The purpose of the International Fellowships Newsletter is to bring awareness of grant programs supported by USC Academic Honors & Fellowships. In this issue, we are featuring 2014-2015 USC Trojans that are currently "on assignment." Please enjoy their stories from around the globe. BONUS: They have also included handy tips to help you with your application.
African Flagship Languages Initiative, Senegal
"You miss 100% of the shots you donâ€™t take. Even if you donâ€™t receive the award, the process of applying will help you explore your interests."
I participated in the inaugural African Flagship Languages Initiative, a U.S. Department of State program administered by the American Councils for International Education. I spent 2 months taking preparatory French language, Wolof language, and Senegalese literature courses at the University of Florida Center for African Studies before embarking on 4 months in Dakar, Senegal.
I was in class a LOTâ€”Iâ€™d never spent so much time in a classroom before! While in Florida, I was in class daily from 8am to 4:30pm, and in Senegal, from 9am to 5:30pm. The thing is, though, I really appreciated having the opportunity to fully focus on schoolwork. At USC, Iâ€™m always juggling school with multiple jobs and student organizations, but for those 6 months, I was free to throw myself into my classes. I learned to translate everything from press releases to legal agreements, read books about polygamy and neocolonialism, and watched every film ever produced by prolific West African director Ousmene Sembene. For the first time, I was taught French by teachers who donâ€™t also speak English. Itâ€™s given me a new perspective on the American education system.
Outside of class, I felt like I had a Senegalese family and an American family. I lived with a host family of the Wolof ethnic group, and they made me feel welcome immediately. We ate dinner every night together around a shared bowl, usually discussing politics or cultural differences. With my host sister, I browsed fabric markets and helped cook yassa ganaar (chicken with onions). With my host brothers, I exchanged rap music and went for runs along the beach. I learned as much from my host family as from my formal teachers.
My American family was my cohort of 6 other AFLI participants. We would always joke that the program would make a fascinating social experiment: put together 7 students from different universities, ranging from age 20 to 39, in a place where they know no one else and have them spend the majority of their time together for 6 months. The result for us is that we got incredibly close; in a lot of ways, we needed each other.
When I look back, I realize that a lot of my most meaningful learning came out of my most profound discomfort. Studying abroad puts you out of your comfort zone, and thatâ€™s one of the most valuable things you can experience. There was so much I took for granted, so many things I never challengedâ€”and studying abroad forced me to re-examine my own location in the world.
*Students interested in connecting with Linda Wang may email her at: email@example.com . **Learn more about the Boren Scholarships and awards here.
Gates Cambridge Scholar, United Kingdom
"If you do what makes you happiest â€“ if you stay true to yourself â€“ the rest tends to follow naturally."
It is incredible to think that a little more than a year ago I was receiving my USC diploma. That is a day I look back on with much fondness and nostalgia, the latter being a major buzzword as of late. But as the old adage goes â€“ nostalgia, itâ€™s not what it used to be!
My time in Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar has been multidimensional. On the academic front, my MPhil in Development Studies has exposed me to a variety of worldviews on how development as a project and process take hold. The Development Studies program is interdisciplinary; from economics to ethics, the MPhil fills the theoretical and practical toolkit with a variety of mechanisms to consider as we seek to go out and contribute to development work. This can take the form of foundation work, a likely career pathway in the near-term for myself, or business, often in the form of consulting or finance. I tend to be one of the younger individuals in a classroom, which comes with its advantages as by osmosis I learn a great deal from my older â€“ and wiser â€“ peers who offer invaluable insights from the field. Not unlike my International Relations undergraduate major, Development Studies is a problem solving discipline, and I look forward to entering the world soon and making my contribution.
