A record-high number of Ohio State graduate students and recent alumni have received the opportunity to take their learning abroad.
OSU has 14 faculty members and a record-high 16 graduate students and recent alumni traveling abroad with Fulbright scholarships for the 2013-14 academic year.
The Fulbright scholarship is a U.S. international education exchange program that was proposed to the U.S. Congress in 1945 by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. His goal for the program was to help promote understanding between countries, according to the Fulbright Scholar Program website.
The Fulbright exchange programs run between the U.S. and more than 155 countries around the world and are based on an application process.
Charlie Baker, a 2013 OSU graduate in international studies was among those chosen to receive a Fulbright scholarship. He is planning to go to Araraquara, Brazil, in February to teach English for nine months. Baker was awarded about $20,000 for living expenses.
“I will be working with one other Fulbright scholar,” Baker said. “We will be instructing courses at the university, an English course, for students that are studying to become teachers themselves.”
During Baker’s time as an undergraduate student at OSU, he focused on social movements and Brazil. He said he’s looking forward to seeing the events he’s studied first hand.
“I’ll be in Brazil during the World Cup (and) also a federal election year,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of different political happenings and social movements.”
Baker said, though, the language barrier will be one of a few difficulties to overcome at first.
“Initially at the start of the term, I think before I become proficient in Portuguese, there will be that (challenge),” Baker said. “Being responsible for a classroom of students, that will be a challenge, but a challenge I’m looking forward to: developing curriculum instructing, ensuring students gain understanding of the English language and American culture.”
Students who are selected for the Fulbright program have three options: academic study, research or student-teaching English abroad, said Dana Kuchem, an OSU fellowship adviser who works with the U.S. student recipients.
Similarly, faculty have the opportunity to grow professionally by conducting research or teaching abroad, said Joanna Kukielka-Blaser, the Fulbright Scholar Program campus representative in the Office of International Affairs, who advises OSU faculty member scholars.
“You can do a variety of things … The useful thing about Fulbright is that you can find in it something for anyone,” Kukielka-Blaser said. “Faculty can apply to conduct research, they can apply to teach, they can apply to do a combination of things.”
Students and faculty can apply at different times during their academic careers.
“There are opportunities in just about any place in the world,” Kukielka-Blaser said. “Students can apply in various stages of their study. They can apply as an undergraduate, as a graduating senior, they can apply as graduate students.”
Applicants must request a specific program in a specific country, Kuchem said, and different countries have their own qualifications.
Kenneth Kolson, director of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs Washington Academic Internship Program, is set to teach at the University of Siauliai in Lithuania, from January until May 2014 with his Fulbright scholarship. He said culture will be one of the most important adjustments to make in order to be successful.
“Linguisitic challenges, in addition to cultural challenges (will be the biggest challenge),” Kolson said. “Knowing something about national character, having some sense of people’s social skills, how they interact with one another is always a challenge.”
Kolson added that even everyday activities could be difficult abroad.
“The fun part about living in a foreign culture, even going to a restaurant and ordering off a menu … anything that means talking to a waiter, it’s a challenge,” Kolson said. “At the same time, it’s really fun because you get to see life from a slightly different perspective. Politics and work life and things that we think about everyday look different.”
Philip Brown, a professor in Japanese and East Asian history, is traveling to Taipei, Taiwan, to conduct water control research. This is Brown’s second Fulbright award — he said he previously did research in Japan in 1977.
“(Having a Fulbright award) means a couple of things,” Brown said. “It means an opportunity to complete research, which means development of some sort, (and it) allows me to gather material that may never get published but I can discuss with students … It helps me add a more lively dimension to the subjects talking in class.”
Brown also added that “it’s exciting to experience a new culture, to live it and not to read about it in (a) book.”
To promote this program, the Office of International Affairs, the Graduate School and the Undergraduate Fellowship Office plan an annual week dedicated to educating students and faculty about the Fulbright program.
Last year, Fulbright Week at OSU was in April, and plans are already being made to host events and information sessions in April 2014, Kuchem said.
“Students that might be graduating or maybe current juniors would really want to start looking into it (in the) spring. The summer is the time to put the application together,” Kuchem said.
Kukielka-Blaser said the Fulbright program is changing and improving as more awards are being added for students and faculty.
“The world is an oyster,” she said. “The opportunities are endless.”