The FULBRIGHT Experience – Simply the BEST!!!!
November 19, 2013
The FULBRIGHT Experience – Simply the BEST!!!!

Tue Nov 19, 2013

by Maxine Browne

In 2011 I, was granted a Fulbright Foreign Student Scholarship to pursue a Master of Arts (MA) in Arts Management at the American University (AU) in Washington, DC – and wasn’t it an awesome experience!!!!{{more}}

Even before I started this official journey I knew it was going to be great. I left my homeland – St Vincent and the Grenadines for the United States of America – my first stop, Miami, Florida, at the Fulbright Gateway Orientation, Miami Dade College. This prepared me for my stint in the US; it was filled with a lot of fun activities as the organizers took the time to orient us about the educational, social, political, cultural, health and economic systems in the U.S. When I left Miami, I journeyed to Washington, DC to begin my program at AU.

Two years was the allotted time for me to complete my degree at AU and I DID IT – with High Distinction on my Master’s Capstone: “Exploring the Use of Arts Integration to Enhance Teaching and Learning in the Elementary Schools in the United States of America”. This journey was filled with a lot of hard and consistent work, but it was worth it.

One of the main highlights of my experience was the Fulbright Enhancement Seminar I attended in Nashville, Tennessee – it rocked, it truly rocked. The 2012 Enrichment Seminar “U.S. Politics and Elections: Democracy in Action”, taught me all about American politics. In fact, this was where I truly gained a sound understanding of the U.S elections – through simulations, and with elections right around the corner, I was able to truly appreciate the process and be quite enthusiastic about it, especially as a proud “Democrat”. Of course, I witnessed the inauguration of the President of the United States of America Barack Obama – IT WAS SUCH AN AUSPICIOUS OCCASION. Moreover, I cannot complain about the many friends I made in “Music City”. At the same time, I recalled being a bit hesitant to attend this seminar because of my workload, but I used my ability to multitask, merged with the fact that a former Fulbrighter from Barbados told me that I should capitalize on any opportunity to attend a Fulbright Enrichment Seminar, to motivate me to make the right choice. On reflection, I would have missed a “treat-of-a-lifetime” should I have turned down this opportunity, now etched in my mind as one of my favourite Fulbright experiences.

Another highlight of my experience was the “Global Re-Entry and 2013 Leadership in Transition Seminar for Fulbright Women” in Boston, Massachusetts. The “bombers” tried to spoil our time, but they weren’t able to achieve this – fully. Nonetheless, I remembered feeling a bit scared, especially the day we were “locked-down” and staying indoors was the only choice – all I could have seen from the conference room in the hotel were policemen and armoured vehicles lining the streets. They did their best to keep us safe and we even had a police officer specifically assigned to the Fulbright delegation, who kept us up-to-date on the progress that was being made to capture the “enemies.” Be that as it may, at this seminar I met for the first time two other Caribbean Fulbrighters: Stacy Gumbs of St Kitts/Nevis and Christal Hamilton of Trinidad and Tobago and I was ecstatic!!!! This excitement was special because throughout my commission as a Fulbrighter, I had met other Fulbrighters from all over the world except my region; so when I finally met face-to- face with my fellow Caribbean buddies in Boston, we all were ELATED!!!! More than that, I was also able to reunite with friends I would have bonded with in Miami in 2011 and with all my friends around me, merged with the many tips we received as we prepared to return home, I couldn’t have asked for anything more – IT WAS PERFECT!!!! I must commend the competent staff at Simmons College in Boston for a job well done.

By all means, I must mention the Thanksgiving and Halloween celebrations I spent with my Fulbright families in the US – I really enjoyed them. The Fulbright Chapter as well as my Institute of International Education (IIE) team, in Washington, DC, ensured that I was well taken care of and there was never a dull moment in my social life; there was always something to do and, or attend whilst I was there. Of course, thanks to TransAfrica, I was even able to attend “An Evening with Danny Glover”, not to mention I witnessed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in performance, for the first time, at the Kennedy Center – SPECTACULAR!!! Undoubtedly, it was really an awesome feeling to spend worthwhile time with my Fulbright American families where I got several opportunities to not only get a taste of American foods and experience the different family-lifestyles, but I was able to fully explore all the cultural activities in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area – I had found my niche; I felt right at home.

