Fulbright Scholar Dr. Jacques Clerville Is Applying Epidemiology To Improve Haiti’s Public Health System

Dr. Jacques Clerville is a former Fulbright scholar and Haitian primary care physician, with a master of public health in epidemiology from University of South Carolina, Arnold School. Today, Dr. Clerville is Haiti’s chief assistant of infectious diseases epidemiologic surveillance within the Ministry of Health and Population.

While Jacques Clerville was writing a medical prescription for a patient in the town of Les Cayes, he felt his work environment tremble for a few seconds. It was the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010. Although Les Cayes was spared, thousands of people in Port-au-Prince lost their lives or were completely homeless. And that was not all, the aftermath of the earthquake led to a major consequence: an outbreak of cholera devastated the island almost 10 months later causing many deaths. As a physician facing these unprecedented challenges, Dr. Clerville began to see the need to deepen his knowledge in epidemic diseases.

In seeking to more effectively help the population, Clerville joined Doctors Without Borders, which established a cholera treatment center in Les Cayes. “This experience completely changed my perspective on health care and public health. I realized that I was limited with my skills and clinical knowledge,” he says.

It was then that Clerville applied and was later selected among the ten best candidates to attend a year-long intensive training program in Infectious Diseases and HIV, funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) and in a partnership with the Université Notre Dame d’Haiti.

“Since then, I have seen epidemiology as a means to provide evidence-based information to improve medical and public health practice, particularly in Haiti where there is a lack of scientific literature.”

Born in Les Cayes, Dr. Cleville moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti where he earned a medical degree from the Université Notre-Dame d’Haiti. After he completed his seven-year program with one year of social work, he started working in his hometown as a practicing primary care physician.

After the earthquake, he applied for a Fulbright scholarship through the U.S. Embassy in Haiti to pursue a master’s degree in public health in epidemiology. “The Fulbright scholarship allowed me to pursue one of my dreams, which is to study in the United States.” Accepted at three universities in the United States, Clerville chose the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina (USC), because he knew it was one of the best public health programs in the country. At USC, he studied in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, participated in global health conferences and adapted his course with a focus on public health surveillance systems.

Clerville completed his degree, returned to Haiti and, most importantly he has been able to apply what he learned in the work field. “The Fulbright scholarship program is the stepping stone that helped me get a leadership position at the Ministry of Health and Population in Haiti.”, he says. Recently, Clerville has been involved in monitoring and evaluation, conducting site visits and overseeing the Epidemiological Surveillance Officers. He also has been attending project management-related workshops to increase capacity and success in health-related projects.

With the knowledge and skills he has acquired, Clerville dreams higher: he wants to teach Epidemiology at the university level. Indeed, he carries a lifelong mantra that he is fully committed to helping the Haitian people and making a difference into their lives by improving the health system.

Dr. Clerville is lecturing on how to analyze and display epidemiological surveillance data to Epidemiological Surveillance Officers (OSE) at the Ministry of Health and Population in Haiti.

 

Using the Field of Interior Design to Redesign Physical Schools and Learning Environments

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By: Néstor Isaac Ramos Marchena, a Fulbright MESCyT scholar from the Dominican Republic is currently pursuing Master’s degree in Interior Architecture at The University of Texas, Austin.

I studied architecture in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. Similar to most of my classmates, I aspired to create huge buildings that provoked awe and admiration. While the architect ego was there since the first semester, ironically, the definition of architecture that I always loved since the beginning is the one that involves the term service. I was somehow more attracted to projects with social connotations.

After my first year in architecture school, I started to feel incomplete. I thought I needed to change my major. There was something missing. My professors convinced me that architecture was MY thing and pushed me to stay for at least two more semesters. I did, and looking back today, I can see what worked: The following semester, the studio worked on a project with a heavy focus on the interiors; the design of a museum that celebrated Dominican-aboriginal culture.

I was instantly attracted. I realized that the interiors is what I was more interested in about architecture. After all, it was the closest space to human scale, and what I love most about design and architecture is precisely the possibility to influence people, making them feel good in a space, improving the way they live and work, therefore, improving their lives.

