Tag Archives: Fulbright

A Udall and Fulbright Scholar Gains Clarity on Her Goals Through the Fellowship Process

Hannah Funk (SFS ’20) studies Culture and Politics with a focus on sustainable development and Latin American studies. On campus, she leads the environmental club and interns at the Georgetown Office of Sustainability, working to promote composting and recycling solutions for the university.  

As a 2019 Udall Scholar and a (very recent!) 2020 Fulbright scholar, my experiences working with the GOFAR office to pursue fellowship opportunities have been one of the most meaningful parts of my Georgetown experience. Looking back, I am so grateful for the ways in which the application processes helped me to articulate my goals and build community at Georgetown and beyond.

I was drawn to the Udall Scholarship for young environmental leaders as a sophomore at Georgetown. As a CULP major, I focused my studies around social inclusion in international sustainability. My career goal is to work to include vulnerable communities in sustainable development in Latin America, one of the most unequal and environmentally important regions of the world. After working on many iterations of my Udall application with the support of the GOFAR team, I was disappointed to ultimately not be selected as a scholar in 2018. However, a year later, while studying abroad in Brazil and being exposed to new experiences that only made me more passionate about international environmental justice, I decided to reapply. This time, I was selected as a Udall Scholar. I attended the week-long Udall orientation with other student leaders pursuing careers related to the environment, as well as Native American tribal policy. The opportunity to be part of a group of young people from around the U.S. who shared my commitment to environmental and social justice and worked to make change in their own college communities was incredibly inspiring. 

The same summer I went to the Udall orientation, as a rising senior, I began to think about post-graduation opportunities. My experiences of studying abroad, pursuing environmental internships, and meeting other Udall Scholars helped to define my values for the next year; I knew I wanted to pursue an international learning experience, gain meaningful experience in sustainable development, and be part of an intellectually-driven community. Motivated by my past positive experiences working with GOFAR, I applied to several international fellowships during the summer and fall of my senior year, including the Marshall Scholarship to pursue graduate studies in England, and a Fulbright Research Award in Brazil. 

Working on these two applications simultaneously helped me to imagine and get excited about different international post-grad opportunities, and allowed me to work with a network of other Georgetown students also applying for fellowships. Even though I was not selected as a Marshall scholar, I have no regrets about the hours spent on this application, because of the way that the application process helped me to reflect deeply about my personal, academic, and professional goals. I believe that working on the Marshall and the Fulbright at the same time made my applications for both fellowships stronger, and I learned just a few days ago that I have been selected to pursue a Fulbright research award in Brazil next year. 

Receiving my Fulbright acceptance email at a time that I am finishing up my senior year through Zoom classes was a bittersweet feeling. I was immediately excited to get to pursue my goals of researching sustainable and inclusive development in Brazil, but my excitement is tinged with anxiety about the current restrictions on international travel and public health. However, everything I have learned through the past three years of working closely with the GOFAR office and communities at Georgetown and beyond has made me feel confident and empowered as I lean into this uncertainty. I recognize the value of global education, research, and community building, now more than ever, and am so excited for the adventures the next year has in store for me.


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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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Madison Fisher’s Fulbright Experience in Amman, Jordan

“So why are you here?” It’s a question I get all the time living in Amman and I can recognize why. I run around the city with a mess of blond curly hair, a cross around my neck, and functional but far from fluent Arabic. Understandably, people get curious. I am grateful that Fulbright placed me at my school, the Islamic Educational College for Girls in Jabal Amman, one of the oldest and most well-respected secondary schools in Jordan. Several members of the Jordanian royal family even studied there at one time or another. The school had their first Fulbrighter the previous year, an Iraqi-Muslim-American woman, who they adored. I was a little nervous to come to my school as the only Westerner and non-Muslim faculty member; would they accept me? Fortunately, the community welcomed me with open arms as a part of the family before they got to know me, but eventually my curious colleagues also asked, “Maddie, why are you here?” While my reasons for applying for Fulbright in Jordan are not immediately obvious, to me it makes perfect sense. I am interested in interfaith studies, particularly Christian-Muslim relations, and my school is a great opportunity for me to engage in informal interfaith dialogue and learn more about Islam in a non-academic setting. I am proud to wear a replica of the cross of my church in Maryland, where the church community sponsors a Syrian refugee family to live on church property. It reminds me that my faith calls on me to love everyone, always, with no agenda or exception. I appreciate when people ask me why I chose Jordan because it gives me an opportunity to explain that I happen to share a lot of the same values that are prevalent in Jordan’s Muslim-majority culture and that studying Islam and my conversations with Muslim friends help me to grow in my faith as a Christian.

