Family, Work and Doctoral Studies

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By: Dr. Abrilene Cynthia Johnston-Scott – Organization of American States (OAS) fellow from Jamaica, pursued Doctor of Education degree from Nova Southeastern University.

The Scholarship

When the recession hit the global economy in 2008, I was completing my first semester in a doctoral program at Nova Southeastern University. Because of financial constraints, I had to take a leave of absence from the program. Despite this, I remained committed to finishing my doctorate and fortunately, I was introduced to the Organization of American States scholarship program by a former colleague at the College where I worked in Jamaica as a teacher educator. I immediately made contact with the Ministry of Finance in my home country and got further details on the scholarship. I applied and attended an intense interview in 2009 lasting about 40 minutes.

After seven months on leave of absence from the university, I received a call from Washington, D.C. informing that my scholarship application was approved for the prestigious Organization of American States (OAS) program to complete my doctoral degree. This was like a dream come true! I was able to get back on board and complete my doctoral work in two additional years with the unprecedented support from my esteemed professors, remarkable scholarship advisors at Laspau, my ardent academic advisor at Nova Southeastern University and my family.

Work, Family and Online Study

Pursuing full time job, full time studies and full time family is not a piece of cake! In relentless pursuit of my doctoral degree, I demonstrated grit, determination, very high level of self- discipline and met all deadlines. This was fundamentally how I was able to succeed. I had to carry a full teaching load as a lecturer throughout the duration of my studies due to the fact that there was no leave of absence possible since my doctoral program was conducted online.

The demands of the children were great. I managed with strong support from my spouse, family and a child care provider. The commitment of these persons held my  family together until I completed my program. To them, I am still indebted.

Throughout my program, I shared in information-rich online learning communities with international students and professors from diverse backgrounds. This international space was ideal for the development of connections, tolerance and respect for divergent views that were useful for my cognitive and affective development. I remembered that the discussions and debates were intriguing.

With my husband at the graduation ceremony

The Challenges

One of greatest challenge studying online was slow internet connectivity in my home country at the time. My computer froze many times during online chat sessions, frequent power outages, and slow connections were like lingering nightmares. I had to listen to the recorded classes to catch up. Through it all I developed persistence and learned to tackle the challenges at hand.

I remembered breastfeeding my daughter while browsing through the online libraries to find scholarly articles to complete assignments. The most challenging aspects however, were the times when my children were ill with very high fever and having deadlines to meet. I had many sleepless nights and missed opportunities to see my daughter go through her early developmental milestones, like taking her first steps and saying her first words.

Transformational Experience

Currently, I lecture in Education, Philosophy and Research Methods at Bethlehem Moravian College in Jamaica. One of the greatest impacts of my education was the role I played in conceptualising and nurturing a research culture at this College. This role involved my contributions in reviewing the College vision statement to include a focus on research, the training of faculty to adequately supervise students’ action research papers, taking students to multiple research conferences, hosting research conference at my College and allowing students to present their papers at this conference. I created and used a Research Blog to further stimulate discussions on issues/topics in educational research which was also novel and effective in building this culture.

This experience impacted my career interest and teacher education in Jamaica as my dissertation focused on improving students’ collegiate experience by creating greater opportunities for co-curricular involvement. My dissertation paper was presented in multiple research conferences in Jamaica.

The doctoral program has bolstered my cognitive development including my reasoning abilities, critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence, information literacy and collaborative skills and spirit. I benefitted immensely from my involvement in extensive research work which has helped to shape my worldview of education and my approaches to students’ learning, their collegiate experience and development.  I became the youngest faculty member with a doctoral degree.

In all of these aspects, the experience of earning a Doctor of Education degree was extremely transformational for me and has allowed me to give back to the field of Education in Jamaica.

With my husband and children

 

[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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BRASCON and the Empowerment of Brazilian Scientific Community

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By: Carleara Ferreira da Rosa Silva – A former Ciência sem Fronteiras/CAPES scholar from Brazil , Carleara holds a Ph.D. degree in Nursing from The State University of New York at Buffalo.

Most graduate students in science have two things in common. The first is the love of science and the dream of making the world a better place through science. The second one is the longing to belong to a scientific community. Brazilian scientists are like that. Even before moving from the United States to pursue a Ph.D., we tried to reach out to one another and created groups where we could share our thoughts and seek for peer support. Laspau does a great job of mentoring us in this process from application to placement at an American university.

