Fulbright Update from Chile: Sarah Lightfoot Vidal

sarah lightfoot vidal

Sarah graduated from Drexel University with a Bachelors and Masters degree in Materials Science and Engineering in 2013. Bringing together her love for Spanish-speaking countries and her focus in biomaterials and bio/synthetic, biomimetric polymer systems, she decided to apply for a Fulbright scholarship and is now carrying out her Fulbright grant in Chile to understand the applications of science and engineering in her host country.

Here in Concepción, Chile, my research is still centered on polymers with biological applications.  I work in the Centro de Investigación de Polímeros Avanzados (Center for Advanced Polymers Research) in collaboration with the Department of Chemistry here in the Universidad de Concepción.  My project, like science is oft to do, changed a bit upon arrival.  My presentation in Santiago to the Fulbright Commission was entitled “Utilizing bacteria to produce biological, environmentally-friendly polymers for medical applications”, wherein I discussed the development and use of polyhydroxyalkanoate-based systems for wound healings.  Now, I am using polyhydroxybutyrate (a class of polyhydroxyalkanoate, with possibilities for increasing chain flexibility depending on its chemistry) to create biodegradable nanoparticles which encapsulate natural polyphenols.

On a personal level, I have been deeply enjoying my experience here.  Working and living speaking another language has been an exciting, humbling, and at times frustrating experience for me.  Although it may seem trivial to some, developing a daily routine has been the most meaningful to my sense of independence.  I joined a gym for my health but also to meet new people and it has been a very welcome addition to my days.  (Zumba in South America is definitely something!)  My main advice to other students interested in applying to an international fellowship, is put your health first.

Processed with MoldivThe picture on the left is of a visit to Lota, a former coal-mining town on the sea.  Part of the mine, named Chiflón del Diablo (The Devil’s Whistle), is underwater—at that point I was crawling through the tunnels.  Afterwards we went to Parque Isidora Cousiño (Parque de Lota), a very beautiful park full of indigenous Chilean flora overlooking the sea.  The next picture is of me in Cerro Santa Lucía, located in the center of Santiago de Chile.  Pedro de Valdivia, a Spanish conquistador, took the hill on December 13, 1541.  Now, it is full of lookouts, monuments, and unbelievable architecture.

Processed with MoldivThe collage is of a few buildings I loved in Santiago (including the main fountain on Cerro Santa Lucía).  Finally, I recommend to any tourist of the city to visit el Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights).  It is incredibly emotional and educational and pays tribute to the victims of human rights violations during the Pinochet era.

 

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I am incredibly proud to be representing Drexel during this journey of mine and hope to send a new update soon.  As always, I am happy to advise any student interested in pursuing their own adventure, just let me know.

Sarah Lightfoot Vidal

 

DFO Welcomes New Assistant Director

Meredith Best2The DFO is thrilled to welcome Meredith Wooten as our new Assistant Director. In her new position, Meredith will support the DFO’s mission of raising awareness of fellowship opportunities and helping students create strong applications though intensive advising and support. Meredith brings more than ten years of related academic advising and research experience to Drexel, as well as a strong commitment to the view that students who are engaged outside the classroom in experiences that connect with their studies will be more successful and become more engaged citizens locally, nationally, and internationally.

“This is an exciting time to join the Drexel community,” says Meredith. “I am looking forward to working with the dedicated staff of the Fellowships Office, who play a vital role in supporting Drexel’s mission by facilitating educational and professional experiences beyond the classroom that will prepare students to engage actively and effectively in the broader world.”

As Meredith begins to immerse herself in her new role, her immediate focus is to learn the needs of Drexel students and advisors, and to assist them with identifying promising opportunities and students and addressing any difficulties that may arise. Her long term vision includes further development of the Fellowships Office as a student-centered resource for advancing student achievement by expanding outreach efforts to identify and support students who can contribute to the vibrant research environment at Drexel. While Meredith brings fresh ideas about how to do this, she is also interested in hearing from students, faculty, and staff about the programs and resources they would like to see. To share your suggestions, you can contact Meredith at meredith@drexel.edu or stop by her office in Disque Hall.

A native of Columbia, South Carolina, Meredith previously worked as a graduate fellow at the Penn Graduate Student Center, where she focused on PhD support programs and outreach efforts to students from non-traditional and underrepresented groups. She has also taught American politics and political thought at Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, and the University of Pennsylvania. She focuses on advising students applying for NSF graduate fellowships and NIH research grants, as well as promoting research opportunities with faculty, students, and staff across the university.

