SAMAH EL SAID, Faculty member, English Department, Faculty of Arts, Mansoura University, Daqahlia, Egypt
2012-2013 Egyptian Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant, University of New Hampshire, New Hampshire, U.S.A
My experience as a Fulbright grantee is expected to be the dominant influence in my future. As a Fulbrighter, I learned one lesson from the words of James William Fulbright, as he said, “Educational exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of communication can to the humanizing of international relations.”
This is very much true. Through my own experience in the U.S. as a Foreign Language Teaching Assistant teaching Arabic at University of New Hampshire (UNH), I met so many people from different countries and cultures. Although we were totally different; we spoke different languages; we came from different cultures and traditions, there was still one thing that brought us together: being Fulbrighters. Fulbright had turned out to be a language, a means of communication, and a way of understanding. Through Fulbright, we knew how to communicate and what purpose we were communicating for – human understanding. And what a mission! That mission used to make me full of pride in the U.S. During our orientations they used to call us “Cultural Ambassadors.” Being an Ambassador representing my country and my culture in a big country like the U.S. made me so proud and happy.
I knew about Fulbright through two American Fulbrighters who were teaching English at my school in 2010. I was a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Arts, Mansoura University, at the time, when I met Eric Knecht and Alex Russell. We became good friends. We used to teach together, to hang out together, and to spend most of our free time together. They also became friends with everyone else so quickly. Through Eric and Alex I met with other Fulbrighters, some of them were teaching at Alexandria University, like Morgan Smith and others at Zagazig University.
Eric encouraged me to apply for a Fulbright grant, something I had never considered before. I was selected and received my award at the University of New Hampshire. It was a great achievement. When I went to the U.S. in 2012 as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant, I was not afraid at all because I knew that my friends would support and help me whenever I needed them. This is exactly what happened. Morgan stayed in touch and Eric took me around and invited me over for Christmas dinner at his family home in New Jersey. It was the best Christmas ever!
In fact, it was Fulbright that connected all us together. It was Fulbright that gave me the chance to meet such wonderful people. It was also Fulbright that encouraged each one of us to keep in touch. I do believe that it increased our chances of learning how “to live in peace and friendship.” No matter how busy we might be, how long the distance that separates us, how many friends we have, how close or far apart we are, how many different ideologies we believe in or support, we have good memories that will always bring us together for the rest of our lives.