The most meaningful part of my year in Cambridge is derived from the Gates Cambridge Scholars community. The year began with a group retreat to the Lake District in Northern England, and there lifelong friendships were forged over pub quizzes, canoe outings on Lake Windermere, and discussions of research. The Gates Scholar community is composed of individuals who have a made a â€œcommitment to improving the lives of othersâ€ â€“ this line often comes up â€“ and their work reflects this imperative. Whether its cutting edge research on C3/4 photosynthesis linked to agricultural yields, influenza outbreak patterns, or global development, Gates Scholars find a way to salute the bigger picture of service. An intellectual community composed of scholars and learners all studying different topics, coupled with the international nature of the cohort, makes for a moral and intellectual community I am humbled to be a part of. I cannot imagine my time in Cambridge independent of the Gates Scholarship.
A great privilege throughout the past year, and I hope into the foreseeable future, has been to provide guidance to prospective fellowship applicants. My first and central piece of advice remains unchanged â€“ do what makes you happiest. This is tough advice that I often have trouble following, but please do keep it tucked away in the back pocket. If you do what makes you happiest â€“ if you stay true to yourself â€“ the rest tends to follow naturally. Whether youâ€™re just starting at USC or are a recent graduate, build those mentor relationships and then keep them! These should be non-biodegradable, as is your connection to USC and place within the Trojan Family. As Professor Lamy, a great mentor and friend, always says, â€œFight On, for something that matters.â€
*Students interested in connecting with Reid Lidow may email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org . **Learn more about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship here.
Fulbright Research Grant, Hong Kong
" I strongly encourage all interested students to apply for a Fulbright grant...Outline a compelling puzzle in your research statement, and demonstrate the ways youâ€™re qualified to study it."
Iâ€™ve had the incredible honor to live in Hong Kong for almost a year on a Fulbright research grant, affiliated with the History Department at the University of Hong Kong. I knew I wanted to study Hong Kongâ€™s modern history and how the ethnic diversity of this semi-postcolonial â€œworld cityâ€ has impacted its processes of identity construction â€“ but little did I expect to be here to witness a historic event!
The evening after I arrived in Hong Kong, Beijing released its controversial proposal for Hong Kongâ€™s political reform, offering the cityâ€™s residents a severely limited form of â€œuniversal suffrage.â€ This kick-started a week of student strikes that ultimately led to what became known as the Umbrella Movement. It was a humbling moment on September 28 to watch the peaceful crowd return to the streets over and over despite the attempts of the riot police to disperse them, their hands in the air in a gesture of nonviolence, their lungs and eyes burning with the fumes of 87 canisters of tear gas.
One of Fulbrightâ€™s goals is to promote cultural exchange. But as I learned about Hong Kong through my research and through conversations with people of various backgrounds, I was surprised to realize that I was also learning about my own culture and about myself. For instance, many people were interested to hear my thoughts on the Ferguson protests, which overlapped with the Umbrella Movement. This is probably one of the most challenging and exciting aspects of being on Fulbright â€“ you will be pushed outside of your personal boundaries in living in a foreign place, you will be invigorated by meeting new people and experiencing a different culture, and ultimately, you will be challenged to rethink your own beliefs and assumptions.
I strongly encourage all interested students to apply for a Fulbright grant. Ask your professors to look over your application, get in touch with the institution you hope to work with, and make sure to rewrite and polish your essays. Outline a compelling puzzle in your research statement, and demonstrate the ways youâ€™re qualified to study it. And donâ€™t be discouraged if you donâ€™t get a positive response right away â€“ I was actually on the waitlist until after graduation. Even if you donâ€™t get the grant, you can always try again next year. Your application will help you reflect on your goals and let you synthesize your ideas, which will help you in whatever project you tackle next.
*Students interested in connecting with Vivian Yan may email her at: email@example.com or follow her blog. **Learn more about the Fulbright Grants here.
Rotary Global Grant, Spain
"I highly encourage fellow students to take their study abroad. Although it can be overwhelming at times and add to the existing challenges of a masterâ€™s degree, I have found the rewards to be life changing."
