Fulbright international exchange program bridges academic, professional pursuits

Post by IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

Growing up in a small town in Indiana, Arielle Moss came to IU ready to branch out. She majored in biology and Near Eastern languages and cultures and then studied abroad in Morocco as a junior and immediately fell in love.

Arielle Moss

Arielle Moss in Agadir, Morocco. | Photo courtesy of Arielle Moss.

“Morocco is renowned for its hospitality, and after spending two months studying abroad in Meknes, Morocco, this was proven very true as I sipped mint tea with strangers and learned more about Moroccan society and culture from my new friends and teachers,” Moss said. “I knew that those two months were not enough.”

So Moss applied to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, an international educational exchange program through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She received a Fulbright teaching grant and is now teaching business English to 200 first-, second- and third-year students at the National School of Trade and Management in Agadir, Morocco.

“Returning to Morocco for a year as a Fulbright English teaching assistant was the perfect opportunity to fully engage in Moroccan society and to continue developing my interests in teaching and cross-cultural exchange,” she said.

Moss is one of 19 IU Bloomington students chosen as Fulbright scholars for 2015-16 and IU is one of the top 10 producers of Fulbright recipients among research institutions. IU students are stationed throughout 15 countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia.

“A Fulbright year is an ideal bridge between completing an undergraduate degree and future professional and academic pursuits,” said Paul Fogleman, associate director of competitive awards and research in the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. “In practical terms, IU students are getting unique professional experience, establishing new relationships, putting their skills into practice and advancing them.”

Fulbright applicants are multi-faceted and include personal and professional statements, references, foreign language evaluations and transcripts. Preparing a competitive application takes place over the course of several weeks early in the fall semester of a  student’s senior year. The statements are key and students revise them under the guidance of faculty and staff advisers.

But the rewards are significant and students selected as Fulbright scholars receive full funding to either teach English or conduct research abroad for one year after graduation.

group photo

Moss with some of her students. | Photo provided by Arielle Moss

For Moss, the intensive application process was well worth it and has allowed her to truly experience Morocco and its culture. In addition to fulfilling her Fulbright duties of teaching English, Moss also interns at a local non-governmental organization that promotes intercultural exchange and manages a journalism club she started.

While nervous at first about transitioning to a college-level professorship, Moss’ students have helped put her mind at ease.

“While I have been developing as a teacher, my students have been instrumental in facilitating this development by coming to class ready to learn as well as teaching me about Morocco’s educational system, its traditions and its culture,” Moss said. “This generation of students will be the next leaders of Morocco, and teaching, learning from and building meaningful relationships with the university students shaping Morocco’s future has been an amazing opportunity.”

Max Hollingsworth, a research grant recipient, is also taking full advantage of the opportunities the Fulbright program has to offer. Hollingsworth learned about the Fulbright program after studying Spanish and computer science at IU.

He decided to apply for a Fulbright research grant in Ecuador with the hopes of building a prototype soil moisture sensor network.

“One of my goals was to build a product start to finish — to start with an idea, design a product, test, adjust and make a finished product,” Hollingsworth said. “It is really easy to start projects, but it is hard to see them all the way through.”

Max Hollingsworth

Max Hollingsworth in Ecuador. | Photo provided by Max Hollingsworth

Thankfully for Hollingsworth, the Fulbright scholarship offers flexibility to change direction. While in Ecuador, he has adopted additional projects, including a solar charging station and rainwater collector.

“I changed direction because my professor has funding for materials, which means instead of just building a prototype [of a solar charging station], I am building the real deal,” Hollingsworth said.

Like Moss, Hollingsworth fills his time in Ecuador by not only working on his project but engaging with the local community. After reaching out to the American Embassy in Quito, he began securing money and resources to teach software and electronics courses to community youth.

“I would strongly encourage anyone to apply for a Fulbright,” he said. “But I would really like to encourage students in computing and informatics to apply. I have seen that there is a real need for computing people here in Ecuador, and it is really easy to get involved in a community when you have some sort of computing experience.”

Both Hollingsworth and Moss agreed that their experiences abroad are more than worth the time-consuming application process.

“It’s a demanding application and asks applicants to see themselves contributing to a pursuit in another country such as building and improving devices or improving English language ability,” Fogleman said. “This can be hard for students to articulate early in the fall semester of their senior year, but I think it is a worthwhile exercise if you’re willing to put in some time and thought. It helps prepare you for other pursuits such as looking for a job or applying to graduate school.”

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