So this week I attended an orientation program at Kennesaw State University, Georgia, USA. It was an amazing few days! Approximately sixty Fulbrighters from forty-six different countries were in attendance (I need to double check those figures). The program was basically designed to familiarise non-US students and researchers with the American culture and system of education. Over the course of three, fairly intensive days, we engaged in workshops and seminars that examined American customs, values, politics and history. However, the value of the program extended far beyond the practical knowledge it imparted upon us students.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love learning about different cultures. And they will know that because I basically interrogate any non-national in Ireland about their home, their culture, their traditions and everything in between! I find it fascinating. This orientation program gave me the opportunity to learn about so many different countries, from Afghanistan to Ukraine. It allowed me to dispel some of the misconceptions I had about some countries while also making me more aware of the unique way of life in other countries. Although most Irish people enjoy having a few drinks, I hope I helped to dispel the notion that Ireland is a nation of alcoholics and leprechauns! 🙂
Fulbright’s aim is to promote cross-cultural understanding in an effort to reduce global conflict. And I believe that this orientation program, and others like it, go a long way towards achieving this aim. If we really are to be the leaders of our generation, as Fulbright hopes and expects us to be, I can safely say that there will not be any conflict between those of us who were in attendance this week. Although we did not always agree on certain matters, we were wise enough to accept each other’s differences and unique points of view.
Never have I connected so well with a group of people. And I believe that most, if not all, of my fellow Fulbrighters feel the same. Every day I talked to someone new, or sat with a new group of people at meal times, and the conversation always flowed. On the first day of the program, one of the professors mentioned that while we were all intelligent people, we were not chosen to receive Fulbright awards on the basis of our academic merit alone. Rather, our unique interpersonal qualities played a huge factor in the selection process. And from what I could see, everyone in the group was kind, generous, positive, open minded, hardworking, determined, motivated, and, of course, immensely intelligent. We weren’t just a bunch of boring academics! We had fun, we were witty, we were funny, we cracked jokes, and we laughed. A lot!
Hopefully we all manage to stay in contact. I am so grateful to Fulbright for giving me this amazing opportunity and to my wonderful Fulbright family who have made this experience so amazing thus far.
Now, it’s onto the next chapter!