After two semesters of study at Universitat Jaume I in CastellÃ³n de la Plana, Spain, I have come to anticipate the apprehensive looks I am given when someone learns what I am studying. The International Master in Peace, Conflict and Development Studies, which is the UNESCO Chair of Philosophy for Peace, is a unique area of study, distinct from other International Relations degrees which focus on policy and law. The notion of peace studies tends to evoke notions of lofty and idealistic dreams. However, our aim is to bring together the theoretical and the practicalâ€”most peace scholarship results in real world application. In addition, the Masterâ€™s Degree brings together students and professors from all over the world with a wide range of methodologies and experiences. I believe I became the only American student in the Peace Master, in part, thanks to serendipity.
Last year I decided I wanted to finish my studies in a foreign country and figured Europe would best localize my interests in refugees based in Africa and the Middle East. The search for the right institution became coupled with financial concerns about paying for my education abroad and by July, I found myself accepted to the university and on an arduous journey that would lead me to become a Rotary Global Grant Scholar.
At USC I studied film at the School of Cinematic Arts and was able to apply my film and journalism experience to both my Rotary Global Grant project and my Masterâ€™s Degree focus. I have spent this year working with refugees living in Spain, teaching a storytelling workshop and planning a photography workshop for the fall. In addition, I work alongside the local Cruz Roja EspaÃ±ola to support the needs of the Roma (or gypsy) community here in CastellÃ³n. In collaboration with a few of my cohorts, I have just received approval for another workshop in Turkey to teach filmmaking to Syrian refugees in the Hatay region of Turkey. It will be one of many projects this year that have allowed people from different cultures and perspectives to come together and exchange ideas.
I highly encourage fellow students to take their study abroad. Although it can be overwhelming at times and add to the existing challenges of a masterâ€™s degree, I have found the rewards to be life changing. The Rotary Global Grant is a excellent means of achieving this vision and is not limited to my field of study. With all this in mind, the best advice I can give is to think small in terms of your community project and connect it to both your skillset and your area of study.
Our small community of peace scholars here in Spain has shifted the perspective of my research, encouraging me to think in an intercultural context and pursue projects that illicit deeper community connections. I will spend one more year in Spain to complete my studies and look forward to collaborating with our international group of scholars.
*Students interested in connecting with Morgan Curtis may email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his website here. **Learn more about the Rotary Global Grants here.
Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship
"For something like Fulbright,show them how this opportunity will help create a future leader, even if you arenâ€™t exactly sure what industry destiny has chosen for you."
Itâ€™s hard to summarize an experience like living in a different country, especially with all the ups and downs that reality throws at you. But if your circumstances allow it, especially if you are given a nice job plan or support through a program, you owe it to yourself to apply with all your energy and just go. Moving to Spain with the Fulbright program at IE University forced me to change my inner dialogue when so many typical American conversation topics were gone. By learning about how people in a new country behave and think, my ideas of family, friends, identity, and society have developed more than I can probably identify. Despite having a bit of a more nihilistic view of feelings and facts, I feel grateful to have realized the fluidity of words like â€œsuccessâ€ or â€œlifestyleâ€ and can personally interpret decisions made by a far more diverse set of people. While I love my American passport more than ever, I can now see tradeoffs that would have seemed so fictional a year ago.
Despite the pros and cons of life in Madrid, I have decided to stay another year. From believing I actually was somehow fluent in the Spanish language, let alone business-lingo Spanish, to seeing a surprising set of reactions when speaking American English or my household Colombian-Spanish, my previous mindset on language, culture, and identity has not only changed, but, really, has just become irrelevant. My ignorance deserved the smack in the face that living abroad gave me, as well as, at least I hope, the level of life satisfaction I feel for being able to choose what I spend time caring about.
