Fulbright Program is not just a grant

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Hiram Aparicio, a member of the Fulbright program is working in a school of Madrid for the US Department of State in colaboration with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. Both Governments work together in order to make the best for the program, fulfil the aims of it and let young people learn different cultures and acquire more competences.

As the founder of the program, J.William Fulbright: “The Fulbright Program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby to increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.”

The Fulbright Program covers 160 countries worldwide, Spain being one of them from years ago, with several different programs in each country, from English teaching to International Scholarships to study abroad. For example, Hiram´s program does not only consist on English teaching, as he said: “my program is not only to teach, it is also a volunteer project; all I do is to provide free English classes for students and free conversation classes outside of school, apart from the Global Classroom.”

I have selected this interviewee, because I feel that the Fulbright program is an interesting opportunity for students from the countries which have signed and get the compromise to be part of it, due to the fact that it provides new skills and experieces to develop all over the globe. In order to be a fulbrighter, you need to cover some requirements such as demonstrate academic excellence, pass an English interview, have academic experience or a degree, but these requirements can be modified depending to which program do you apply for. When I asked him about his application, told me that “the process is rigurous” because is very competitive and “it is not easy to have a grant for the Fulbright”, there are a lot of applicants and the organizers “only select the bests ones.”

According to Hiram’s experience, apart from the English classes that he gives at the school in Madrid, he has to participate in a Global Classroom project, which consists of selecting a group of thirty students who are going to be prepared to represent a determined country member of the United Nations. As Hiram explained to me, each student has to pick one country, and “discuss the relief and reforms of their bording policies behind the topic of the International Monetary Fund.” After that, they are going to discuss their topics at a conference that first is going to be held in Spain, in order to select the best candidates, and then those ones are going abroad.

Hiram insists on the importance of this program, due to the fact that is so beneficial for the students, because apart from improving their English skills, “they are going to live a new experience and learn more about the different cultures in the world”, and it is a way “to see the world from the eyes of someone else.”

Regarding to the next United States elections in 2016, when I told him about if the aids that are given to the Fulbright Program, he answered that might not change, in spite of which political party is in the power, because there is an established amount of money given each year, and cutting back this type of grants is not beneficial for young people who need to grow on the field that every country must have the same international rights and asume different obligations on the international arena.

Furthermore, taking into account the positive appearances of the program, as Hiram agreed, “for students make a cultivation on cultural understandings and raise awareness of other countries, because it let you see that everyone is not the way that you percieve them,” so being part of the project let you achieve a global view of the current situation that countries worldwide are experiencing in a certain period of time. Moreover, the negative aspects of the program from his point of view are that the selected fulbrighters have little experience on the field that they are selected to develop, regarding that from the experecience of Hiram he is not an expert on Global Classroom, but as he claimed, “this point can be positive because it is a new situation for me, and also for the students, so together we can learn more and I hope to get a long better understanding in this field.” As we can notice, many negative aspects of any field can be turned into a good experience, and learn about each negative situation and contribute to make a profit of whatever we are doing.

To conclude, the Fulbright program from Hirams´ view, is not only a grant, it is an experience to learn from each other and live among other cultures.

María Fernández Gómez


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