The week long orientation for Fulbright ETAs to Sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central Asia provided me with an overview of what the next year of my life will look like. For those of you unfamiliar with the program you can reference the transcript of Secretary Clinton’s welcome address to the Fulbright Program:
Every year 8,000 scholarly exchanges are made between 155 countries and America. There is a network of 300,000 Fulbrights, since the program’s inception.
When I accepted my grant I knew only that I’d be moving to Sri Lanka for nine months of my life to teach English. This orientation went a long way to reassuring me about this chapter of my life. Ambassador Ronald McMullen opened the orientation with his nine keys to preparing for life in a new country:
- Language – learning a few key phrases can go a long way towards gaining acceptance
- Incumbent – when going into a new office move around furniture to give people a visual reminder of the change
- Books – read one novel about the country and one guidebook
- Music – music is universal, learning some of the most popular songs in the country you’re traveling too will help you adjust
- Maps – getting a sense of where in the world you’re going is hugely invaluable
- Food – make sure to prep your stomach to the challenges which may be ahead
- Security – let the local Embassy know where you’ll be, so they can alert you to any potential developments
- School – learn about the local schools, the universities people attend
- Sports – sports are universal, but you should learn the local sports (be it curling, cricket, or soccer)
The rest of the conference was split between networking with Fulbright Alumni and the Sri Lankan Fulbright Commission and sessions preparing us to teach English.
Most of the Fulbrighters were told where in the country they would be placed. While I have yet to find out my physical location, however I did find out that I’ve been placed with Sarvodaya – the largest NGO in Sri Lanka.
It was a pleasure meeting my counterparts who will be teaching in countries across the world. In general, they were among the most thoughtful and worldly people I’ve ever met. I had a great time getting to know them over the course of a week, and I look forward to seeing some of them in Nepal for the Fulbright ETA conference in November.
A picture from the Fulbright dinner cruise – June 21, 2012