Presenting Final Project at The University of Texas, School of Architecture

I started then to envision design as one of the most powerful tools for human development. Approaching the end of my undergraduate studies, I was more and more certain that a path in interior design was going to be my next step.

In those days, a new education model had been applied in the Dominican Republic, which added four more hours of class per day, totaling eight hours of class. This was greatly criticized due to the lack of infrastructure and facilities that the schools needed in order for the program to be a success. Moreover, the visual characteristics of these spaces created a generic atmosphere, using colors and materials that not only ignored the local character and heritage, but also yielded an aesthetic similar to prisons.

This motivated me to shape my undergraduate thesis project into research on the impact that good design has on students in their educational environment. My team and I thought it was logical to think that if the students were going to spend more time in the school, then the spaces should reflect and respond positively to this extended stay.

We were excited to substantiate that a well-designed environment can have an enormous effect on the learning process of a student, increasing the chances of academic excellence and social relationships. As a result, we proposed a series of school prototypes, according to the population and weather of the region in which they would be installed, resulting in a positive social response to actual problems.

Convinced that through architectural design I could influence and positively benefit the lives of people in my country, and especially childhood and education, I applied for an International Fulbright Scholarship, that I received months later. Thanks to the scholarship, I went to the United States to pursue a Master’s of Interior Design at The University of Texas at Austin. I understood that by getting a deeper knowledge of interior design, through a Graduate Degree, I was going to be able to design better spaces for people.

As a way of continuing my line of interest and as an extension of my previous study, I decided to shape my MDS (Final Master’s Project) into a community center for rural areas of Dominican Republic, that provides educational programs to all the residents in the community. A prototype that can be replicated and adapted to different settlements, allowing variations of layout and materials and that involves the community as part of the building process to create a sense of ownership, pride and appropriation.

It has been thrilling to be working on this project, that means so much to me on a personal level. Weeks away from graduation, my mind is already bubbling with excitement as it thinks of the many ways I can go back to my country and try to contribute with all the knowledge I have gained here in the United States. And this is one of the purposes of the Fulbright Scholarship: to give back. And it is my intention to give back by doing and teaching.

Doing, through professional practice. I envision myself working to advocate for better designed schools, and better learning environments. It would be my biggest dream to make an impact in my society through design, to not only achieve the aforementioned qualities in public education, but also to demonstrate that designers are not just “decorators”, but activists, agents of change and social development.

And also, by teaching. It is obvious that design and education are both my passions, and there is nothing I would rather be experiencing than the feeling that I am contributing to make our built environment a better place.

Holding the Dominican Republic Flag at the UT Austin graduation

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

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New school, new life, new challenges

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By: Blanca Esther Romero Pino – Fulbright Faculty Development scholar from Venezuela and currently a Master’s degree candidate in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at Arizona State University.

Coming to the United States was a great adventure for me. I had never left my country and suddenly, here I was, leaving my family to move to a place I had never been before, with a different language and culture. The fear was there, as well as the excitement, but I was looking forward to this new experience.

The first length of my trip took me to Bloomington, Indiana for the Fulbright Gateway Orientation. I fell in love with the city, and with the campus at Indiana University. In this gateway program, I had the chance to meet the most wonderful people from different countries. I learned about their cultures, and tried to share mine with them. I especially loved meeting other Latino brothers and sisters who were also there, representing the best each of their countries had to offer. Although I was the only Venezuelan in the group, I felt as if all of us came from the same place. The sense of friendship and unity in our group made it rather special. I am glad to say that I made some very good friends in that gateway. I was also lucky that four other Fulbrighters from my gateway were coming to Arizona State University. I would not be alone!

At Arizona State University campus

I started my graduate program at Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe campus in the Fall of 2016. The new environment created a bit of a shock for me. Even though I already had a graduate degree from a Venezuelan university, the different dynamics in the graduate programs here in the United States took me by surprise. In all honesty, there were moments when I felt I did not belong, that there had been a mistake, and I was not good enough for my program, and that I was not worthy of being a Fulbright scholar. Fortunately, I was not alone. Other Fulbrighters and international students shared the same concerns, and we found ourselves supporting each other, and encouraging each other to keep going.

