“...People often comment when they travel that it is a life-changing experience. I agree with that, but in regard to Fulbright I like to think that it is not so much a life-changing as a life-affirming experience. Certainly, you cannot have this type of experience and not be changed, but what strikes me more is that most people I encounter have similar joys and concerns to me. In other words, we are much more similar than we are different regardless of which country we come from...”
“...The impact of these Fulbright experiences on my professional and personal life is significant. These grants have given me the opportunity to experience the education of children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing in two countries and the honor of working with their teachers and professors. My goal in the years ahead is to articulate for American teachers of the deaf and hard-of-hearing, speech-language pathologists, and students who are deaf and hard-of-hearing what I have learned from my association with students and educators in Greece and Taiwan...”
The Ties That Bind: The Connection Between Fulbright Experiences in Greece and Armenia
Recently, I received a Fulbright Scholar teaching/research grant for Armenian State Pedagogical University in Yerevan, Armenia. The primary reason that I applied for this grant was due to Armenia’s desire to have a visiting scholar with expertise in special education, in my case education of the deaf and hard-of-hearing. However, there was another reason why I applied to Armenia and it has everything to with Greece.
In the fall of 2010, I received a Fulbright Scholar teaching/research grant in the Primary Education Department at the University of Ioannina in Ioannina, Greece. I was provided with a room in a dorm on campus that was primarily for students enrolled in a year-long program studying Greek language and Greek culture. These students were from a variety of countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America. Not long after I moved in, they invited me to dinners, birthday parties, and events associated with their program. Over the course of the semester, I became friends with them and I learned about their countries, their families, and their future plans. When my Fulbright Scholar grant ended in January, it was bittersweet for me to say goodbye to them. I remembered thinking at the time that maybe someday I would see some of them again although I thought this was unrealistic.
Fast forward to February of 2015 when I received an email from the Fulbright Scholar Program advertising opportunities for the 2016-2017 academic year. While reviewing the awards I noticed a few countries listing special education, but one country, in particular, caught my attention: Armenia. The reason for this is because three of the students in my dorm at the University of Ioannina were from Armenia. That piqued my interest. I thought maybe I could fulfill two dreams: working overseas with a professor in the education of the deaf and hard-of-hearing and seeing these three former students from my dorm at the University of Ioannina in Greece. I filled out my application and crossed my fingers!
Before my Fulbright experience in Greece, I did not know anyone from Armenia. Now, in a few months, I will reunite with these three friends from Armenia whom I met as students while I was in Greece. As eager as I am to begin my Fulbright experience at Armenian State Pedagogical University, I am equally excited tocatch up with these three Armenian friends and find out what they are doing and meet their families and friends. For me, Greece and Armenia will always be intertwined, because of Fulbright.