Students entered Keck on Thursday afternoon to an unfamiliar setting. Instead of current college kids filling the rows, former fulbright scholars stood with nametags, chatting and milling about. They offered advice that students should make sure to spend time outside of the United States, and to delve into these cultures instead of only visiting in large groups. They shared their experiences from a multitude of countries, such as Turkey and China.
These alumni were all attendees of the Fulbright Panel discussion, which aimed to provide information about the Fulbright Program and share the specific experiences of those involved. First to speak were Nicole Bermudez ‘16 and Jamie Naso ‘16, both recent graduates of Bates. The pair taught English in Colombia, each spending one semester as professors and the next as teaching assistants. Particularly interesting about them is that neither is pursuing a future in education.
Naso, who plans on going to medical school, found that his experience teaching English in Colombia provided skills beyond the classroom. He shared, “Something that has helped in my pursuit of medicine is the ability to have cultural competence and know that building relationships with patients is essential.” Bonding with his students, and hearing them discuss their cultures, assisted him in developing skills that he can later contribute to the field of medicine.
Similarly, Bermudez plans to ultimately work in the state department instead of becoming a teacher, and said that this experience offered crucial skills for diplomacy. She was able to use Fulbright connections to meet other people involved with the state department, and also developed knowledge about countries outside of the United States. Her time in Colombia was also “a great opportunity to build [her] leadership skills and be very creative,” which are both helpful skills for a future career with the state department.
Other speakers included Dr. Anita Charles and Cynthia Reedy, who visited India and Morocco, respectively. Charles is currently an Education professor at Bates, and is passionate about K-12 education. She visited India to research this area of education, and made sure to visit as many schools and programs as possible. This included opportunities as small as joining parents to pick up their children, and as large as volunteering in schools for children with disabilities. Charles’ Fulbright opportunity furthered her passion for education and provided crucial research experience.
Similarly, Cynthia Reedy is a French teacher at a local school who is interested in how language is taught. For her Fulbright Program she visited Marrakech, where she developed a research paper on the best teaching practices for spoken language. For future Fulbright participants, she gave the advice of making sure to agree to every opportunity possible; “Just go and do it, and say yes.” Although she spent much of her time visiting schools and volunteering, just as beneficial was the opportunity to make friends and adventure throughout Morocco.
The Fulbright Panel not only brought together a community of past Fulbright alums, but also provided information crucial for future applicants. The speakers displayed that any student is able to pursue Fulbright, whether they are passionate about the field of education or just looking to further their cultural competency. The speakers, as well as attendees, also expressed a common piece of advice applicable to any Bates student: always say yes to adventure.