 

Info Session: Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program

Fulbright_logoTuesday, July 1st, 3-4 p.m.
Hassman Family Conference Room, PISB 103 (33rd and Chestnut)

As an ETA, you typically work alongside a teacher in an English classroom planning various activities to improve the students’ language abilities and knowledge of the United States. The Fulbright ETA is available in over 70 countries.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, academic research, creative projects, or teaching English in one of over 140 countries around the world. The program is sponsored by the Department of State.  Eligible students are US Citizens who will have a bachelor’s degree before the start of the grant (Fall 2015). Graduates and graduate students are also eligible to apply.

Fulbright Friday: Writing the Statement of Grant Purpose

Fulbright_logoFriday, June 27, 12 – 2 pm
109 Disque Hall (32nd and Chestnut)

The Statement of Grant Purpose is where you outline what you plan to do during your Fulbright year and why your project is a good fit with the country you are applying to. This workshop will help you understand what to address, how to get started, and equip you with strategies for revision.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, academic research, creative projects, or teaching English in one of over 140 countries around the world. The program is sponsored by the Department of State.  Eligible students are US Citizens who will have a bachelor’s degree before the start of the grant (Fall 2015). Graduates and graduate students are also eligible to apply.

This is a repeating event. Make sure to visit our website for the full schedule.

Fulbright Reflections with Lauren Forbes

Lauren Forbes cropLauren Forbes (Public Health, MPH ’13) recently returned from her time abroad as a Fulbright Student Scholar in Ethiopia. We asked her to share some of her reflections on that experience with us.

What did you do as a Fulbright Scholar in Ethiopia?

I ended up doing something very different from what I proposed in my application, but somehow I think I expected that. My proposed project was a tentative adolescent reproductive health project, but I was informed at the last minute that my affiliation would no longer be able to host me. Subsequently an advisor connected me with World Vision Ethiopia (WVE) where I ultimately worked with the Education Department to design an early childhood development (ECD) program for community-based resource centers that would be piloted in rural communities across the country. While at WVE, I also helped to write a community mobilization toolkit that will be used by field staff for conducting participatory research across all sectors and supported the expansion of a highly successful literacy boost program.

Lauren Forbes2What was the most rewarding and the most challenging part of the experience? 

Definitely the relationships that I was able to build with my coworkers. There was never a dull moment with them, and they always made me feel welcome despite the language barriers. Outside of the job, my most rewarding experiences were working with the preschool Sunday School class that I volunteered with on Sundays and the 5th grade class at a local elementary school that I worked with during the week. The 5th grade class had a welcome song that they sung me every time I came to work with them! It was incredibly humbling to see the dilapidated conditions in which they were learning, and yet their fervor for learning and hospitable welcome to me as an outsider.

sunday school

The most challenging part was my inability to go to the field, which was due to management decisions outside of my control. Going to “the field” is a part of any international development work, especially as a public health professional, because without seeing the local context and interacting with the people who will be impacted by the program one really can’t design a program localized for the community it will affect. City life in Ethiopia is vastly different from rural life, and I worried about how the lack of visits in the field would compromise the quality of my work and somehow invalidate my experience in Ethiopia. Ultimately I realized I was still contributing in a meaningful way to the organization by laying the framework for this ECD program.

Was there a particularly surprising or memorable event from your time abroad that you feel comfortable sharing? What did you learn from it? 

I learned endless life lessons from some of my most trusted taxi drivers. Most of the drivers that I relied on worked in my neighborhood and have given me many rides around the city, as I only sparingly used the more common and less reliable minibus transport. Over time we developed close relationships, and I would often ask them about the health of their families and children while we drove around the city. Upon finding out about my own marital status, many of them would proceed to give me unsolicited dating/marital advice in broken English, and their opinions varied from “you’re getting older, it’s time to get married now and start having children” to “you are still so young- don’t get married unless he’s the right one.” Rather than being offended, I was entertained by the irony of it all and delighted that they felt comfortable enough with me to give me these sorts of life advice like I was their niece or little sister. And the joy and excitement that they seemed to have when talking about their own families was contagious, despite the obvious hardships and economic stressors that they faced working in an industry with very little regulation and virtually no job security.

christmas dinnerDid you have a support network while you were there? If so, can you tell me how you built that and what kind of support you received? 

