should continue supporting exchange programs and responsible economic development policies in Tajikistan and elsewhere. These initiatives, not xenophobia or isolationism, advance American interests while improving the lives of countless others.

Upon returning to Georgetown, I began my second year as a master’s student in Arab Studies and enrolled in third-level advanced Persian courses. Georgetown’s Persian department is well-run and the faculty is consistently dedicated to student success. I encourage fellow students with interests in the Middle East or Central Asia – especially those who may not possess the time to master Arabic – to consider enrolling in Persian and to apply for a CLS award. No language is easy, but in my experience, Persian is quite straightforward when compared to Arabic or Spanish.

I am extremely fortunate to have participated in the CLS program and have profited personally and professionally as a result. I encourage others to seek the challenge of learning a second language and adapting to an unfamiliar international living situation – you will not regret it!

Max in Tajikistan, standing in front of a mountainous landscape.

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Marta Aparicio’s Rangel Experience

Marta Aparicio (COL ’14) studied Sociology and Government at Georgetown. Marta is a 2018 recipient of the Rangel Fellowship.

At Georgetown University, I developed an appreciation for cultural diversity, as well as U.S. politics through academic coursework and community service. My curiosity about the role of global politics also motivated me to study abroad for six months in 2013 in Madrid, Spain. I took the opportunity to teach English to my host siblings and engaged in political discussions in Spanish with my host parents and classmates.  As a Guatemalan-American representative in Europe, I gained an understanding of people’s cultures while working and building relationships with them.

Upon completion of my Bachelor’s Degree, I explored avenues in the private and public sectors, specifically in retail, education, and social care. After my second year of working full-time, I thought more in-depth about my “dream career” and I concluded that throughout my personal and professional experiences, I have made public service to others a core component of what I do. Therefore, I wanted to have a proud profession where I could continue serving others beyond the walls of my community. Additionally, I felt it was time to go back to school and pursue a Master’s Degree. After thorough research, speaking with my mentors, and reaching out to a Georgetown friend who is a current Foreign Service Officer, I concluded that the State Department Charles B. Rangel Fellowship was perfect for me. My new goal was to be part of the Rangel Family.

The goal of the Rangel Fellowship is to attract and prepare outstanding young people for careers in the U.S. Foreign Service and to diversify the profession in order to accurately reflect the rich diversity of the American people it represents overseas. The Rangel Fellowship put both of my goals together – my goal of pursuing my Master’s Degree and my goal of becoming a U.S. Diplomat.  

I had the honor to be selected as a 2018 Rangel Fellow on November 2017. My journey started in May 20th, 2018 with a one-week orientation to the Rangel Fellowship and the Foreign Service in Washington, D.C.. The orientation was followed by a 10-week internship on Capitol Hill, where I had the opportunity to intern with ranking member, Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island.

As a Congressional Fellow, I conducted research, wrote memos, and worked closely with the Senior Policy Advisors on issues such as education policy, immigration, and economy. On June 6th, Senator Reed requested floor privileges for me to have access to the Senate Chamber. With this access, I had new opportunities to witness my Senator and other senators speak over critical issues in our country. Overall, the congressional internship helped me learn more about how Congress operates and influences U.S. foreign policy.

During the course of my internship, I participated in professional development workshops, learned about the foreign service through other diplomats and ambassadors, attended an Ambassadorial Swearing-in Ceremony, and even had the opportunity to have lunch with the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central American, Cuban, and Mexican Affairs at the 8th floor Diplomatic Dining Room at the State Department.

With the help of the Rangel Fellowship, I am currently pursuing a Master of International Affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University, with a concentration in Urban and Social Policy, as well as a double specialization in Latin American studies and the United Nations. As a future Foreign Service Officer, I think it is important to study urban cities, so I can prepare myself to think and engage critically about the economic, social, political, and technological forces that are shaping urban areas across the globe.

As part of my Rangel Fellowship, I will also have the opportunity to intern at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia for 10 weeks during summer 2019. While working at the embassy, I hope to draw upon my professional skills and growing knowledge of the U.S. policies towards Latin America to contribute my unique perspective and complement the work of other embassy staff.  

As a State Department Rangel Fellow, I am gaining considerable knowledge of Foreign Service missions, objectives, and lifestyles – that will further prepare me for the consular track. It will be a privilege to continue being an active citizen as a U.S. Diplomat representing America and promoting its national interests abroad. Since emigrating from Guatemala 15 years ago, the United States has empowered me to make a better life for myself to serve my country!

