Iris Patra

Iris Patra


Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Columbia University, New York

One of the most interesting classes I have taken so far is an elective at the distinguished School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) about the United Nations (UN) and Peacebuilding, during which we visited the UN Headquarters. In addition to the Fulbright Grant, I was awarded the Columbia SPS Merit Fellowship Award, and the Columbia Paul Nichoplas Scholarship Fund. Columbia sponsored my participation as a Fulbright international delegate in the prestigious Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference (NAFAC, April 2022, in Annapolis, Maryland) which brings together undergraduates and midshipmen from the United States and around the world to debate foreign policy. It was an amazing and very full week. The rare chance to explore the U.S. Navy first-hand and see what I am studying put into practice was incredible, and I won the award for outstanding delegate for the Politics and Economics of Global Public Goods Roundtable. At Columbia, I am also a member of the Association for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Students (ANCoRS), the QuizBowl Club, and the Ferris Reel Film Society, and I am actively attending the social, cultural, academic, and professional activities and seminars offered by the university and my school.

Regarding my life as a Fulbrighter, I immerse myself in as many opportunities for cultural exchange and professional development as I can, which are numerous thanks to One To World (OTW), the designated by the U.S. Department of State official Coordinator of enrichment programs for visiting Fulbright grantees studying in the greater New York area. This is why I was selected as a Young Global Leader by OTW to give a speech during the annual Fulbright Awards Gala in May at the iconic Plaza Hotel Grand Ballroom. As one of the most engaged members of the Fulbright community in New York, I was also invited to attend the Spring 2022 OTW board meeting and to the annual OTW Directors Circle special reception at the Century Association private club to share my insights about my experience and meet former and current OTW leadership, supporters, and students.

Through Fulbright, I also became involved with the National Hellenic Student Association (NHSA) of North America. In November 2021, I attended the annual NHSA Convention in NYC, and on the 4th of July I volunteered with NHSA at the historical Consecration of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center Ground Zero. Moreover, as an International House resident, I am part of the most vibrant, global residential community in NYC, right across the Columbia University campus in the beautiful neighbourhood of Morningside Heights at the Upper West Side. There, I live the Ivy League and Fulbright experience to the fullest and I have a sense of belonging. I am attending unique cultural events, learning life lessons from distinguished speakers, and making memories with future leaders, change-makers, and innovators from all over the world, while serving as an ambassador of my home country. I am enhancing my cross-cultural adaptability, becoming more independent and empowered, fostering learning and empathy between cultures, and strengthening the “mutual understanding” aspect of the Fulbright grant. Besides, my aspiration is to serve as an agent of change, inspire others, and become a leader.

These past nine months, I have participated in nearly every event organized by One To World and International House, with other students from all over the world. More specifically, I took advantage of numerous opportunities to experience NYC like a local, and to network with distinguished professionals in various fields and other like-minded international students, exchanging ideas and life stories and enhancing my professional skills. For example, having Fulbright Conversations with World Leaders (a series of face-to-face meetings with CEOs, civic leaders, and other influential New Yorkers to get a valuable and unique insight into NYC’s corporate world), a leadership workshop led by a Fortune 100 executive coach, a seminar on corporate governance, community service (e.g., providing food and clothes to the homeless at Christmas, distributing books to kids in need in Brooklyn, cleaning up parks and planting flowers for Earth Day), going to Broadway musicals and plays, concerts, ballet, international movie nights, museums, sports games, scavenger hunts, trivia nights, All Nations celebrations, architectural walks and cultural tours, and trying out cultural cuisines. Furthermore, I spent Thanksgiving with a Fulbright alumnus family and enjoyed the OTW annual summer night boat cruise around Manhattan, from under the Brooklyn Bridge to the Statue of Liberty, with 600 international students. This is the essence of Fulbright—exploring new places, making meaningful and inspiring connections, and building friendships that will last forever.

I feel grateful for the trust that has been placed upon me as a Greek Fulbright student and I am honored to be the recipient of the most prestigious scholarship in the world. Thanks to this, I have been given the valuable opportunity to receive an outstanding education at one of the best universities globally and participate in such a great variety of stimulating programs and activities in the U.S. It has been a life-changing and deeply impactful experience both personally and academically. A Fulbright scholarship made my dream a reality. As Senator Fulbright believed, the only way to permanently stop wars is to make people understand each other and other cultures.