In terms of the application, I hit timing and opportunity right and was given the only university-level ETA grant in Spain. My recommendation is that you should be frank with yourself and reflect this honesty in the application. Do not be afraid of why you really want to travel abroad, or why you chose some particular country. For something like Fulbright, show them how this opportunity will help create a future leader, even if you arenâ€™t exactly sure what industry destiny has chosen for you. The application readers want to know that you are going to work really hard, communicate your needs, but also manage many of your own problems. Show them you can handle it, whether this be due to language qualifications or passion that has fueled tenacity reflected in some group you joined. Brag about your skills and goals but not just with the words â€œtrulyâ€ and â€œreallyâ€. Be practical; itâ€™s a risk if your wonderful life lessons werenâ€™t applied to a set of explainable actions. But donâ€™t forget, you are already a professional; you are qualified for any opportunity whatever prestigious group of people decide to create. No one is special, and you deserve to live abroad and work really hard to make it happen, so demonstrate that.
*Students interested in connecting with John Hernandez may email him at: email@example.com. or check out his website here. **Learn more about the Fulbright Grants here.
Critical Language Scholarship, Morocco
"...take every opportunity to study abroad. Not only will it make you a stronger candidate for CLS but quite simply, it is awesome and you will learn a lot about yourself and the places you visit."
Last summer I had the privilege of living in Rabat, Morocco for two months through the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program. This is a U.S. State Department program that seeks to expand the number of Americans studying critical languages for which there is high demand across fields but low supply. Inherent in language acquisition is a focus on cultural immersion, which makes the program especially rewarding. The CLS program gives students everything they needâ€”flights, housing, a stipend and great faculty advisorsâ€”to study a language intensively and absorb as much of a new culture as possible.
In Rabat, I lived just outside of the bustling Old City or Medina where bargaining skills were put to the test with almost every purchase and the street food could not be beat. I was graciously hosted by my Moroccan host mom who always made sure I was very well fed and constantly practicing Arabic.
A pillar of the CLS program is a language pledge in which participants agree to only speak the target language at the institute where classes take place and with their host family. Though the pledge is daunting at first, the constant struggle and stumble through conversations quickly becomes the best means of improving your language skills. Losing the fear of sounding silly and only speaking in the language is so beneficial. The twenty hours of class a week are certainly helpful but they do not compare to outside conversations and adventures for which there is ample time.
Morocco is an incredible country and I would recommend it to anybody. The geography varies significantly from beautiful beach towns like Essaouira to the scorching heat of Sahara Desert to paradise like regions of the Rif and Atlas Mountains. I took a trip to a different city or region nearly every weekend and I still have a lot to see. Further, Moroccan hospitality made exploring and learning all the more enjoyable. Conversations over mint tea, shared couscous, or homemade Almond butter along the journey made my travels truly special and improved my Arabic skills immensely.
This program is really amazing and anyone interested should apply. When applying, one of the most important things to do is to demonstrate a commitment to whichever language you are pursuing. You are expected to build off of the skills you gain through CLS. Awarding such a scholarship is a big investment on behalf of the government. As such, they will select candidates that will continue their studies beyond the program. That being said, CLS is not just looking for future diplomats or government employees. Any outlet by which you can continue learning and using the language is highly valued and encouraged.
My final piece of advice is to take every opportunity to study abroad. Not only will it make you a stronger candidate for CLS but quite simply, it is awesome and you will learn a lot about yourself and the places you visit.
*Students interested in connecting with Jesus Gonzalez may email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
**Learn more about the Critical Language Scholarship here.
Howard Gilman International Scholarship, Italy
" Our choices define us in this life. By saying yes to one event, like studying abroad, an array of other decisions arise. Life is like a succession of doors that once opened lead to other doors."
Because of my semester abroad in Italy, I have grown both as an artist and a globally
minded individual. Leaving my comfort zone and making discoveries in a foreign country was exciting, stimulating, humbling, and overwhelming all at the same time! The immersion in Italian culture, arts, and history was a tremendous inspiration to my education, future career, and life.
