Grantee Testimonials

 Mark Brennan, Mitchell Scholarship, 2013–2014

“I valued putting together my Mitchell Scholarship application because crafting that one 1000 word essay gave me a mandate to synthesize all the experiences that had shaped my values and commitment to service to-date, starting in 2004 working in a summer youth program and culminating in 2012 researching for a year in Senegal. The year in Ireland was similarly introspective. Via coursework I learned what sort of math and computing I liked most. I questioned my assumptions on international and public affairs by debating and exchanging books with the other Mitchell Scholars. Frequent pub ‘banter’, weekly math department soccer, and the occasional Sunday dinner with the family of one of the 10-some students in my MSc program collectively gave me a sense of Ireland and Europe. I had switched my academic focus – from policy to applied math – half way through college, but remained committed to public service, and the Mitchell Scholarship afforded me a year at the unique, public- and industrially-oriented math department at the University of Limerick to continue to explore and eventually bring together all my interests.”

 Mary Han, Fulbright ETA, 2013–2014

“Applying for the Fulbright ETA program in South Korea was an easy decision. After graduating, I wanted to take a year and leave my safe academic bubble for a completely new environment that would challenge me in ways that I didn’t know was possible. The Fulbright program provides complete cultural immersion backed by an intensely comprehensive support system, so I knew I was in good hands.

The most challenging aspect of my time here was coming to terms with the pervading cultural dogma that most deemed holy: Perfection is vital. Whether it is physical looks or academic grades, perfection leads to prosperity. I found this mindset to be grossly at odds with the belief I deemed sacred: there is triumph in the trying. The belief that growth and betterment are worthwhile tasks themselves is of the utmost importance to me.

And therein lies the cultural exchange. Everyday I try to instill in my students to not be so afraid of failure, to never be afraid of being wrong. At the end of my time here, I hope to have enriched the life of studious Seung-ho, of curious Min-ji, and of even troublemaker Bo-ram, who, despite his classroom antics, never fails to greet me cheerfully in the hallway… ‘Maryhan Teacher!!’ ‘Teacher! How are you?’ ‘Teacher! I’m fine, thank you, and you?’”

 Lay Kodama, Churchill Scholarship, 2013–2014

"As I excitedly ordered almost everything on the tapas menu in Barcelona, the waitress politely told me to start with fewer dishes and enjoy them with a side of ‘conversations with friends’ instead. Looking around the restaurant, I finally noticed the relaxed atmosphere -- couples nursing their glasses of wine while talking and picking at a sharing plate. Since then and throughout my year abroad, I have learned to embrace leisure and stimulating conversations, values that permeate most European lifestyles. Although I am still fulfilling my initial intention of doing research in a foreign setting, I also take time to seek out new opportunities: Christmas Markets in Germany, punting on the Cam River, seeing the continued construction of the Sagrada Familia, performing violin with other musicians at balls, attending formal dinners with scholars and fellows. As a result, I have matured in ways I did not think possible in one year, becoming a more confident, venturous person willing to share stories and, most importantly, willing to listen to the stories others have to tell."

 Justin Porter, DAAD Grant, 2012–2014

"I spent almost two years in Germany after graduating with a degree in Biophysics. During this time, I worked in a lab at the Technical University of Munich, learned German, lived with German students, and—as much as one can in two years—made a life for myself there, and it was maybe the best thing I ever did. It was challenging at times, but meeting those challenges—learning the language, trying to understand the culture—gave me the chance to learn about myself in ways I’m not sure you can any other way. I learned to be more flexible in my cultural expectations and, for the first time, I can really explain why I’m proud to be American (without resorting to the usual platitudes). As I leave Germany to begin an MD/PhD program, I am certain that this breadth—this understanding that people who aren’t like me really aren’t so different from me after all—will make me a better physician and, more importantly, person."