Friday, 4 February 2011

Fulbright Lit: Epiphany No. 2

Another nearly universal theme across the Fulbrighter essays was the idea of transformation. It changed their lives, their careers, their perspectives. It broadened their horizons. It altered their life trajectory.

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"The Fulbright Program is many things to many fortunate people. For me, the Fulbright experience clearly shaped the broad framework of my life." (Experience, p. 273)

"When we returned, we had been enriched and that enrichment could be passed on to our American students." (Experience, p. 143)

"From beginning to end, that Fulbright year taught me lessons that have made me see the world differently." (Difference, p. 288)

"My three Fulbright experiences have changed my life, not so much in the character of behavior, but in the character of thought." (Difference, p. 299)

"All this my Fulbright year helped nurture and build; so many things began to take shape in Cincinnati." (Difference, p. 214) (Who knew Ohio could be so life-changing?)

When I analyse these essays, it's tempting to count just how many times "change" appears in the text. But what would that show, apart from the word choice of Fulbrighters? What's more important is to assess how these changes occurred. Why did the experience change their career path? What does a personal 'life-changing' experience contribute to the overall practice of public diplomacy? Is it just the sum of all of these changed lives, these returned grantees who are now teaching, working, living around the world?

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