My brother once wrote the sentence “Keep moving forward” on his Skype status. I found myself thinking about it more and more, and I decided to take it as my mantra. Whenever I felt like giving up, whenever the stress became too much, I would tell myself: “Keep moving forward, no matter what. Don’t stop. Keep. Moving. Forward”.

With my “little” brother, Mila

And I have found myself repeating that mantra so many times that I am considering getting it tattooed on my arm, as a reminder (I have not done it yet, but soon). Because thetruth is, there are moments in our lives in which we feel that we cannot keep going. We feel overwhelmed with schoolwork, we miss our families, we are in a different environment, a differentculture from ours. It can become too much for any human being. I realized that I could not overcome these feelings on my own. I needed a support system. Thankfully I had my friend Milan.

Milan, a mountain of a man from Slovakia has the biggest heart that anyone can imagine. He is calm and quiet, whereas I am loud and feisty. We met at the orientation in Bloomington, and we became like brother and sister in Arizona. He said I was his “big” sister, which everyone laughed at since Milan is 6’5” and I am 4’8” tall.  Taking time for a coffee in the evenings, or dinner over the weekends helped me relax and recharge my batteries, so to speak.

The latter brings me to another strategy I found to cope with stress: take time for yourself. We all have papers to write and deadlines to fulfill. But we also need to take the time to release tension and stress. I find that sometimes my brain simply refuses to work, that even constructing a simple, coherent sentence is a struggle. When that happens, I just stop, get up and go do something else. I work out, or watch a movie, or read a non-academic book (I am a fan of the urban fantasy genre).

The trick to graduate school is to find the balance necessary to have good academic performance without sacrificing your personal well-being. School will be there, deadlines will be there, the stress and worries will be there waiting for you. It is better to face these struggles with a relaxed mind and an energized body. And remember, “Keep Moving Forward!”

Group photo with Fulbright scholars in front of the White House during the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar on Justice in Education

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

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Be Like a Proton: challenges and takeaways when applying to graduate school

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By: Fernando Antonio Rebolledo Uscanga – a Fulbright COMEXUS scholar from Mexico and a PhD fellow in Biomedical/Medical Engineering at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Speaking, writing and interacting in a language that is not your native one is definitely challenging. It is not easy to express yourself with the same freedom that you have when you speak in your first language. The words, phrases, expressions, are all different, and as you learn a new language you have to accept that there is nothing wrong with making mistakes.

Similarly, the process of applying to graduate programs is challenging. There is a long list or requirements to apply to schools. Academic transcripts, Curriculum Vitae (CV), Letters of Recommendation, the intricate Statement of Purpose and lastly, the terrifying standardized tests, which such as the TOEFL iBT and GRE or GMAT exams. These standardized tests are considered the most important part of your application. Well, I will counter this assumption, I think this is wrong. Why? Because graduate schools are looking for unique candidates. The admissions committee reviews the application materials for your candidacy as a whole, which demonstrate the kind of person you are, and what you are going to bring to the program and school. Through your application, the committee can identify your cultural background, your way of thinking, your reasoning and your diverse opinions about key global issues. Most of these characteristics may be conveyed through your Statement of Purpose and through it the admissions team could better understand who you are, how you think, and how you approach problems and solve them.

My recommendation for success in the application process to graduate school is to be yourself.

The standardized tests might seem frightening, but like any other required application component, they represent one part of a whole. The standardized exams do not necessarily measure your intelligence or capability, but rather your effort and how well you understood the rules of testing. Getting a high score does not equate to being qualified or being the right individual to pursue graduate studies. At the end of the day, standardized exams are tricky but a low score doesn’t mean that you would not be able to succeed in a graduate program. Getting a low score is in fact, fairly common. If the first time was a problem, then try it another time, and another and as many times as you need. One strategy I would recommend is to check out free resources that ETS offers online and watch a variety of lessons on YouTube. Remember to stay positive that the next time you take the exam it will be better. As one famous high school basketball coach in the U.S., Morgan Wootten, would say, “You learn more from losing than winning. You learn how to keep going”, so keep going. You are almost there. And yes… I took the exam more than once.

