Second and Third Days of Fulbright Orientation

We started the second day with a run-through of how to manage our Fulbright grant. The CIES representatives discussed our book allowance, the diplomatic pouch, the extra allowance for dependents, how to handle medical insurance among many other administrative topics.

The second session was a two-person panel discussing policy issues in the western hemisphere. The first speaker, an executive from the U.S. Department of State, mentioned that we will be thee U.S. representative in our host country, that we need to understand the significance of that fact and that role. He mentioned that initiatives that came out of the Summit of the Americas include a call for multinational (as opposed to binational) coalitions to be called together to work on issues such as microfinance, energy and climate change partnerships, best practices for each country, security issues which really includes narcotraffic and violence related to drug trafficking, a and more focused look at diversity and tolerance and introducing an education program. I will need to go back and look at President Obama’s Summit speech in Trinidad but I hope that the teaching learning truly goes both ways, I think the U.S. has loads to learn about the issue of diversity and tolerance from places like Trinidad, where there is a true diverse culture, with 40 percent of the population of African descent, 40 percent from Indian subcontinent descent and the other 20 percent from China, Canada, Syria and elsewhere. Often times I think the U.S. should sit back and just listen.

The second speaker was an academic with much of his experiences in Mexico. He said he couldn’t think of another time when left-of-center politics were on the rise in the western hemispheric region. I do not know what was implied by this discussion, that the politics of democratically-elected Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia, and others, should worry us as a country, but I do not share his (or the previous speaker’s) concerns. What we need to keep in mind as we all go forward are the words Obama said at the Summit of the Americas “I didn't come here to debate the past -- I came here to deal with the future.”

We had breakout sessions for people going to certain countries. Fulbright alumni came to give some words of advice. My breakout group included Barbados, Dominica and Jamaica. This was a great way to meet the scholars and students going to Barbados (though I already met all of them) and to hear from those who recently went to the country I am going to. This was a great session, though one thing is clear, Barbados is not like Jamaica. Neither is it like many of the other locations making up the central American region.

After lunch, we saw a panel of three Fulbrighters showing some images from their time in their host country and offering some words of advice. Some of this panel is shown in the video above. This discussion was helpful though seemed to be giving us something we might already know: be logical, be careful, and immerse yourself in the culture.

We started the third day with a breakout for the scholars, those teaching in a foreign country. We heard from four scholars about their experiences teaching in their host countries. All four mentioned challenging teaching conditions, students showing up late, lack of resources. There was a lot about what the country didn’t have, there wasn’t much on what to do with that situation. If one is used to teaching with a projector and computer and all one has is a blackboard and no chalk, how does one work with that? Given the technological and physical challenges one faced how did you modify your pedagogy?

I will be teaching a GIS class and I’ve seen the facilities for teaching this computer-based course. I think I will be okay, technologically-speaking, but this discussion gave me food-for-thought.

There was a talk on what is offered as a Fulbright alumnus. This was pretty cool. I can get an email address, access to academic journals and newspapers, a jobs database and information on volunteerism.

Overall, this was a great orientation. I feel really ready for this academic adventure, I met some wonderful students and the other scholar who will be in Barbados when I am there, and I understand the significance of what I am about to embark upon. Here we go!

The above photo is from David E Marshall's Panoramio collection and it is called "UWI Cave Hill Campus - Clock Tower." Looks beautiful!

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