When I was awarded the Fulbright U.S.-ASEAN scholarship, I never thought I would have had the opportunity to fulfill this experience at the University of California, Berkeley. Thankfully, I was very fortunate to have Professor Charles Briggs accept me as his mentee for my Fulbright exchange. After a few months of preparation, I made my way to UC Berkeley in San Fransisco. I was kindly hosted by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) at UC Berkeley. There Professor Briggs and Dr. Clara Martini Briggs invited me to several academic events, including an opportunity to meet the esteemed Professor Arthur Kleinman from Harvard University, who was visiting Berkeley during that time. This remains one of my most memorable academic experiences.
At ISSI, I expanded my networking opportunities as I met with various scholars pursuing similar research. ISSI invited me to give faculty and students a presentation on precarious low-wage migrants; which was my Fulbright research topic. Some of the scholars invited me to join immigration workshops on campus to share similar scholarly research.
Another memorable Fulbright experience was attending Professor and Dr. Briggs, “Tell Me Why My Children Died”: Photograph Exhibition of the Venezuelan Warao Indigenous Community Health Crisis at the Latinx Research Center at Berkeley. The exhibition and talk entailed an indigenous prayer for the collective suffering of our environments, our children, and indigenous women. I was so moved when the room knelt together as a collective (we were just strangers attending the exhibition a few moments prior) during the talk to reflect on our environments’ collective healing, a unique and inspiring pedagogical moment. This learning experience felt very timely, as we only just started understanding the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020.
Furthermore, the Fulbright exchange meant I got to meet with scholars from other universities in San Francisco. Through prior networks, I reached out to another migration scholar at San Francisco State University. We met and talked about our shared research interests. We continue to be in touch and will be potentially collaborating on a few upcoming projects.
On the non-academic front, I had the chance to explore beyond Berkeley. I visited the famous Ferry Building Marketplace, where I had some delicious cheese, chocolates, and coffee. Beyond the city, I traveled to Sonoma and lived in a cabin for a couple of days. During my time in Sonoma, I visited a few vineyards. These are just some of the memorable experiences I highlight!
I cannot be more grateful for my Fulbright U.S.-ASEAN award and treasured each moment and every exchange I had during my time in California. The award has given me professional and personal opportunities that are immensely helpful in my overall growth as a scholar and individual. I highly encourage you to apply for the scholarship to enhance your scholarly profile. Learning from and within a culture unfamiliar to us expands our intercultural knowledge and cross-cultural development.