“Last March I had the opportunity to participate in the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Providence, Rhode Island. Like the other eight seminars offered to Fulbright scholars around the US -and since 2008 is a presidential election year- the Providence seminar focused on the topic of ‘Engaging the Electorate’, and through several panel discussions, presentations and a mock-election, offered Fulbright scholars an overview of the inner workings of American politics.

The highlight of the weekend was the mock-election, where Fulbright scholars were randomly selected to play a role in the democratic process. Therefore, we were divided among voters (from different states and different interests), press and political parties (Independents, Republican Party and Democratic). I was randomly selected to be a member of the Democratic Party, and ended up being the candidate Vice-President. Despite our hard work, the Democratic Party did not win the mock-election, but we all had the opportunity to learn more about the political system and about other Fulbright Scholars. This exercise was both entertaining and enlightening.

Furthermore, we also had the opportunity to engage with the local community, as we visited different Providence inner-city high schools and talked with students about our lives in our home countries as well as our experience so far in the US. However, intercultural exchange also happened on several other levels, as we met and befriended Fulbright scholars from all over the world in the course of the three days packed with multiple activities.

Thus, the Providence Fulbright enrichment seminar was an astounding success, as attested by the strong opinions developed on the American political system, but also -and fundamentally- by the strong connections achieved among all Fulbright scholars, in a genuine demonstration of the founding ideals of Senator J. William Fulbright of international understanding through educational exchange.”

Enrichment Seminars are three-day seminars for first-year Fulbright students from abroad and take place throughout the United States. Each seminar brings together approximately 140 Fulbrighters and returned U.S. Fulbright grantees in an open and interactive forum to discuss and learn more about the chosen theme of the seminar.

Sérgio Figueiredo, a Portuguese Fulbrighter currently doing his PhD in Architecture at University of California, Los Angeles, participated in 2008.