I had a tremendous support network while in Ethiopia, which was key to making this such an enjoyable experience and smooth transition into Ethiopian culture. My primary foundation was my friends and family in the U.S whom I regularly kept in touch with via Skype, email and my blog. I also had the support of my coworkers and senior management, all of whom I built strong relationships with. I had friends through the church I attended, who often gave me advice on where I could find certain items and other things important for new arrivals. Some of them also hosted me for holiday dinners like Ethiopian Christmas and Easter; thanks to them, I never had to spend a holiday alone. I had an expansive network of expat and local friends whom I met mostly through my roommates and other Fulbrighters, so not only did I get to meet people from all over the world but it was also great for professional development and networking purposes since many of us had similar interests. Finally my roommates and downstairs neighbors – we all became the best of friends. In fact, we still keep in touch regularly and are planning our reunion in the U.S.

Has your experience as a Fulbright Scholar changed you (or your ideas/goals/beliefs, etc.)? If so, how? 

This Fulbright experience has reminded me that to whom much is given, much is required. I saw this demonstrated by those like Haile Gebreselassie, the great Ethiopian distance runner, who is one of the wealthiest men in Ethiopia. He and many others continually give back to fellow Ethiopians through philanthropy projects. This attitude of altruism and social responsibility reminded me of my own responsibility to support those who are disadvantaged in my own community in the U.S. I have come to realize that the urban poverty challenges facing African-Americans have much in common with urban poverty in many African nations, and my goal is to work on integrative solutions to collectively and sustainably address these issues.

Wenchi_Crater_Lake_tripThe Fulbright experience also enabled me to see the amazing transformation of Ethiopia, which I think is largely unknown to the rest of the world which continues to view the country as the epitome of poverty and suffering. Not only is Ethiopia one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, but the health sector has been revolutionized by the massive health extension program (HEP) which has brought primary healthcare and health education to millions of rural Ethiopians.

I have also grown through this Fulbright experience to be increasingly comfortable with starting a conversation with complete strangers and interacting with people who have very different circumstances and backgrounds than my own. I feel confident that I can adapt well to any situation that I find myself in, whether that be a social event with friends or a career related event where I am suddenly put on the spot. For some, this might be second nature, but for me this is something that developed over time and will be great benefit throughout the rest of my life.

 

Alternate Workshop: Writing the Personal Statement

Fulbright_logoMonday, June 23rd, 5PM (Workshop)
Disque 109 (32nd and Chestnut)

 

The personal statement is an integral part of the Fulbright application. It is designed to give your reviewers a sense of who you are and how you have developed as an individual.  It can be challenging to write, especially when you are faced with the infamous blank page.  Come to this hands-on workshop for ideas on how to get started and to learn about revision strategies.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, academic research, creative projects, or teaching English in one of over 140 countries around the world. The program is sponsored by the Department of State.  Eligible students are US Citizens who will have a bachelor’s degree before the start of the grant (Fall 2015). Graduates and graduate students are also eligible to apply.

This is a repeating event. Make sure to visit our website for the full schedule.

 

 


Alternate Workshops: Finding an International Affiliation

Fulbright_logo

Monday, June 23, 5PM (Workshop)
109 Disque Hall (32nd and Chestnut)

 

In this workshop on how to find an international affiliation, you will be introduced to various online and University-resources that can help you connect with potential affiliations and learn strategies for initiating and negotiating that relationship.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, academic research, creative projects, or teaching English in one of over 140 countries around the world. The program is sponsored by the Department of State.  Eligible students are US Citizens who will have a bachelor’s degree before the start of the grant (Fall 2015). Graduates and graduate students are also eligible to apply.

This is a repeating event. Make sure to visit our website for the full schedule.

Fulbright Friday: Statement of Grant Purpose (Rescheduled)

Fulbright_logoFriday, June 20, Friday, June 27, 12 – 2 pm
109 Disque Hall (32nd and Chestnut)

*PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF DATE!* However, you can still come to work on your applications and ask questions on Fulbright Friday, June 20th, between 12-2pm.

The Statement of Grant Purpose is where you outline what you plan to do during your Fulbright year and why your project is a good fit with the country you are applying to. This workshop will help you understand what to address, how to get started, and equip you with strategies for revision.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, academic research, creative projects, or teaching English in one of over 140 countries around the world. The program is sponsored by the Department of State.  Eligible students are US Citizens who will have a bachelor’s degree before the start of the grant (Fall 2015). Graduates and graduate students are also eligible to apply.

This is a repeating event. Make sure to visit our website for the full schedule.

Fellowships Graduation Awardee: Emily Buck

Emily Buck (Materials Science & Engineering, BS/MS ’14) has an outstanding track record of fellowships achievement:

She has been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, the Whitaker Fellowship, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and is an Alternate for the Fulbright. Impressive.