Marta standing open-armed on a mosaic floor depicting a map of the world.

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Jose Luna’s Reflection on the Schwarzman

Jose Luna (SFS ’15) studied International Economics with a concentration in International Finance and Commerce at Georgetown. Jose is a 2017 Schwarzman Scholar

As a China person since freshman year of high school, after graduating from Georgetown SFS in 2015, I knew I wanted to eventually find my way back to China. I had heard about the Schwarzman Scholars Program before graduating and I also knew I would apply as soon as the applications for the first cohort were open. As a completely new program, Schwarzman was and continues to be wrapped in an air of mystery and ambiguity. Many people, myself included, thought that Schwarzman was ideal for candidates with previous China experience, a certain level of Mandarin and/or a desire to live and work in China. The program’s leadership refers to it as the Rhodes of China and emphasizes that it is not a “China person” program. At the same time, many others still haven’t even heard of it. Regardless of where you stand, I will take this opportunity to share with you all what, at least from my experience, Schwarzman is really about.

First of all, Schwarzman is truly for all backgrounds, and it gains a lot from its diversity. In terms of language, nationality, field, interests, etc, my cohort at Schwarzman was very diverse (and I understand the second and third cohorts even more so). This program is really not for just one or two archetypes of students, it’s really for anyone with leadership potential and an idea of how China will be important in their careers. So don’t be discouraged if you think you aren’t competitive because you don’t know Chinese or you haven’t been to China before — in many ways, this could even work in your favor!

Secondly, Schwarzman, combined with Tsinghua University, is a platform. Given the diversity of backgrounds and interests as well as the duration of the program, it’s hard to make Schwarzman very academically specialized. You are offered a wide variety of good academic options, of course, but you’re also given the flexibility and time to go do whatever it is that you are in China to do. Regardless of whether you are an entrepreneur, a policy expert, a mechanical engineer, a doctor, etc., Schwarzman and Tsinghua combined provide a highly effective platform that can open many otherwise difficult-to-open doors. Even though Schwarzman is still a young program and some may still not know of it, Tsinghua is arguably the best university in China and quickly climbing in global rankings. Being a Tsinghua Student in China is a huge deal…add on top of that the Schwarzman element and this “platform” can become very powerful, it’s up to every Scholar’s own initiative to make the best of it.

Lastly and most importantly, Schwarzman is a life-changing experience. It’s a time to get out of your comfort zone, explore, learn, reassess and make great friendships. The College is a beautiful building with tremendous facilities and a great community of fellow scholars; nonetheless, it’s combining the experiences inside the College with leaving the College that is most impactful: an internship somewhere in Beijing, a trip to remote parts of China with other scholars, sharing your country’s food with the Tsinghua community, a Mexican Christmas party in the college. These are all examples of what I did during my year in China and I can confidently say these were the experiences that I enjoyed immensely and cherish to this day.

Today, Schwarzman provides not only a home every time I go to Beijing, but also a home in every place where Schwarzman Scholars live. Just like the Hoya alumni network allows me to share this reflection with you today, the Schwarzman network is very active and it allows me to keep in touch with members of my class and subsequent classes as well. Just yesterday 30-35 current scholars visited me in Shanghai, where I currently work and live.

I hope you will all consider applying, there are currently only two Hoya Schwarzman Scholars, so we need more! Please reach out with any questions and let me know if you’re ever in Shanghai!

HOYA SAXA!

Jose with other Schwarzman Scholars

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Updates on Kala Deterville’s Rangel Experience

Kala Deterville graduated from Georgetown in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Japanese. 

As a 2018 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellow, my journey began in Mid-May when I started a ten week internship with Congressman Gregory W. Meeks. This internship experience provided me with a deeper understanding of the critical role of the legislative branch in U.S. foreign policy and the functioning of Capitol Hill. Given that Congressman Meeks is the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, I became interested in Europe as my second region of expertise and will therefore be interning next summer at the U.S Mission to the European Union as a part of the program’s overseas internship obligation.

Currently, I am in my first year at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), where I am pursuing a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in International Security Policy and East Asia regional specialization. The courses I have been taking at SIPA are equipping me with the qualitative and quantitative analytical skills and managerial skills needed to tackle complex foreign policy issues.