Another important factor during the application process is to be prepared with your university search. “Where are you going to apply?” is a common bottleneck for many applicants. “Where do you want to go for graduate studies? Is it feasible? What do you need to do in order to get accepted?” After thinking about all of these factors, it is essential to prepare yourself as best as you can and apply. Reach out to professors (also known as faculty advisors) that you want to work with, share with them your academic interests, ask them questions about the program, and make sure to carry your confidence along the way.

Confidence is so important during the application process to graduate programs because it demonstrates your capability that the admissions committee wants to see in you in order to make decision to whether accept or deny your candidacy to the program.

To restate my recommendation, confidence is shaped by how you present yourself to the committee, how unique you are, and how you can defend your ideas and goals.

Same recommendation goes to those interested in applying to highly competitive institutions. Although my GRE and TOEFL iBT scores were fair, I applied to some competitive graduate programs. I believed in myself and decided to apply even though some people advised me that I wouldn’t get accepted.

I was admitted. My overall application was strong enough to be considered.

Be positive, like a proton.

The process is certainly about how much effort you put in order to accomplish and reach your dreams. Every step that you are walking through is worthwhile. It is a road that will definitely lead you to success. My motto is to “Believe in you, believe in yourself deep down.”

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

 

 

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Mexico’s First Mixe Fulbright Scholar Is Working to Improve the Lives of Indigenous Farmers

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Scholar: Tania Eulalia Martínez – a Fulbright COMEXUS scholar from Mexico holds a Master’s degree in Agricultural and Byosistems Engineering at University of Arizona. Currently, she is a PhD candidate at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Contributor: Yara Simón, senior culture editor at Remezcla.

Three years ago, before Tania Eulalia Martínez left Mexico to pursue a doctorate in Holland, her Abuelita Eulalia had one request: “Take this shawl with you. I want you to tell those who live over there, in that other world, who we are, how we live, and what we do. Take it so that you can remember us, so that you don’t forget us.” But what the late Eulalia may not have realized at the time is that Tania’s studies would bring her closer to the Mixe community. As she pursues a Ph.D. at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Tania’s devoted to improving the lives of Mexico’s indigenous populations.

“I feel committed to giving something back to my country, and the area where I can do it is in the agricultural sector,” she said. “The technical background is important, but so are the social aspects. I want to help agricultural projects reach more people who have been marginalized, and to do so, I have to better understand the social and cultural contexts in which these projects take place. I want not just to create technologies and techniques to solve problems, but to understand the lives of indigenous peoples and farmers, so I can be more efficient as a scientist in helping them. I am an engineer learning to be a social scientist.”

Read the full story on Remezcla’s website >>


Follow
Tania on Twitter @tania_eulalia
Follow Yara on Twitter @SaraYimon

 

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

 

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How to be an international PhD student… and survive it!

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By: Deyanira Sindy Moya Chaves – a Fulbright Becas Colciencias scholar from Colombia and a PhD fellow in Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at Pennsylvania State University.

After deciding to change your life and leaving everything behind; after planning every detail, carefully packing your bag, attending every training offered to you by your sponsor, you finally get to a new place: your new home in the United States. It is probably an empty room; an empty house you are sharing with someone you do not know; or it is probably a new apartment you have for yourself. Maybe it is the first time you start paying rent by yourself or maybe you have just moved over there with your spouse and family. In any case, don´t let the emptiness of your new home scare you. Breathe and picture it as full of possibilities. Maybe the first night you will sleep on the floor, or in a sleeping bag, but it is OK, you will have better nights. Let the excitement of buying your first mattress or couch take over. Hang photos of your loved ones all around, put flowers on your night table and stock up on cool school supplies. Find a nice desk and a really comfy chair for it. In other words, build your nest, for it will be yours for a while.

