Anne Mills and Maria Abraham will spend the upcoming academic year in Korea and Ecuador, respectively, where they will work on fully funded research projects they designed and proposed themselves.
Meanwhile, last year’s recipient, Sarah Bassett, recently returned to Chicago from Mongolia, where she researched the country’s urban infrastructure and city planning.
The Fulbright Program is a highly regarded exchange program focused on sending recent college graduates around the world and providing them with the resources necessary to conduct extensive research on a project of their own design.
Mills and Abraham, who both graduated from Columbia last spring, underwent a rigorous application process all potential “Fulbrighters” must undertake.
The process normally begins the summer before the student candidate is projected to graduate, and recipients are selected based on their academic and personal achievement as well as the merit of their project.
The main goal of the program, which is administered by the Institute of International Exchange, is to create mutual awareness between other countries and our own.
Chris Greiner, director of the International Program at Columbia, considers it an academic, professional and cultural exchange. Each project undertaken by a Fulbright award recipient must be specifically geared toward a particular issue facing his or her host country.
“They need to uproot themselves, take their projects, take their ideas and their work, to another country,” Greiner said. “There must be something in it that’s an exchange.”
In the case of Abraham, who will be researching and gathering information on human trafficking for a feature film she plans to shoot in Ecuador, she hopes her project will raise awareness and “draw support for the victims” of human the practice.
The second aspect of her project entails a video workshop, in which she will work with a female group—past victims of human trafficking—currently residing in a safe house.
“They’ll be making short films, and we’ll have screenings of their short films while I’m there,” Abraham said. “I hope [the films] will be an outlet for self-expression. I really want the video workshops to be a tool for them.”
Greiner describes The Fulbright Program as a cultural exchange that is not only beneficial for academic reasons, but also for personal growth and experience.
Bassett, who echoes Greiner’s sentiments, said working in Mongolia was “an incredibly amazing experience.”
Mills, who has been in Korea since Aug. 2, said she also feels a personal connection to her project.
After completing a language intensive course to better improve her communication skills, Mills will begin to work on cataloging the cultural works of Korean international adoptees that have returned to Korea after growing up in the United States.
As a Korean adoptee herself, Mills looks forward to having immediate access to the exact population she intends to study—an advantage that would be unavailable to her without the Fulbright grant.
She will also examine the Korean media and their representation of adoption, as it was one of the first countries to authorize international adoption amidst economic and social crisis that followed its war with the United States.
“The Korean adoptee population has had the longest period of time to really start the research and to start engaging in recording our own history, so [my research] is all part of that,” Mills said.
Bassett’s main focus in Mongolia was specific towards researching the country’s urban development, while working with governmental organizations on finding effective ways to create housing for a migratory population driven into the country’s capital of Ulaanbaatar.
“There’s an enormous population there that [is affected by] globalization, [which] forces people out of their traditional lifestyle,” Bassett said.
According to Greiner, in the past Columbia has averaged roughly five submissions per year for a Fulbright grant to the International Institute of Education. He hopes to see that number grow in the coming years, as he and his department continue to work diligently on creating more awareness for The Fulbright Program and other international programs.
Students are urged to visit the International Programs page on Columbia’s website, where they can find information detailing next summer’s deadline.