Fulbright graduate students share experiences during International Education Week

November 17, 2023
Cat Cutillo
Social Media and Community Content Specialist
Photos by Sophie Burt ’26

On Monday, a Fulbright graduate student panel discussion kicked off International Education Week which runs from Nov. 13 to 17. The week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, with the goal of celebrating and promoting programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences.

Photo by Sophie Burt ’26

Jeffrey Ayres, Director of the Center for Global Engagement and Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, said Saint Michael’s is proud to be actively engaged with the Fulbright program in two capacities: Saint Michael’s students have earned Fulbright fellowships in locations around the world upon graduation, and Saint Michael’s hosts graduate students on Fulbright fellowships to come and study on campus.

Three Fulbright graduate students who are currently studying at St. Mike’s spoke during the panel discussion. Chayma Bouzenag of Algeria and Bernadette Samake of Mali are both studying in the Master of Arts Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MATESOL) program, and Afnan Allous of Iraq is currently working on a Master of Arts in Clinical-Counseling Psychology.

“The Fulbright program is one of the most widely recognized and prestigious fellowship programs in the world, with the goal of improving intercultural competence and cultural understanding between people of the U.S. and other countries from around the world through the exchange of people and ideas,” Ayres said.

Bouzenag, who spoke at the panel discussion, has been an English teacher in Algeria since 2019 and already holds one Master of Arts degree in Literature.

Chayma Bouzenag (Photo by Sophie Burt ’26)

“I knew I made the right decision to put St. Mike’s on top of my list because I’ve experience things differently from my other peers who went to a big campus in the sense that I am always seen, heard and tended to in the most genuine ways,” Bouzenag said in an interview afterwards.

“I have only spent three months here and I feel like I am already a changed person,” Bouzenag said. “Fulbright really transforms your life completely. It builds your character. It strengthens your will and impacts your personal and professional life in a tremendous way.”

“I know that once I go back home, I can be of a greater service and use to my community now that I am undergoing all these changes and going through these experiences,” Bouzenag said.

Samake came to St. Mike’s from Mali and said the different educational system was challenging at first but that the program at Saint Michael’s has been positive.

“Being in a small community makes me feel ‘privileged’ because the teachers can feel our interests as an individual and best feed our need in knowledge,” Samake said.

Bernadette Samake (Photo by Sophie Burt ’26)

“I consider Fulbright as an opportunity to build the cultural bridge between my country, Mali, and the United States,” Samake said and noted, “It will allow me to bring understanding about the American culture back home in Mali and also it is the opportunity to let Americans learn about Mali and its culture.”

Photo by Sophie Burt ’26

Rosemary Yargici, Director of International Student and Scholar Services said being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship allows a student to become an ambassador for their home country and supports the goal of achieving mutual understanding through educational programs.

“I believe all participants make our world better, and I am truly proud to welcome Fulbright students from abroad to our campus as well as knowing that we are sending our Purple Knights on Fulbright Scholarships to all parts of the world,” Yargici said.

Afnan Allous (Photo by Sophie Burt ’26)

Saint Michael’s currently has four recent graduates who are serving around the world on Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Fellowships for 2023-24. Hayley Jensen ’22 is in Vietnam, Alexyah Dethvongsa ’22 is in Thailand, Natalia Navarrete ’23 is in Mexico, and Jeremy Little ’23 is in Spain.

“Hosting graduate Fulbright students is a privilege for Saint Michael’s College, and we hope to continue to attract talented graduate students to our graduate programs to enrich the campus community with their international perspectives and highlight the welcoming and supportive role of the College as an engaged and supportive Fulbright hosting and producing institution,” Ayres said.

This year’s International Education Week theme is “International Education is the Future,” and Yargici said the Fulbright graduate students on the panel represented just that and have added enormous value to the St. Mike’s community. Yargici said having international students on campus also allows St. Mike’s domestic students to connect with people from other parts of the world and could spark an interest in them to study abroad.

“Going through the Fulbright application process is life changing whether you are selected or not, because even when the process is challenging, you learn a lot about yourself and create new meaningful connections along the way,” Yargici said.

Photo by Sophie Burt ’26

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