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Latin American students participate in Fulbright seminar

Students gather in Washington to study U.S. Congress

Posted: March 17, 2005

Washington -- Over two-dozen university students from across the Americas joined more than 100 other students from around the world to participate in a five-day Fulbright Foreign Student Enrichment Seminar in Washington.

The Fulbright seminar, which opened March 16, is the fourth in a series of seminars sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and brings together more than 140 foreign students and U.S. students who have recently returned from a Fulbright year of study abroad.

Whereas the previous 2005 Fulbright student seminars in Tempe, Arizona, New Orleans and San Francisco focused on themes including natural resource management, gender equity and corporate community partnerships, the theme of the Washington seminar is "Challenges and Choices for the 109th Congress."

As part of the seminar, the foreign Fulbright fellows will participate in sessions that explore the legislative priorities of the 109th U.S. Congress, the process of moving from legislation to policy and practice, the congressional role in national security and intelligence policy, and the impact of political campaigns on legislative decision-making.

The seminar will also include March 18 visits by foreign Fulbright students to classrooms in the Washington metropolitan area, where they will gain insight into life in a local high school and share insights about their own countries and cultures.

The 2005 Fulbright seminar participants include university students from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.

Several of these students took time to reflect on their Fulbright experience at the Washington seminar.

Edgar Yanez of Venezuela is studying visual communications at Northern Illinois University. In a March 17 interview with the Washington File, Yanez said the Fulbright program has provided him with an opportunity to study in a field that he indicated is relatively new in Venezuela, as well an opportunity to use the latest technology. He said the program has also afforded him and his family a chance to learn about U.S. culture.

He said that he has found people in the United States less reserved and more friendly than he anticipated. Yanez noted that as he pursues his two years of study, his wife takes English classes and their daughter is enrolled in a bilingual school.

"For the whole family, it has been a very good experience so far," he said.

Cesar Gomez, also of Venezuela, is pursuing a master's degree in public policy with a focus on finance at the University of Chicago as part of his Fulbright experience.

He indicated that he always admired American individualism and has welcomed the opportunity to immerse himself in U.S. culture.

Gomez said he considers himself "very lucky" to be a participant in the Fulbright program because the experience "adds value beyond the scholarship it provides."

The added value, he said, includes the opportunity to interact with people from around the world. Gomez cited the Washington seminar that brought together students from 75 countries as an example of this intercultural exchange, and he outlined his expectations for the five-day program.

"I hope to enhance my understanding of American government, widen my circle of contacts and enjoy the experience," he said.

Mercedes Fernandez-Moscol of Peru agreed that she, too, has enjoyed the diversity of views and individualism she has encountered both at the seminar and in her studies in New York City.

Fernandez-Moscol is pursuing a master's degree in law at New York's Columbia University, an experience she said would not be possible without Fulbright funding.

She said that she has found a great diversity of cultures in New York City and appreciates that "everyone lives as they like."

What she finds especially interesting, she explained, are the discussions between her two roommates at Columbia -- students from Israel and Palestine, respectively.

Fernandez-Moscol said she hopes the Washington seminar will provided her with a better understanding of how the U.S. Congress drafts and enacts laws, "particularly how the laws are crafted to reflect the interests of the people."

A former government employee in Peru, she hopes to return to her country after her Fulbright experience to rejoin the government and share her experience.

"All that I learn here I hope to share with Peru," she said.

The enhanced understanding of other cultures and important issues imparted by the Fulbright program reflects the fundamental spirit of the exchange program, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega.

"We don't conduct exchanges to remake others in our image; we do it to give people the capacity to make their own, hopefully good, choices," he said. "Ultimately, our support for programs like Fulbright reflects our inherent idealism and our belief in the power of individuals to transform the world."


 

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