Alvin Synarong, 2022/2023 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at Universidade Católica Portuguesa – Porto  shares his different, yet fulfilling, Fulbright experience with us.

“I was initially accepted as an English Teaching Assistant at the Universidade Católica Portuguesa (Porto). However, my advisor, Professor Patricia Oliveira-Silva, had different plans for me. Despite this change, I would not have wanted a different Fulbright experience.

Professor Patricia asked if I would be willing to work in her Human Neurobehavioral Laboratory (HNL) and assist the Faculty of Education and Psychology (FEP) with various other tasks instead. Although I have no formal training in neuroscience or scientific research, I was excited about the opportunity to explore areas outside my comfort zone. One of my main tasks was translating and editing materials for the HNL and the FEP, ranging from doctoral research to the FEP’s website to publicity materials. I could practice my Portuguese in a way I never did before, allowing me to pore over a variety of materials that expanded my ability to translate in a vast array of fields. Along with translating and editing these materials, I also assisted in research projects, typically through reading articles or combing through data sets.

During the fall, Professor Patricia also gave me the opportunity to present a paper at an event hosted by the FEP and Católica called International Week, which allowed for global (university) partners to come together and share international perspectives over a week of events. This year’s theme, “New Routes to Global Engagement,” was the perfect segue for me to present my paper, “The Development of China’s 21st Century Silk Road Following the Portuguese Financial Crisis,” which I wrote as an undergraduate student under Professor Nicola Cooney.

One of the final projects I carried out with the HNL was presenting research at a meeting with the HNL’s new interns from the Aga Khan University. In my presentation titled “An Overview of the Interactions between Language, Culture, and Neuroscience,” I explored how the language(s) we speak and the culture(s) in which we exist shape how our brains are wired. As someone who is both Southeast Asian and American, this experience felt like the perfect opportunity to conclude my time at Católica, with Fulbright, and in Porto.”