The Rangel Fellowship has thus far allowed me to gain the academic and professional skills needed to be successful as a foreign service officer. Most importantly, I have become a part of a family of aspiring and current diplomats of Rangel fellows, who are eager to shape foreign policy and serve our nation abroad. I am not sure what the future holds in my career but whether thats serving in Egypt or France, I am ready to be flexible, optimistic, and hard working.

I am beyond excited to start my career as a foreign service officer once I graduate in 2020 but for now Brussels and second semester Macroeconomics awaits!

Kala with Representative Gregory Meeks of New York

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Katherine Schmidt’s Experience as a Critical Language Scholar in Azerbaijan

Katherine Schmidt is a 2018 Critical Language Scholar. Katherine graduated from the SFS in 2018 with a B.S.F.S. in Science, Technology, and International Affairs, with a minor in Chinese.

After graduation, I was not grappling with the uncertainty of “Where will my job be?”; “What will I do with my life?” and “What does it mean not to be in school?” (all of those questions would be asked later). Instead, I was asking myself, “What is Azerbaijan?”; “Was I crazy to apply to the Critical Language Program?” and “How am I going to learn this language in three months?”

The short answer is: yes, I was kind of crazy to apply to study in a foreign country immediately after graduation. It was a wild move that made people question my life plans and made for sometimes awkward conversations about post-grad life. It’s hard to have a conversation about a country that most people don’t know how to locate on a map.

But it was worth it. I highly recommend to everybody – especially seniors – to apply to the Critical Language Scholarship program if you are itching to learn another language, immerse yourself in a culture and a region you find fascinating, and make incredible connections along the way.

The Critical Language Scholarship changed how I perceive myself. After hours and hours in the classroom, talking with my language partners, studying on my own in cafes, communicating with my host family, and navigating the streets of Azerbaijan for no purpose other than my own happiness and personal victory, I realized that I value learning for the sake of learning. This was the only experience in my life where I was learning and studying not for a grade, but for myself.

Hiking up to a “qalcha” – a small tower – in a rural mountainous village with my friend, I realized that I value spontaneous adventures and flexible trips that lead to everything from conversations with old women on the side of the road to a drive up a mountain to a tea house. Never in my life had I experienced a culture so welcoming to outsiders (a friend of a friend of a friend hosted me in his house for a weekend), and I learned the value of connecting with others from a place that assumes good intentions and presumes humility.

Now that I’ve completed this scholarship and returned to the U.S., I’ve started to think about all of those classic life questions. Because of this experience, I’m emboldened to pursue research that connects my experience in Azerbaijan with my other academic interests, and I’m emboldened to take a less conventional life path because I’m more certain of what I want. I want to continue learning Azeri. I want to continue learning Chinese. I want to continue research, and I want to, ultimately, do good, meaningful work. I’m excited about all of this “post-grad life” adventure and am grateful for the experience I had with CLS.

So, for all of you seniors thinking about applying to CLS: apply. For all of you thinking about Azerbaijan: I’d be happy to talk about my experiences with you!

 

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Ashley Lane’s Experience as a Critical Language Scholar in Tajikistan

Ashley Lane is pursuing a B.S.F.S. in Science, Technology, and International Affairs and Persian (SFS ’20). Ashley studied in Tajikistan during the summer of 2018 as a recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship

“You’re going to Tajikistan? Where even is that?”

I became fairly accustomed to these bewildered, eyebrows-raised comments in response to the disclosure of my somewhat unconventional summer plans. I received a lot of spelling requests, a couple responses of “Wait, is that even a country?”, and ultimately found myself resorting to a map and a mini elevator pitch:

“I’m traveling to Tajikistan (a country in Central Asia) to study Persian with the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program through the State Department. I’ll be living with a host family and taking classes there for two months.”

Usually we had reached some level of greater understanding by this point in the conversation, but it was often followed by a much harder question to answer: “Okay, but why?”

This was an incredible opportunity to improve my linguistic skills and further my academic and professional goals. I have been studying Persian for the past two years at Georgetown, which I enrolled in my freshman year frankly based on a whim and an interest in the Middle East and Central Asia. What I found in these courses was beyond what I could have ever expected: I completely fell in love with the language and culture. I decided to pursue Persian for my language proficiency requirement and declared a Persian minor. Studying in Tajikistan would give me the chance to immerse myself in a Persian-speaking country, improve my language skills, and fulfill some of my academic requirements. I also knew that greater linguistic knowledge and abilities along with international experience would benefit me professionally in the future, given my aspiration to work in the government.

