I have always known the phrase Fulbright Scholar. It is a phrase you just hear. “So and so is a Fulbright Scholar.” I don’t remember ever looking up the details of what it meant to be a Fulbright Scholar, but I knew it was a cool and prestigious program, a competitive program with world connections. It was an honor bestowed by the American government to the select few. If you were a Fulbright Scholar you were an American ambassador. You were lucky.
My first personal connection with the Fulbright program was caused by my mentor and former student Michael Littig (CCM Drama 2005). Michael approached me and asked for help since he was applying for the Fulbright program as a graduate student. The awards are country based, and he was applying to study for his masters degree in Mongolia where he would research first hand the relationship between shamanism and theatre. Whoah. The best way I could support him was to volunteer to be on the Fulbright committee at the University of Cincinnati, and for two years I read proposals as part of a committee and made recommendations and held interviews with students interested in graduate studies as Fulbright scholars. I was on Michael’s committee. He was accepted by the program and spent a year in Mongolia. Success!
In 2009 my brother Daniel applied for a Fulbright and in 2010 he was accepted by the program and traveled to Estonia to research town planning implementation during the Soviet years and post socialist urban change. I will be honest. When he told me he was going to Estonia I had to look on a world map to see where he was going. It is a tiny nation of 1.3 million people on the Baltic Sea. My intrepid sister Sue suggested a trip together, so she and I visited Daniel in Estonia, with a side trip to Finland. It was amazing. Go to Estonia. Visit Tallinn and Tartu. They are beautiful cities with a unique culture in a beautiful part of the world.
It is still with amazement that I can say I am a Fulbright Scholar in Kenya. I applied in 2012, and the application process was extensive and difficult. To say that I am studying identity through theatre making in Kenya does not do justice to this experience, although that is my project title. How lucky I am that Daniel was able to visit me in Kenya, to experience the culture and energy of Nairobi and Kenyatta University and beyond.
We are lucky indeed. Thank you United States Department of State. We are grateful to have the opportunity to be American ambassadors, teachers, learners and researchers across the world.