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
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
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
"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."