From a view offered by a window of a Texan hotel waves an American Flag; it was this flag that made Vanessa Radom first feel the reality of her dream coming true. Radom was born and raised in Martinique, a small, French-speaking island of the Caribbean, and she came to America through the Fulbright Program, where she now works as a graduate assistant at Jacksonville State University.
The Fulbright Program is a cultural exchange program that promotes the exchange of ideas and skills between countries. This program offers grants for a variety of educational or professional pursuits abroad.
“The purpose of Fulbright [is] to grant mutual understanding between different countries. It’s [for] exchanging knowledge,” says Radom.
“People from other countries come to the USA, bring what they have and go back to their countries to bring what they received from the USA. It is exactly the same for the people who come [from the U.S].”
Every year, the Fulbright U.S. Program awards 1,800 grants for students, faculty, scholars, and professionals in every field of study. The program operates worldwide in more than 155 countries.
The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of States Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is managed by the Institute of International Education. The IIE provides everything that participants need in order to arrive at their designated country and helps participants assimilate once they arrive.
Fulbright was named for J. William Fulbright, who was elected to the Senate in 1944 where he proposed a bill to promote mutual understand between the U.S. and other countries by presenting thousands of grants to those who wished to exchange knowledge and ideas between cultures. In 1946, President Harry Truman passed the bill, which created the Fulbright Program.
“It costs you basically nothing,” says Radom. “When I came here my plane ticket was reimbursed, my visa was paid for, room and board was provided and I had a stipend. Basically, I almost did not have to pay for anything.”
The Fulbright U.S. Program offers five types of grants: Study and Research, English Teaching Assistantship, the Fulbright-mtvU Awards,
Fulbright Public Policy Fellowships, and Travel Grants.
The Study and Research Grants are offered in 140 countries to applicants who have designed a specific project in either academic or artistic fields.
The English Teach Assistantship allows students to assist educators is teaching English to students for who English is not their native tongue and requires applicants to be fluent in a foreign language.
The Fulbright-mtvU Awards allows students to study international music culture. The Fulbright Public Policy Fellowships allow participants to work professionally in foreign public sectors as they conduct research or complete an academic project.
Travel Grants are offered for Italy, Germany, and Hungary as supplement assistance for those who wish to travel abroad for academic reasons.
The Fulbright Program requirements include U.S. Citizenship, good health, a bachelor’s degree before the start of a grant, and proficiency in the written and spoken language of the country. For those who do not speak a second language, grants are offered to English speaking countries such as the United Kingdom or Canada.
Radom is a participant in the Foreign Language Teach Assistant Program provide by Fulbright. “My first semester I was exclusively an assistant and then I became a primary teacher by the end of last year,” says Radom. She now teaches Beginner’s French I and Beginner’s French II at JSU.
JSU’s Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Joe G. Delap participated in Fulbright Program under the International Education Administer Program in Canada. “[This Program] is mostly for people who work with international students who want to learn more about how to get students from that country to come to the U.S. or what the U.S. students will experience when they go [abroad].”
“I cannot tell you how much it impacted my life. I tell you it helped me discover myself and if you want to know who you are, I advise you to go somewhere where you don’t have anyone who already knows you because you will just discover who you are for real,” says Radom. “You will discover other cultures and you will fall in love with your own culture…. I went back to France and I saw everything with new eyes.”
While living in another country can be a life changing experience, the idea of immersing oneself in a foreign culture can be intimidating. “At first I was excited and then I was kind of scared… I was literally about to not buy my ticket,” says Radom. “Finally I was like ‘No. [This] is my dream. I have to go for it. Even if I am scared I have to overcome this fear and I just have to do it anyway’ and I am thankful that I did it.”
To apply for a grant from the Fulbright program, visit the IIE website at www.iie.org/fulbright/.