First day of school at Penn State University
First day of classes at Penn State University

Every new international PhD student finds a new form of transportation to school, and a good old bike is always the best option to begin with. Name it (like Lola for example), put some stickers on the handles, make it yours for it will be your unconditional friend and companionship from now on. For every day of school, have a good powerful breakfast, pack your lunch (you will need it); put your school supplies in a new backpack and pedal your way to academic life. Most importantly, bring your laptop with you for it will become an extension of your body. Let air on your face and a feeling of freedom and adventure on your body take over. But do not get lost (arriving on time is another important trait for grad school), and park Lola at the right parking spot. You definitely do not want to find her later in a tree because you did not lock her (yes, it happens…), so register her and follow the rules.

Riding Lola
Riding Lola

You are in grad school now: a high-speed rail. It moves fast and gets you to new places you could not be before.  Get on board for it is exciting and demanding. Do not fear though…start buying your own books and always get enough highlighters. Over time, your books stack beautifully on top of each other, so build a creative bookshelf. Your most visited place is the library, so find your spot there. Get comfortable, and memorize author’s names and reflect about facts when reading, doing research, having study group meetings and checking-out piles of books at a time. Take vitamins for your brain needs them.

An international student is noticed everywhere h/she goes, but have no fear. Your accented English helps you spell out your long (and “beautiful”) first, middle or last names every time you buy coffee; when your professors, nurses, colleagues or your own students ask you to; when filling out a form (which happens a lot); or when giving information over the phone. Spelling; hearing, and seeing different possible combinations of your name becomes a joyful habit. You are corrected all the time, but your English improves little by little. The silver lining is that you are not alone. Feeling lost, confused, lonely, homesick, or even stupid is what your classmates also talk about. So, shake it off and start all over again.

Learning from professors and meeting famous authors
Learning from professors and meeting famous authors

To survive grad school, find a balance. Work hard and become the best doctor in your field; but don’t forget where you come from and what your goal is. Be humble, listen and observe carefully. Take feedback from your professors and colleagues, and keep on learning every day. Also, recharge every time you need to. Rely on your loved ones, go back home for vacations, visit new places, do exercise and try new foods from time to time for the experience of grad school will only happen once!

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

 

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Looking back at why it took me ten years to apply to Fulbright

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By: Magaly Preciado Reyes – a Fulbright COMEXUS scholar from Mexico and a Master’s degree candidate in International Development and Social Change at Clark University.

I was once in South Korea for ten days on a trip for work, and I missed the Mexican corn tortillas. Years later, I moved to Mexico City, again because of work, and I got used to missing my family and the place that was most familiar to me: the beautiful Tijuana. Situated in the northern border of Mexico (south of California, USA), Tijuana is the place where I was born and raised.

With scholarships, I pursued both high school and undergraduate studies at Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior (CETYS), a university located in Baja California (Mexico). For more than seven years of my academic experience at CETYS, my studies were fully supported. My family and I could not be more grateful as this financial support enabled me to pursue studies that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Naturally, when I realized it was time to continue my academic pursuits the first thing that came to mind was to look for a scholarship.

In front of the Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior (CETYS) stadium in Tijuana, Mexico

I learned about the Fulbright program back when I was studying at CETYS, and I remember thinking about how rewarding it would be to reach a point in my academic and professional life where I felt ready to submit an application, and also how implausible it would be to get awarded such a prestigious scholarship. The years passed while I was advancing in my professional experience and continuing my academic training with courses, diplomas and extracurricular activities. While there was always an immediate and tangible reason for every professional decision I made, somewhere in my head I pondered whether taking the next step would bring me closer to that point where I felt ready to submit a Fulbright application, because this was the long-term goal. I wanted to have international academic experience, increase my multicultural understanding, immerse myself into classrooms that would allow me to reflect on my practice, and have discussions with like-minded people.

Nevertheless, when that moment came and I felt I was academically and professionally ready to apply, I decided not to because of a barrier I hadn’t anticipated: the fear of not getting the scholarship. I was left pondering “What would I do if I am not selected? What would that say about me?” I could not continue my academic studies without financial support, and I had no plan B. So, the years passed, and I avoided applying to Fulbright because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be awarded the scholarship; most importantly, I wanted to avoid the painful exposure to the message that begins, “We regret to inform you…”

Now, just a few months away from graduating with a master’s degree at Clark University, I look back at why it took me all these years to apply to Fulbright and still think of the fortune and privilege, as well as the implausibility, of being granted this scholarship. I am grateful for what I have accomplished in my professional pursuits so far, but also in my personal accomplishments for overcoming my own fears, especially my fear of failure.

