To everyone I have met who has asked, What is it like being a Fulbright-Schuman Scholar?, I have answered this way—it’s like having Super Powers. It’s an incredible feeling that is life changing. The Super Powers are intoxicating, and I feel these powers in my very core right now. It is everything you are while you are a Fulbright-Schuman. It is the power to connect with influential people you may not have thought possible, to illuminate understanding for those positioned to broaden the impact of your work, to share visions of solutions to current problems and try to develop answers with those who can affect change. The impact of becoming a Fulbright-Schuman is only limited by you, because the Super Powers are real.
Being superhuman is amazing and seductive. However, the Super Powers you are offered will only work if certain conditions are met.
You must come with passion. Come with it oozing out of you. Your passion will serve to draw others in, and will become your fuel to better your own work and the eventual outcome of your experience.
Fuel your motivation. Envelope yourself in your academic pursuit and fully engage every fiber of your being in your research. The time you’re given is an extraordinary gift, and it should leave you hungering for more.
Be open to other people and care about their stories. By being genuine with the people you meet and interested in their experiences and perspective, there is no limit to how much you can grow and what you can achieve.
Take words seriously. Be aware of the words you choose, and use them for good. Words have enormous weight, and their impact is strong on those with whom you interact. The word “friend”, for example, changes brain chemistry. Say, my friend, and you have me, waiting to trust and interested in what you say next. Engaging with people from faraway places puts added value on the words you choose to use. Words help build relationships and create something between people, an energy that can become whatever you want it to. The product of the relationships you establish allows your work to flourish, and allows you to grow—and hopefully those around you, too.
And just like that, your Super Powers will work. They will take you places you’ve never been and allow you the freedom to explore all that is possible. My Super Powers helped me soar beyond the classroom and set up meetings with state and EU officials, travel to cities outside of my research focus to compare experiences and engage in local dialogue about integration, enjoy conversations with policy makers, exchange with creative leaders, befriend global visionaries, talk about the very essence of what it means to do important work with those I have long admired, and so much more.
But that’s not all.
As I sit here, I am acutely aware of how much I’ve grown as a Global Citizen. Intentionally, Fulbright puts you in a position where you gain an incredible sense of self, while engaging in important questions and exchanging on a global level. This understanding and active involvement as a global actor comes as a reward for being a part of this experience, opening you up to a world of fascinating people and perspectives, to help you find purpose and produce unique and significant work.
I came to Europe to pursue a mission I created for myself—discover the best practices in minority and migrant integration in education in Luxembourg, Belgium and France to share with fellow countrymen, fellow Europeans, and back home in the US. My goal of sharing solutions to the problem (without borders) of integration and help students and societies gain richer returns—economically and socially—is larger than me. I have met so many people trying to serve this same goal from all over the world while acting as Fulbright-Schuman Scholar. The richness of real exchange surrounding meaningful ideas has moved all of us to a new place. I hope I’ve helped give context and illuminate the story of those less advantaged, and highlight solutions to creating an educational path to greater social connections and improved futures. In the end, it is only because of the many exchanges Fulbright allows for that I can have an impact on others.
Everything that’s happened, what I’ve learned and gained during this time, allows me the possibility now to continue on, and gives me the option of growing new opportunities from the rich soil of this one. Very importantly to me, this means sharing my experiences. Sharing what it means to see life through others’ eyes and the importance of looking ahead to a future through the realities of those I’ve met. Additionally, each of the many people I’ve met are now a part of a global network of individuals who are as equally as inspired to move things forward and create global impact. This will continue to fuel the enormous power of the “bottom-up” process, where individuals make change happen.
You can have all of this, too—Super Powers, Global Citizenship, and a new network of opportunity. And I highly recommend it.
Thank you, my friend. Thank you, Fulbright.
– Letitia Zwickert
2015-2016 Fulbright-Schuman grantee
Note: this post originally appeared on Letitia Zwickert’s blog and was reposted with permission.