The uniqueness of the University of Georgiaâ€™s small art program in Cortona, Italy allowed me to foster deep relationships with my professors and other students. There were only forty of us in all, and we traveled together from city to city and dined as a group regularly for several months. Having such a tight-Ââ€knit artist community is something I had never experienced in my undergraduate career at a large liberal arts university, and I was nourished by the creative energy of my study abroad program. The experience gave me confidence as an artist and solidified my love for the arts.
For example, in Italy I was a teacherâ€™s assistant for my advanced drawing class. My professor enthusiastically recommended graduate school and careers as a fine artist as viable options for me. I had always wanted a professor to tell me directly that I had the chops to succeed in graduate school and to become a professional fine artist, but before then I had never heard those exact words of encouragement. With this same professor, several of us taught art to children once a week at the Cortona elementary school. Before this volunteer opportunity, art instruction careers had always seemed like a cop out. I realized that our culture imparts this negative perspective and that teaching is admirable and deserves respect. My professor pointed out that I am a natural in the classroom, and a career as a teacher has since become an interest of mine.
In Italy I also discovered my love for darkroom photography (http://www.erinnogle.com/italia-Ââ€series-Ââ€photography) and intaglio printmaking (http://www.erinnogle.com/intaglio-Ââ€prints). The timeless surroundings of Cortona and its unassuming inhabitants were the perfect muse for black and white analog photography and hand developing. Darkroom developing transformed photography into a much more creative and tactile medium for me, and I am looking forward to its influence on my artistic practice and professional career.
Before living in Italy for several months, I had never envisioned myself living out of the United States for an extended period of time. I now intend to do so, perhaps being a resident assistant for a year at the Cortona art program or attending graduate school in Venice, which was the final city of our program. On the last afternoon in Venice, the rolling fog between myself and the sun cast a cold yellow glow across the sky and exotic buildings floating on the sea. Sitting on the back of a
water taxi, I was eventually heading home. I remember thinking forlornly, â€œWell, this is it. This is the end of the wonderful journey.â€ However, now I confidently believe that my journey began with my study abroad experience. A semester in Italy enriched my undergraduate education immensely and changed me in numerous ways as a scholar, artist, and person. Our choices define us in this life. By saying yes to one event, like studying abroad, an array of other decisions arise. Life is like a succession of doors that once opened lead to other doors. Although I am an introvert by nature, I know that positive things come from pushing my perceived limits. What better way to make discoveries in the unknown than to travel! I am eager to set my sails again and immerse myself in cultures different than my own. This yearning is certainly a result of my fond experiences while studying in Italy, which was made possible by the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
Service Project Evaluation
For my Gilman Scholarship Follow-Ââ€on Service Project, I communicated my passion for studying abroad to students at a campus wide study abroad fair. I presented at a booth with a selection of photographs taken at the University of Georgia in Cortona and traveling throughout Italy with my program. The expansive art-Ââ€making facilities, the rustic town of Cortona, and the awe-Ââ€inspiring art and architecture of Italy all sold themselves, but I believe I imparted to the students how positive and transformative the experience is. I also created a flyer with information on how to apply for a Gilman Scholarship and encouraged students with financial need to apply.
Several students expressed that they wanted to study abroad but didnâ€™t think they could afford it. I was proud to share information about the Gilman Scholarship, and the students were grateful to hear about the opportunity. Iâ€™m confident that my presentations and conversations planted seeds in the minds of other undergraduates. Because of my efforts, I am hopeful that several more students from USC will participate in the University of Georgia and other study abroad programs. If just one student is able to participate in a transformative study abroad experience like I was because of a Gilman Scholarship, my efforts were worthwhile.
*Students interested in connecting with Erin Nogle may email him at: email@example.com.
**Learn more about the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship here.
Congratulations to all of the 2015-2016 Fulbright Grant winners!
See the list of recipients on our website.
The 2016-2017 Fulbright U.S. Student Program applications are now open!