But this is not why we chose to honor Emily with our Graduation Award.

Instead, we invite you to peek behind those impressive achievements:

  • Emily applied for Goldwater, which recognized the nation’s outstanding undergraduates in STEM fields; she didn’t get it, but she was named Honorable Mention. She applied again the following year and got it!
  • Emily applied for the Fulbright to support a post-graduation research project at a lab in Switzerland, and was named an Alternate. She also applied for the Whitaker Fellowship to support that same work and got it!
  • Emily applied for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, which supports three years of research-based graduate study, and she got it the first time! But because the graduate program she will be attending at McGill University is out of the US, she has to decline.

Given her track record, we are absolutely certain that she will apply for, and likely get, alternative awards to support her PhD.

And so, we give this award to Emily for her persistence and her dedication to excellence; to her high bar, and her even higher standards for herself; for her facility with seeking support and for her willingness to lend that support to others. These are the traits of outstanding Honors students and the qualities that, combined with her creative and sharp intelligence, will ensure her success in Switzerland, in Canada, and throughout her career.

 

Going Abroad as a Foundation for the Future: Interview with Dr. Joel Oestreich

joel oestreichJoel Oestreich is Associate Professor in the Department of History and Politics, and the Director of International Area Studies. He has participated in fellowships committees organized by the DFO for the Fulbright US Student Program, the Carnegie Junior Fellows Program and the Boren Scholarship. 

How have your experiences abroad contributed to your personal and professional growth?

I’ve lived abroad a few times. I did my Master’s Degree in the UK and lived there for 2 years, then for almost a year in Bangladesh.  I did the Fulbright in India a year and a half ago and I’ve traveled pretty extensively beyond that as well. I run the International Area Studies program and trying to get every one of our students to go abroad has been a key part of our project.  There are some obvious advantages. You get to learn a foreign language, and if you already speak some, it’s the best way to become fluent.  You get to experience a different culture which is nice – whether that be Dhaka or Paris, you get to have adventures and do things that you otherwise couldn’t at home.  You also get a different perspective on the US from being with people who have different belief systems.

It might reinforce your belief that the US has got it right, or it might make you question things.  That’s a key part of the experience.

Another advantage is, I found a vocation in Bangladesh. At the time I was only interested in working in the US and Western Europe. I was living Dhaka almost on a whim and it changed what I thought was important in my life and what I thought I wanted to do with myself.  I’ve been working on economic development and human rights issues since but I never had any interest in those things before I went abroad. I had no idea what was out there.  And I’m not saying you necessarily have to find a humanitarian interest, you could very well end up in Europe doing international business.  The key is that it can really shape your perception of what’s important to yourself and open up different possibilities.

What is the advantage of being a Fulbright recipient?

It’s incredibly prestigious.  It looks great on your resume and graduate school application.  It’s an opportunity to live abroad and have someone pay for it, and a great opportunity to pursue what you’re passionate about while building a foundation for your future.  For instance, you can study agricultural techniques in another part of the world and if you want to go work in food security, that’s a great experience to have that otherwise would be very difficult to get. Also, you become part of a community of people.  There were dozens of Fulbrighters in India, so when I traveled around I always had people I could look up and stay with.

Why do think students might hesitate to apply?

I don’t want to speculate, but there is something about that way of thinking, “What do other countries have to teach us? We already have best this or that in Ann Arbor or Berkeley or whatever.” I travel a lot and I’m always meeting people – a lot of Europeans and Australians, but rarely Americans who are traveling for extended periods of time.  I remember talking to someone years ago about that.  There was a group of us, including this one American who asked, “Aren’t you afraid that you’ll be behind your peers when you get back?” That’s so American. This fear that you’ll be 25 with a 23-year-old’s job. Or parents being afraid that their kids will be robbed and murdered in a Third World country, which won’t happen. Or afraid that if they go to Europe, everybody hates America there! None of these things are true.

The idea that if you take two years off it will look bad to employers who will think you’ve been wasting your time while your friends buckled down – that’s not how the real world works at all. 

I’ve been in and out of the private sector for years and employers like having worldly, traveled people.  Going abroad makes a person more worldly and sophisticated, and in any business enterprise that’s an advantage.   This obsession with making every minute count towards one’s career is simply misplaced.  Travel is so much more important than that slight advantage of being at home slaving away for years – in fact your friends will be jealous of you. They’ll tell you, “Wow I should have done what you did.”

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