First semester at Clark University, Massachusetts, USA

During my first week of arrival in the United States for the Fulbright Gateway Orientation at Northern Illinois University, I had the privilege to meet students from over forty countries. Amidst all the excitement about beginning our studies in different U.S. higher education institutions, it was clear that we all shared stories of persistence and ambition toward becoming a Fulbrighter. In one way or another, regardless of our cultural differences, all of us went through competitive selection process, but also had to overcome personal battles with our own fears.

My message to those who are still undecided about whether to apply to Fulbright or any other scholarship program is that it is worthwhile.

It is worthwhile to go through the long application process; it is worthwhile to overcome your own personal battles. At the end of the day, it was just as feasible for me to receive a decision letter saying, “We regret to inform you…” In fact, the day I understood that such an adverse outcome was valid and acceptable, and that I shouldn’t be afraid or regret trying, was the same day I decided to apply.

Fortunately, I am now at Clark University and missing everything that is familiar to me, just like that time in South Korea when I missed freshly made Mexican corn tortillas!

During the Fulbright Gateway Orientation at Northern Illinois University, Chicago
During the Fulbright Gateway Orientation at Northern Illinois University, Chicago

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

 

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From a cornfield in El Salvador to New York City: How learning English took me overseas

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By: Pedro Alexander Vasquez Jimenez – a Fulbright Faculty Development Program scholar from El Salvador and a Master’s degree candidate in Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language/ESL Language Instructor (TESOL) at Binghamton University.

”De lápiz y de papel no se vive.” This is a figurative expression that means “Schooling alone does not provide a way to make a living. If you don’t work, you don’t eat or live.” I grew up in a rural area and was reminded of this phrase over and over again when I was a child. My parents did not believe that education was valuable and didn’t want me to spend time studying as they didn’t see it as a path to earning a living. They often told me that I had to work in the cornfield, that I belonged to this place and to this profession just like other countryside boys in El Salvador. The cornfield where I was brought up is located in the rural area of Morazán, a city considered as one of the poorest areas of the country. Nevertheless, I developed a desire for education, so I persuaded my parents to send me to school in the morning while I promised them to work in the cornfield in the afternoon even if that meant intense days full of work and school.

In high school I became interested in English language and wanted to become an English teacher, but my family could not afford to send me to college. Close to my high school graduation, I applied for a scholarship offered by the Universidad de Oriente UNIVO and got accepted because of my academic performance. To attend the Universidad de Oriente UNIVO was quite exhausting especially because I had to take two buses every day to make it there. Not to mention that I had to get up around 4:00 am to be on time for my 7:00 am classes. Despite of all obstacles I faced in order to complete my bachelor’s degree in English Teaching (TESOL), I still persevered. I remember studying by candlelight every night because we did not have electricity in my house and only carried USD $2.00 dollars on me, which was just enough for the bus fare.

The Global UGRAD experience at Missouri State University (2011-2012)
The Global UGRAD experience at Missouri State University (2011-2012)

 

In 2011, I was awarded with a scholarship to participate in the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD), an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State´s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. I attended Missouri State University for one academic year during my undergraduate studies. The experience to fully immerse myself in a completely different academic setting was extraordinary: I had classmates from different cultures, backgrounds, and languages. In September 2015, I was awarded an opportunity by the Government of Austria to participate in an International Civilian Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding Training Programme (IPT) at Stadtschlaining, Austria. This was a three-week long program that took place at The Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR). At ASPR, I wanted to focus my studies on Human Rights because I believe that we can teach values and human rights to the youth through education.  In short, I was very excited to get admitted to the program and also to go to Europe. Later in 2016, I graduated cum laude from Universidad de Oriente UNIVO and officially became an English Instructor.

Since then, teaching has become my passion, which I enjoy and love every time I do it. Undoubtedly, I chose the right profession. After I graduated from Universidad de Oriente UNIVO , I was offered a full-time position as the head coordinator of the English Teaching degree program. I taught different levels of English courses, in addition to an honors level course on leadership and competitiveness as a volunteer. This particular course was part of the University honor program for students with a high GPA pursuing a variety of majors. At the same time, I was involved in community service teaching English language to kids of the community.

