DOMINIQUE DEANGELO, Program Assistant for the Foreign Fulbright Program, AMIDEAST, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
2012-2013 U.S. Fulbright Student, Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt
From One Side of Fulbright to Another
A year and half ago, I was a U.S. Fulbright Student living and researching in Cairo, Egypt. Today, I am the Program Assistant for the Foreign Fulbright Student Program for the Middle East/North Africa region at AMIDEAST. As a student of International Relations and Arabic, receiving a Fulbright grant fit quite perfectly in the puzzle that I considered my life plan. But I never would have guessed that my Fulbright year would have impacted my life and aspirations in the way that it did.
I am extremely grateful for my Fulbright grant. It gave me the unique opportunity to utilize two of my life long passions, Arabic language and the martial arts, to connect with women of Egyptian society. I interviewed women and girls from public universities, private sporting clubs, and the Egyptian National Karate Team about the challenges and benefits they face as Egyptian female martial artists. I was honored to hear their stories and was inspired to raise awareness about the empowering effects of martial arts and self-defense training for women around the world. As I conducted academic and field research on this topic, I gained a deeper appreciation for cross-cultural educational experiences.
Reflecting on my Fulbright year in Egypt, I can wholeheartedly affirm that it was the most challenging but rewarding experience of my life thus far. Living in a different culture brought new obstacles and discoveries daily and with these came a fluctuation of highs and lows. I had finally figured out how to communicate to my grocer that I wanted 1 kilo of boneless chicken breast cutlets, but gave my taxi driver completely wrong directions on the way home and got us stuck in a two-hour traffic jam. These daily experiences taught me patience, resourcefulness and gave me a simple joy that I believe made me a stronger and more empathetic person.
As my year came to an end, I began to think long and hard about the direction I wanted my career to take upon returning to the U.S. After my study of international relations and the economic and political developments in the Middle East/North Africa region, the decision to devote my career to international education was actually a very simple one. I truly believe that the best way to make a positive impact for good in our world is to promote education and encourage global citizenship. My experience as a Fulbrighter taught me this in a way that no other experience could have, and it is my hope that this effect will continue to multiply in generations to come.
Now, I work on administering Fulbright grants for approximately 300 current students from the Middle East and North Africa. In March, AMIDEAST hosted a conference for students in the final year of their graduate programs. I was absolutely amazed by these intelligent, sensitive and inspiring individuals. They specialize in all academic disciplines at universities across the United States. They teach, learn and bridge cultures every single day. They will return to their home countries and carry their academic and cultural knowledge with them and the impact they will have on their communities will be immeasurable.
I truly agree with Senator J. William Fulbright when he made the following remarks on the thirtieth anniversary of the Fulbright Program in 1976:
“International educational exchange is the most significant current project designed to continue the process of humanizing mankind to the point, we would hope, that men can learn to live in peace–eventually even to cooperate in constructive activities rather than compete in a mindless contest of mutual destruction…. We must try to expand the boundaries of human wisdom, empathy and perception, and there is no way of doing that except through education.”
No matter where my career may take me, I will carry the lessons I learned from my Fulbright experience with me for the rest of my life.