Yet even with this perfectly-crafted match and vision, I still found myself questioning several times throughout the program: “Wait, why am I doing this again?” The truth is, CLS Persian came with its fair share of challenges. From Tajik Tummy to struggling to understand my host family in the local dialect to difficult coursework and 107-degree Fahrenheit heat, I certainly wondered from time to time how I had willingly gotten myself into this. There were days where I felt like I was regressing, unable to speak or think with ease in Persian, frustrated by every minor annoyance that presented itself to me. But with these days also came those of small victories and visible progress, of joy found in both the adventures of this experience and the mundane moments of everyday life. It was the combination of these experiences – the non-linear path of cultural adjustment – but particularly the challenges of CLS, that ultimately taught me more about myself and contributed the most to my personal development.

My CLS experience provided me with the tools to achieve my linguistic, academic and professional goals, but it also provided me with something infinitely more valuable: the opportunity to engage with people in an area of the world I may otherwise never have been able to. Tajikistan, in all its complexity and contradictions, is one of the most beautiful places I have ever traveled to, filled with some of the kindest and most hospitable people I have ever met. I am beyond grateful for my host family and all of the people – especially the women – that I met who welcomed me into their spaces with open arms, and for those who challenged and supported me. It was really these people who shaped my experience and provided me with greater insight into Tajik culture and life in Tajikistan. This, for me, is where the true value of cultural exchange and the CLS program lies: a piece of my heart, another home, will always find its place in Tajikistan.

Ashley Lane, fourth from the left, pictured with her host family in Tajikistan.

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Andrea Welsh’s Experience as a Fulbright Public Policy Fellow

Andrea Welsh, SFS ’17, holds a Master’s of Global Human Development. 

The Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship was launched in 2012 under the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in order to support the development of foreign government ministries and institutions with the day-to-day support of a special assistant. The program places Fellows in a variety of public policy areas including economic development, education, environment, gender equality, justice, and public health. Today, there are currently Fellows serving in Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Samoa, Cote D’Ivoire, Ukraine, Guatemala, Peru, Malawi, and Chile.

As a graduate of Georgetown’s Master of Global Human Development program, I was excited to apply my international development and public policy experience to work in a foreign government. My goal was to identify an opportunity that offered direct experience with the process to develop and create public policy at the country-level and in order to learn how the international community can provide more effective support during this process.

In September 2017, I was fortunate to be selected as a Fulbright Public Policy Fellow with the assignment to serve in Myanmar’s Ministry of Education in the Department of Technical and Vocational Education and Training. In my role as a Fellow, I directly advise the senior leadership of the Department on policy reform, build project management capacity of civil service staff, establish and maintain effective working relationships with international development partners, and implement gender-focused mainstreaming and integration initiatives. This work aims to support the Department’s goal of improving the national education system in order to provide future generations of students with improved economic and career opportunities.

As part of my Fellowship, I am also engaged in a research project which focuses on the experience of our female students and teachers by examining the types of technical education they pursue, cultural and/or social barriers that arise while developing a technical skill, and employment opportunities upon graduation.

I live in Nay Pyi Taw which has served as the country’s administrative capital since 2005. Due to the importance of engaging students and teachers in effective policy reform, I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the country visiting our schools. These visits have provided invaluable insights and unique perspectives which have guided our reform efforts to diversify course offerings, reform existing curriculum and create new curriculum, and expand linkages with private sector actors to open professional opportunities for our students.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have applied my education from the School of Foreign Service to serve as a Fulbright Public Policy Fellow. It has further reinforced my belief in the critical need to build and maintain strong government institutions. As I prepare for my placement to conclude in the coming months, I am confident that the experiences and lessons I have learned as a Fellow will guide my work in public service.

 

Andrea Welsh (SFS GHD 2017) currently serves as a Fulbright Public Policy Fellow in Myanmar’s Ministry of Education. For more information regarding the Fulbright Public Policy Fellow, please visit https://www.cies.org/program/fulbright-public-policy-fellowship.

