Heba AbdelazizIf I ever got the chance to be interviewed to talk about my Fulbright experience in the states, I would be answering questions such as: Why did you choose to come to the states? What is the most interesting thing about USA? How was your experience in campus life and students’ activities? What have you learned that was most interesting to you? How will you use your experience at UAB back in your home institution? Do you have any advice for future students who want to come to study in the U.S.? Actually, the Fulbright experience added a lot to me on both the academic and professional level that I want to share with everyone!

First things first, the question is not just “why the U.S.?” but “why the Fulbright program?”. It is not just because it is the largest exchange program or that it is the most prestigious scholarship that a scholar can have on his C.V., but because I do believe in what Senator William Fulbright says about the aim and purpose of the program; “The Program further aims to make the benefits of American culture and technology available to the world and to enrich American life by exposing it to the science and art of many societies” and that “The simple purpose of the exchange program...is to erode the culturally rooted mistrust that sets nations against one another. The exchange program is not a panacea but an avenue of hope....". This leads me to the answer of the second question of what is the most interesting thing about the U.S., which I would say “variety and difference” not just diversity! I enjoyed interacting with people from different origins and backgrounds, and I was surprised at how people are so different (e.g., their behaviors, interests, concerns and priorities) according to which state they inhabit, as if they are from different cultures. I loved the experience of teaching a community English class at UAB which included a variety of nationalities and different cultural backgrounds.

The biggest part of my campus life was getting involved in almost all of the students’ activities and observing different classes around campus in various departments. My regular day at UAB since the beginning of the fall semester would usually be 12 hours long, so that I can attend almost all the activities and classes available every day. I wanted to get a complete sense of being part of UA during my 10-week- scholarship, not just as a visiting scholar attending my scheduled modules, but as a student getting acquainted with her new university. This again leads me to the answer of the Heba Abdelaziz group1two following questions: what have I learned that was most interesting to me and how will I use my experience at UAB back in my home institution? As a teacher at the university, I was very much interested in knowing what university professors focus on in their teaching and how they put it into action in their classrooms. I figured out that the magical capsule of what they do is investing in the student rather than the content; they make available to the students all what help them to become better thinkers, intellectuals and speakers, which in turn produces better students able to compete in the job market. So, the key to use this experience back in my home institution is to start small; sharing with those who are in my circles of influence, applying what I have learned initially in the form of activities that urge them to think differently and broaden their horizons. Also, sharing with them how the cultural differences that I have encountered there were never a barrier to my learning, but a motivation to learn more about such differences and how we all can engage with these differences!

Last but not least, my advice to those who are interested in studying in the U.S. is to “SOCIALIZE” as much as you can. Put yourself out there and never rely solely on what you see in movies or read in books, you have the privilege to be actually there, so experience it yourself and never let anyone decide for you what a culture is or is not, or what you can do or cannot! This country is full of opportunities to learn about whatever you want whenever you want and with whomever you want. When they say “the sky’s the limit”, that is so true. Dream big because you can do it!

Back to Voices from Overseas