I believe everything is possible when you are an optimistic person. We find obstacles in the way, but they make us stronger and help us to look for different ways to approach them and achieve our goals. Taking risks as well as trying new things may be challenging for everybody but it is worthy, and I am an example of it. Stepping out of my comfort zone is something that I will never regret. The experience of pursuing academic studies abroad and being introduced to a new culture have been the most amazing journeys in my life. I remember as a child while I was working in the cornfield, I used to look at the sky and see the planes flying over me and I never thought that once in my life I would take one. Now, I am in New York pursuing a Masters of Arts degree in TESOL and what I know is that dreams come true if you dare to believe them; of which always makes me reminisce about one of my favorite quotes, “Don’t stop dreaming, don’t stop believing.”

More news about Pedro (in Spanish): http://univonews.com/soy-prueba-de-que-univo-tiene-profesionales-con-valores-competentes/   

[vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

 

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Fulbright Scholar is on a Path to Change the World of Impossibilities for People with Disabilities

Fulbright scholar Juan Sebastian Betancourt Chaparro is changing the world for people with disabilities through his pioneering work. He earned a master’s degree through a Laspau-administered Fulbright Program in international business from the Florida International University (FIU). Today, Betancourt is a professor at the Universidad de La Sabana in his native Colombia, CEO-Founder of NKLUSVLIFE, and a member of a large network of institutions that promote inclusion such as Fulbright Colombia and Saldarriaga Concha Foundation.

Juan Sebastian Betancourt Chaparro has a vision of changing the world for people with disabilities. He is working with local governments and businesses to create more accessible facilities for individuals using wheelchairs, and has proved that there are economic benefits to creating a more inclusive community, especially in places like restaurants, public malls, bars, pubs, universities and even sports arenas.

Betancourt, who lives in Bogota, Colombia, knows firsthand the challenges of living with a disability. He has an incomplete spinal cord injury C4/C5 which happened in 2003 during his senior year in high school on a trip with his classmates. “I dove into the pool and broke my neck, after hitting my head at the bottom of the pool. When I woke up I was already in the hospital. During the last month or two of my rehab sessions, I asked myself, “What am I going to do with my life now?”

Because he has always been a disciplined and erudite student, Juan decided to continue his education after high school graduation. He pursued undergraduate studies in international business at the Universidad de La Sabana, one of the top universities in Bogotá, and coincidentally, located right next to his rehabilitation facility. Near the end of his undergraduate studies, Betancourt was part of an internship program at Unilever, a global company that produces consumer goods for their supply management team. Betancourt worked in the logistical component for products like Dove and Lipton Tea. Soon after, he worked for several companies as an independent consultant and marketing strategist, including a floral company, which supplies flowers to all Walmart stores in the United States.

“I’m trying to change the way people in Bogotá, Colombia, see people with disabilities. Instead of just seeing a disabled person, I hope they see this person as someone who can bring benefits to companies, communities, and overall be productive in our society.”

As Betancourt succeeded in his professional life, he considered the possibility of going back to school to pursue graduate studies, not in Colombia, but abroad. Betancourt’s closest acquaintances highly encouraged him to take the risk and provided the full support needed for his journey. While working for the floral company, he applied for the Fulbright scholarship program, “I applied first in 2010 when I was finishing my undergraduate studies, but I not was not eligible for the scholarship because at that time, I didn’t have my bachelor’s degree yet. After my undergraduate graduation in 2011, I applied for the second time and received a wonderful news from Fulbright stating that I had been selected to pursue master’s degree in international business at Florida International University.” While at FIU, Betancourt interned with Sony, Latin America for 4 months.