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Neil Noronha’s Experience as a Luce Scholar

You know you have lived in New Delhi for a year when you are accustomed to Delhi Belly and all of its gastronomical unpleasantries. For me, the last bout of it occurred when, out of dire thirst from walking around in the scorching heat, I decided to drink “pineapple” juice from a local “raswala” (juice man). The color of the drink, which I had seen him make, was red, not yellow as is typical of pineapple juice. But, I did not care; I needed something refreshing. After drinking half the cup, I realized right then that I would pay for that decision. Luckily, however, I had gotten Delhi Belly before, so I was well prepared to handle it. Ultimately, this experience typifies a LUCE year, one in which the scholars learn how to adapt to and immerse themselves into a new cultural environment.

I applied to the Henry Luce Scholars Program as a post-Obama Administration job.  As a political appointee, you always realize that your time in the U.S. government has an end date. For each presidential administration when your party is in power, you usually serve maximum anywhere between 4 and 8 years. Even if Secretary Clinton had won the 2016 Presidential Election, there was no guarantee that I would be asked to stay. I needed a backup plan.

This fellowship appealed to me because I saw it as an unconventional job that allowed me to break out of the D.C. bubble. Throughout college and the first two and half years of my career, I had only known one thing: public service in the U.S. government. Adding the fact that I had grown up in the D.C. area, having gone to Gonzaga College High School and Georgetown University, a temporary separation from my relationship with the Nation’s Capital seemed appropriate. And, with a fellowship whose criteria for eligibility includes having limited or no prior familiarity with Asia, the Henry Luce Scholars Program was perfect for me.

The yearlong Henry Luce Scholars Program is unique within the fellowship world. I see it as a combination of the Fulbright Scholarship and the Princeton in Asia (PIA) Fellowship. On the one hand, its scholars are afforded exciting professional opportunities in the Asia as they are matched with organizations directly tied to their academic field of interest. On the other hand, the Asia Foundation, the in-country support to the Henry Luce Foundation for this program, offers language stipends to ensure scholars are best positioned to fully assimilate into the culture of their placement country. Similar to those of both the Fulbright and PIA, the LUCE cohort comprises of a diverse group of individuals, whose ages ranged from 21 to 29, whose colleges included Emory and Rice as well as Yale, and whose interests varied from environmental science to journalism.

Neil in kurta, celebrating Diwali at a friend’s place.

As I reflect back on my time in New Delhi, I relish how much I grew over the year. Academically, I can now speak intelligibly about Indian domestic politics and foreign policy agenda. When I arrived in the country 14 months ago, I knew nothing about the country from those perspectives. Professionally, I learned how to operate within the think tank space and released three publications, one of which later culminated into a roundtable discussion. Personally, I became resilient, developing the ability to weather challenges that come from living abroad, such as not being able to celebrate Thanksgiving or other momentous occasions with your family and friends back in the U.S.

Most importantly, I connected with my ethnic heritage, developing stronger cultural and linguistic ties with Indian society. Before my LUCE year, I knew only one Bollywood film, the importance of only two actors, and two phrases in Hindi (tum pagal ho and tum bakari ho; “you are mad” and “you are a goat”). Over the course of the year, I watched roughly 6-10 Hindi films, learned about more Bollywood stars, including an actress with whose husband I played basketball consistently, and talked to my parents intermittently in Hindi. While I don’t think this fellowship has lit a fire in my heart to become a South Asian regional expert, it has made gain a greater appreciation for the country from which my parents emigrated in the 1980s.

I really wished that more students at Georgetown University knew about the Henry Luce Scholars Program. It is not just for the SFSers like myself. All majors and professional interests are welcomed. In fact, this year’s LUCE cohort includes a metalsmith. At the same time, I realize that now as an alumnus, I have an obligation to be like a televangelist and convince other students and alumni to apply for this opportunity. The Henry Luce Scholars Program changed my life and I am sure it will do the same from you (See I could be the next Joel Osteen). You certainly won’t regret it—even if your stomach does!

Neil Noronha graduated from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service both with his BSFS in International Economics (’14) and his MA in Security Studies (’16). At Georgetown, he was a member of the Georgetown University Student Association and Carroll Fellows Initiative. He also participated in numerous internships, to include working at the FBI, U.S. Embassy in Panama for the Department of State, Treasury Department, White House, and Goldman Sachs.  Neil spent two and half years in the Obama Administration, both at the Department of Defense and on the National Security Council Staff before spending the 2017-18 academic year in New Delhi, India, working for Carnegie India and studying Hindi as part of the Henry Luce Scholars Program. Currently, he serves as a congressional fellow with the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, covering foreign policy and defense issues in the role of a legislative assistant for Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). 

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