ALAA ABOUELFETOUH, Lecturer in Microbiology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Alexandria University, Alexandria, Egypt
2012-2013 Egyptian Fulbright Scholar, Loyola University, Chicago, U.S.A.
I am a lecturer in Microbiology at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Alexandria University, where I graduated and later obtained my Ph.D. in 2010. It was in those post-Ph.D. days that I started thinking how limited my experience had been so far, having finished my undergraduate and then my Master’s and Ph.D. work at the same university. I was starving for knowledge, both in my field of study and in life in general. I have always known about the Fulbright Commission and the opportunities it provides for people to study in the U.S.A.; however, it wasn’t until later in 2010 when I met an ex-Fulbrighter, completely by chance, that I started to seriously consider applying for a Fulbright grant. I started following Fulbright programs, contacted an American professor and we worked together on a grant proposal.
Subsequently, during my Fulbright grant, I learnt a lot about an area of Microbiology where I had never ventured before in my studies. I was exposed to a different way of thinking and problem solving. Although the principles remain the same, it is the way people approach the issue that is different and that is where multiple exposure helps shape one’s personality and career. On a personal level, I made new friends and acquaintances, which added more depth to the experience.
Another side of the experience that made my Fulbright grant unique was a cultural enrichment program that I attended in Chicago organized by WorldChicago. This program aims to expose non-Americans to the American way of life and culture, and I daresay that they accomplished their goals. We had at least one event per month, for each of my nine months as a Fulbrighter. We had a welcoming lunch at Chicago’s famous Navy Pier and a cruise of Lake Michigan; we visited a community for people with disabilities, spent time with them and shared holiday baking; we watched a couple of shows performed at the Cadillac Palace Theatre and attended Holiday Season parties. We enjoyed dinner and conversations one night with an American family; we visited a number of Chicago museums and celebrated International Women’s Day at the Union League Club of Chicago. We also toured some of Chicago’s famous financial institutions and watched a White Sox baseball game. Throughout this program, we had the chance to interact with other Fulbrighters as well as with Americans who had at one point joined similar programs and spent some time outside the U.S.A.
My Fulbright grant has, therefore, enriched me on both a personal and professional level. I have benefited professionally in a way that I hope will reflect positively on my career in the years to come. I also learnt a lot about American history, culture and traditions in a manner that was both educational and fun.
I cherish my Fulbright experience dearly and consider it a privilege that I encourage others to aim for.