After moving to the U.S., we continue to use these groups on social media, as well as the mentorship received from Laspau. The Brazilian Consulate in New York held a meeting for graduate and undergraduate student in New York City during my first year at The State University of New York at Buffalo. It was a great opportunity to meet my virtual friends in person and members of the Laspau team. Gisele Passalacqua (Master of Engineering at Columbia University) and I were invited by Gláucia Ribeiro (Laspau) to share our experiences with Laspau during that meeting. More than sharing the great experience we had, that meeting marked the beginning of BRASCON. I want to share with you more about my experience creating this unique space for Brazilian scientists studying in the United States.

What is BRASCON?

BRASCON, the Brazilian Students and Scholars Conference, has a mission of empowering Brazilian scientific community in the United States. BRASCON was born from the combined efforts three Laspau-sponsored graduate students in the United States. At the meeting at the Brazilian Consulate, Gisele had this brilliant idea of gathering graduate students, and I joined immediately. She posted the invitation on our facebook group, and Vanessa Dias (Entomology- University of Florida) and Camila Zanette (Pharmaceutical Sciences-University of California-Irvine) joined us.

We worked as a team building the foundation for BRASCON and learned in the process that more than a gathering place, BRASCON should be a space for professional development, networking, and peer review for research. We wanted to learn from the Brazilian scientists that preceded us and build the path for the generations to come. At that point, Gisele, Vanessa and I were supported by Gláucia in planning the first BRASCON. Our team of four slowly became the solid workforce of over 20 volunteers from different fields placed in 14 universities in the United States.

The Conference

The first BRASCON took place at Harvard University, March 12-13, 2016. Drs. Miguel Nicolelis, Marcelo Gleiser, Cristina Caldas, Leonardo Maestri and others joined us and shared their experiences with the 120 participants at BRASCON 2016.

BRASCON 2017 took place at the University of Southern California, March 11-12, 2017. Drs. Roberto Alvarez, Angela Olinto, Marcus Dutra e Melo among others shared their experiences as keynote speakers and panelists with 120 participants. The Cia. De Talentos hosted a workshop for professional development.

The third edition of BRASCON will take place on June 23-24, 2018 at Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio. Confirmed speakers include Drs. Joana D’arc Felix, Duilia de Mello, Jose Pires, Roberto Alvarez, and Ulisses Mello.

BRASCON offers both a personal and professional growth experience. We receive reports from students who have gotten internships, research collaborations and met new friends at the conference. Some students who presented their research at BRASCON were able to later translate their work into a start-up company.

For those interested, we encourage you to join us and support BRASCON by helping us spread the news or even by joining us at the conference as a speaker, sponsor or presenter at the Opportunities Fair. We also encourage other students studying abroad to look for these types of opportunities to connect and network with one another. It has been a long road but is has been worth it!

Thanks and Acknowledgements:

Thank you Laspau for supporting us since the beginning! Currently, I am the only remaining from the BRASCON original head team. It takes a giant amount of work to make the conference happens every year, and it would not be successful without the work of a brilliant team. Karin Calvinho (Rutgers University) and Pedro Tonhozi (University of Kansas City-Missouri) are the left and right arms in the battle to keep BRASCON alive. I am grateful for our collaborators from 2016, 2017 and today Sara Dumit,Valdir Barth, Pedro Val, Raquel Rocha, Karina Esparza, Jessica Akemi, Fernanda Gushken, Tassia Pereira, Flavio Cruz, Silvia Nishioka, Cristiano Reis, Luiz Felipe Ungericht, João Vogel, Guilherme Rosso (Rede CSF, now Emerge) e Frederico Menino.  Thank you to our partners from  BRASASciBrCOURB. Thank you to Paula Martins from BRASA OSU, Jane Aparecido, and Luke Barbara from Brazil Gateway, Dr.  Roberto Alvarez for your mentorship and the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C. for the support.

[vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official site of the program sponsors. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the program sponsors or partner organizations.[/mk_mini_callout][/vc_column]

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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Life is an opportunity, take it

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By: Gabriela María Fretes Centurión – a BECAL scholar from Paraguay and a PhD fellow in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

“Gabi, why are you going to leave the country? There are also opportunities here”, I remembered these words a few years ago when I was concluding my undergraduate studies. Many of us think that everything ends here, nevertheless here is where a new path begins. In my case, I already knew where I was going to go for my master’s degree even before I began my studies at this particular University. A swimming competition took me to Chile, so when I finished my undergraduate studies I found myself searching for universities where I could pursue graduate studies in nutrition in this country. I discovered the Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (Instituto de Nutrición y Tecnología de los Alimentos, INTA) at Universidad de Chile, and in some way, I felt a connection to this place. The Institute only offered graduate programs in this field and because my undergraduate concentration has been in Basic Sciences and Technology, I decided to pursue a second undergraduate studies in Nutrition in my country and then go abroad seeking to specialize.

First day of classes at INTA, Universidad de Chile (March 2011)

Leaving the country is not an easy decision to make, however, the experience is so enriching not only at a professional level, but also at a personal level. Pursuing a master’s degree abroad opened the doors to new cultures, established connections with wonderful people from other countries, and allowed me to share my culture with others. Back in July of 2010 when I started looking for scholarships at a master’s degree level, compared to June of 2017 when I was going through the same process at the Ph.D. level, the situation was completely different. Over the past decade, the opportunities have grown exponentially. After an intense search, I applied to the scholarship offered by the International Cooperation Agency of Chile (Agencia de Cooperación Internacional de Chile, AgCI) through the Secretariat of Technical Planning (Secretaria Técnica de Planificación, STP). Like all scholarships, the paperwork seemed endless, but the goal was clear.

View of Santiago, Chile – photo taken from Cerro Maquehue (2012)

When I arrived with a group of grantees for the visa interview at the Consulate of Chile in Paraguay, I found myself surrounded by people with extensive work experience and vast involvement in their areas, which is why at that moment I felt at a disadvantage. Not only I had just finished my undergraduate studies, I did not have much experience other than being an Assistant Professor at the University for a few months, and I was the youngest applicant from the applicant pool. A month later, I woke up with a phone call with the news that I had been selected along with three other compatriots to begin graduate studies in March 2011. It was the beginning of one of the most enriching experiences of my life and demonstrated to me that we have to try, the most we can get as an answer is a no, but this should not discourage us from continuing to try. The times in Chile were unforgettable. Living in a big city like Santiago, sharing with colleagues from all over Latin America, strengthening friendships, visiting wonderful places for field research in one of the most renowned and prestigious nutrition research institutions in the region were experiences that are already part of my book of life.

Recognition for Outstanding Scholar of Paraguay by the Agency of International Cooperation of Chile (AgCI) (December 2012)

Although my faculty advisors already suggested that I should pursue PhD studies at the end of the master’s program, I made the decision to return to Paraguay to obtain some professional experience and then rethink the idea of ​​doing doctoral studies. Returning to the country was not easy, but there are so many things that are yet to be done in my country that any contribution, no matter how small, can make great changes. I started to coordinate a group of volunteers of Food Revolution Paraguay movement to teach at the University and to launch an enterprise. I had the opportunity to represent Paraguay at several international events and continue to build a network. Then there was an opportunity to serve at the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare, where I worked for more than 2 years. During this time, I decided it was time to leave again and continue with my professional training.

In June 2016, the BECAL Doctoral Scholarship Program (Programa Nacional de Becas de Postgrados en el Exterior Don Carlos Antonio López) announced a scholarship opportunity to pursue PhD studies in the United States. Making the decision to pursue graduate studies abroad is like a marriage commitment; it really is one of those critical decisions in life. Though the English language was a barrier, I still decided to apply for the scholarship. The process was exhausting, in parts frustrating, but finally rewarding.

I was awarded a BECAL scholarship and admitted to the top nutrition programs in the United States: Columbia University, Northeastern University, and Tufts University.

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Moreover, I had the opportunity to refine my language skills in Northampton, Massachusetts before I began my studies this past September. To conclude, I am now at Tufts University and I feel so grateful to have accepted the challenge. I know it will be a new journey, but I will always be raising the flag for Paraguay and continuing to collaborate from afar while the country thrives on its progress.

Follow Gabriela on Twitter @gabifretes

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_mini_callout]Disclaimer: This blog is not an official site of the program sponsors. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the program sponsors or partner organizations.[/mk_mini_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row]