Taking into account that the Fulbright Program requires the scholar to return to his home country upon the academic studies completion and apply the knowledge acquired abroad, Juan Sebastian needed to figure out what to do next when moving back to Colombia. He had two options in mind: apply for a job in Colombia or become an entrepreneur. In May 2015, one month after he returned to Colombia, he founded his own company, NKLUSVLIFE, a company that offers marketing, brand management and consulting to promote a profitable and sustainable business while being inclusive and accessible. As a successful entrepreneur, Betancourt currently balances his work as a professor of emerging markets at the Universidad de La Sabana, the same institution where he pursued his undergraduate studies.

Betancourt has a clear vision for the future and thinks big. He wants to the view of people with disabilities and their potential to contribute to society. In addition to changing the experience of people with disabilities in Colombia, Betancourt is also thinking beyond his own country. “One day, I would like to work with wheelchair sports teams, leagues and national teams to set up their travel plans. When people with disabilities go to other countries to participate in sports and/or vacations, we can inform them about inclusive places and provide logistical advice such as hotels, restaurants and attractions that can comfortably accommodate this particular population. I am very committed to this idea and I know this dream has potential to become true.”

Betancourt fully embraced his Fulbright experience and has advice for scholars and dreamers like him, “It is a once in a lifetime experience and you would be surprised about the level of cultural insight, perspective and general understanding you get from the process. It is a chance as well to be part of something unique where you can apply your recent knowledge and change the world for better. Treasure those moments, experience new things, keep new friends that come to your life and get ready to be ambitious and make the world a better place. Find your purpose in life and contribute for a common goal that transcends in later generations.”

Read more stories about Juan Sebastian Betancourt Chaparro!

Juan Sebastian Betancourt: Changing the Way Businesses Serve People with Disabilities by wheel-life.org
Mobility: an Nklusion subject by Solkes
Millennials que dejan huella by El Tiempo

Learn more about NKLUSVLIFE!

Website: www.nklusvlife.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/NKLUSVLIFE/ 

Twitter: @NKLUSVLIFE
Instagram: www.instagram.com/nklusvlife/ 

 

Fulbright Scholar Jorge Caraballo is Finding New Ways to Tell Important Stories

Fulbright Scholar Jorge Caraballo of Colombia is studying Digital Journalism at Northeastern University.

When Jorge Caraballo was in his first year of college at Universidad de Antioquia in his native Colombia, he imagined himself in the future as a lawyer, a “serious” profession that he felt would keep him close to his real passions of literature and the human experience. After a few months, it became clear to him that the field was simply not for him, “My backpack was not loaded with law textbooks but with the books of García Márquez, Kafka, and Borges.” His discontent Caraballo set off looking for a profession that allowed him to pursue his true passions. Lucky for him, he found it just a few buildings away in the School of Journalism. “It was kind of a revelation when I understood that being a journalist meant that I could go deep in whatever topic I wanted or that I could read any book and story, if after doing that I was able to communicate why was it meaningful to me. From the beginning, I assumed Journalism both as a pleasure and a social responsibility” Caraballo shares.

His passion for storytelling led him to pursue a Fulbright scholarship for graduate studies at Northeastern University. His current academic work focuses on how digital tools and multimedia storytelling can improve the way journalists inform and engage with communities. For Caraballo, this is not a purely academic pursuit.

“Colombia has one of the longest civil wars in the world, and for the past five years has been in a process of healing wounds and finding peace… I want to contribute to that process, and I think that nonfiction storytelling can be an effective strategy to build peace. Stories can help to expand a person’s range of emotions and make her or him feel what others are feeling. In a polarized society, doing that in the right way can have an enormous impact.”

He sees his studies at Northeastern are critical to his future plans of returning to Colombia to participate in efforts to improve social cohesion creating a digital medium that informs and engage Colombians and help them recognize themselves after a long armed conflict.

Throughout his program, Laspau’s help has been essential. “Laspau’s biggest contribution has been that it has done all what’s possible to keep my attention on what’s important –my studies and cultural exchange– and it has helped me to easily navigate all the formalities of being an international student in the U.S.”

After completing his program, Caraballo hopes to spend a year working in a media company in the US in order to learn from the tradition of strong journalism in the country and focus on issues he’s passionate about: social justice, race, inequality, arts and culture. Once he returns to Colombia, it seems clear that he will bring a wealth of new skills and knowledge from his experiences both in and outside of the classroom.