Bárbara Matias, Fulbright Master’s Student in Human Rights Studies, Columbia University, 2016/2017
I had wanted to study in the United States from the earliest stage. After academic or professional stints in The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Austria, Sweden and Belgium, I was ready to leave my native Portugal and European Union for the other side of the Atlantic. The exceptional academic opportunities in the US had me even more eager to gun for the Ivy Leagues. Given the equally exceptional costs, applying for the Fulbright grant was a necessary step. I went in for the financial assistance but, as the information sessions mounted, I became more aware of the globalism and side opportunities of being a Fulbright scholar. I suddenly realized not only the help provided for visas and travel, but mainly the prestige the title holds and alumni scholars I would be joining in this network.
Throughout my degree and stay in the United States, these benefits only proved to be more validated. The 2016 Fulbright Gateway Seminar in Idaho, and later the 2017 Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Washington DC, introduced me to new lifelong friends. Many studying in different states, which I visited or visited me, as well as introduced me to my future group of close friends that were also New York-bound. I cannot stress enough how fundamental these seminar was for all of us, in giving us a family even before setting foot in the crazy concrete jungle that is New York City. The immediate kinship felt amongst us Fulbrighters is a true testament to what the program represents: we were all mutually and constantly in awe of each other’s’ drive, ambition, achievements, care and wit. We cheered each other on as we delved into the world that is graduate studies in New York: we took care of each other during tougher times, we inspired each other and we even took weekend road trips together to celebrate Thanksgiving or long weekends.
So if there is one thing I want to highlight about my Fulbright experience is to look past the already incredible financial and bureaucratic benefits of the grant, and to embrace the social and personal fortuity of it. The people you will meet and the circles you will run in will be special and enriching: treasure and cultivate this Fulbright bond.