I have always been a very focused student and throughout my life at school I have come to the conclusion, through participation, that it is never only about academics; so outside the formal classroom setting I also made a concerted effort to get involved in the activities of the Graduate Student Council (AU), International Student and Scholar services (AU); I worshipped at Holy Comforter Episcopal and I even joined the choir in my final year. I worked at Joe’s Movement Emporium (internship)…Additionally, I attended lots of arts program/workshops hosted by the Kennedy Center, symposia held by EALS (Emerging Arts Leaders) at my school (AU), I was involved with the Vincentian Association and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Embassy in Washington, DC. Indeed, I immersed myself in the activities hosted by the Fulbright Chapter, and thanks to the Fulbright Chapter, I met the wife of the late J. William Fulbright – TWICE!!!! This was awe-inspiring. I personally expressed gratitude to Mrs Fulbright for the legacy her husband has established re: The Fulbright Program. All things considered, I can honestly say that I studied hard, but I also made the time to interact with my American families and friends.

Furthermore, spending two years at AU changed my perception about schooling in the U.S. I previously assumed that the system of education was not of a very high standard and the work was far too easy. Moreover, I was of the view that American students only focused on being uncouth to their teachers and hardly took their studies seriously – these stereotypes changed. I know now that American students do take their work seriously, respect for their professors is unmatched, and the system is anything but a breeze. In all honesty, the educational system is of the highest standard/quality and one has to work just as hard to achieve success. I can boldly defend the US Educational System now that I have experienced it – firsthand, which brings the old adage to mind – “Experience makes the best teacher”.

I must give commendations to one of my professors at AU – Professor Andrew Taylor. He is “one-master-piece-of-a-professor”, who is not only dedicated to all, ALL of his students, but he motivated us in ways that made us feel “WE CAN DO IT” – no matter what. More importantly, he made time for us and continually “pushed” us to be leaders, to excel, to be professional, to represent our names well and, of course, he accepted nothing short of excellence. With this sort of dedication to tasks and students nothing but As was an option – of course I scored all As in the courses he taught. With these “star-like-teacher-qualities,” Prof. Andrew Taylor would definitely take my alma mater places – making AU one of leaders in the Arts Management Programs (MA) in the United States. Prof. Andrew Taylor has earned full merits as my favourite teacher throughout my entire school life.

At AU, our arts management program embraced all aspects of the performing arts, but since dance is my forte, when I was granted the opportunity to attend the American College Dance Festival (ACDF) Mid-Atlantic Conference, at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with AU Dance Team, you know it was indeed one of my greatest moments as a graduate student at AU. Other great moments include the many activities and workshops/seminars hosted by the International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) and I must applaud this community for treating me like family and therefore making my home away from home a place I grew to love. Besides the library, ISSS was my favourite place to visit at AU because the staff ensured that all my needs as an international student were met – they took the interest of its international students at heart – and this was GREAT!!!! The staff members at ISSS are simply the best; I think they deserve an award for all of their hard work. As I further reflect on my AU/Fulbright experience, I must also add that although I learnt a lot from the many courses I undertook as part of my Arts Management program, Arts Enterprise, Performing Arts Management and Fund-raising remain my favourites.

Clearly, my Fulbright program also gave me the opportunity to team up with the staff at the US Embassy in Barbados, who understood the opportunity I was being granted and encouraged me each step of the way to embrace it – fully. Special mention must be made of Ms Juanita Lynch, who, in my opinion, went beyond the call of duty to promptly answer the numerous emails, always provided meaningful advice and ensured that all of my documents were ready – on time. Thank you, Juanita!!!!

All in all, I really admire the goals of the Fulbright Program and would like to sincerely thank the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the U.S Department of State, U.S. Congress the Institute of International Education in New York and especially in Washington DC, the J. William Foreign Scholarship Board (FSB) International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) at American University, my wonderful professors at AU namely: Professors Sherburne Laughlin, Ximena Varela, Andrew Taylor and Anne L’Ecuyer, Fulbright Association/Chapter in Washington DC, Mrs Laverne Cook at the World Bank, Ms Yvette Thompson – Holy Comforter Episcopal, the Vincentian Association in Washington, DC and Ms Sharen Wynne of the Embassy of St Vincent and the Grenadines, also in Washington, DC. Thank you, ALL, for investing in me. My Fulbright experience was highly rewarding professionally and personally and I promise to make a difference in the lives of the people of my homeland St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), the Caribbean and by extension the world. Not to mention the friendships I have made will endure and I will always look back at my 2011-2013 Fulbright experience with a smile in my heart, knowing that the experiences I have gained will serve me well in the future. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!!

It definitely takes a Fulbrighter to tell you about the Fulbright Foreign Student Scholarship – It’s a WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE; it’s the B-E-S-T; it’s the MOST PRESTIGIOUS SCHOLARSHIP you could ever get; it’s an opportunity-of-a-lifetime…. I was the proud recipient of the Fulbright Award to United States in 2011-2013, NOW this is your chance – Apply for a Fulbright Scholarship through the United States Embassy to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean (Deadline July 1). Feel free to email me at [email protected] for more information on the application process. APPLY FOR A FULBRIGHT SCHOLARSHIP – TODAY!!!!!!!!!!