I love living this life where my existence confuses people. I’ve learned cultural exchange takes many forms. I once played tug-of-war twice in one week as a twenty-two year old (at my Arabic institute and at a charity bazaar at my school). At the end of lessons, where I volunteer-teach refugee girls, I reward good behavior by teaching  them dances I learned doing Rangila at Georgetown. In turn, they teach me debkeh dance steps, which I later practice as I dance around the teacher’s room at my school. Sometimes my best Arabic lessons happen when I throw on a fluorescent yellow construction vest to join hundreds of people, mostly Jordanians, to speed walk around Amman with friends.

Being a Fulbright ETA is wonderful because my teaching responsibilities are part-time,  enabling me to engage with other activities outside of my formal assignment. I also intern at Jordan’s Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, helping research and write reports on different religious groups in Jordan as well as assisting with events the institute hosts. Participating in social justice and interfaith programs at Georgetown was something I loved and now I get to continue to utilize my dialogue skills through both my work at my school and my internship. It has been a great experience to do research with the goal of disseminating a crucial truth about religion: there is no single story of how people living in Jordan worship. This is so important to me because the goal of Fulbright is to increase mutual understanding between the people of United States and people from other countries through international exchange. Often, my least favorite question to answer is where I am from because, even though I am grateful for my country, I frequently do not agree with the government. With many historical and recent US policy decisions that cause hurt and displacement in the Middle East, I can mourn with my friends in Jordan as we cry out for justice and peace. When there are hateful campaigns in the West like “Punish a Muslim Day,” I denounce these events and promise to share my experience in Jordan back home to aid in the  fight to end Islamophobia. Being a Fulbrighter in a region where US policies are often unpopular, I have the opportunity to be an unofficial representative of the US government and show that there is also no single story of what it means to be an American–the American people are not our administration nor its policies.

I first heard about the Fulbright Program the fall of my first year at Georgetown when Jordan Denari-Duffner, who I look up to for her work at the Bridge Initiative and the Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding, walked into my Arabic class to say hello to my professor after returning from her tenure as a Fulbrighter to Jordan. I scribbled into my Arabic notebook, “Figure out what Fulbright is and then apply for it after graduation.” Five years later I am still studying Arabic while in Amman, thanks to having the Critical Language Enhancement Award. This part of my grant allows me to take Arabic classes and receive tutoring in order to strengthen my colloquial, spoken Arabic. I would highly encourage anyone who is passionate about education or researching in a specific country to apply for Fulbright. While my experience with Fulbright has been pretty ideal, it is also important to note that this is due to a lot of things that are out of my control. There are so many more challenges that my friends face because they are people of color, are at schools where they have to fight to be respected and given meaningful work, identify as queer, practice a religion that is not officially recognized, or live in an area with less Fulbrighters in close proximity. I have learned so much throughout my time in Jordan and it is an honor to be a part of a network of American Fulbrighters in the MENA region and MENA region Fulbrighters in the US.

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One Alum’s Path to Fulbright

Interested in the Fulbright fellowship? Read more about Alex Villec, COL ’13, and his path to becoming a Fulbright Fellow here: https://studyabroad.georgetown.edu/news/abroadeninghorizons/alexvillec


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