By Rowan O’Connell-Gates, student writer, Global Affairs
With a focus on leadership, education, and research, UC Davis has consistently served as an engaging and supportive community for Fulbright Visiting Students. This fall, UC Davis hosted 56 Afghan Fulbright Students from universities across the United States for a weekend of presentations, cultural exchanges, leadership sessions, and exploration.
Arrivals and Leadership Workshops
The Fulbright Afghanistan Leadership Seminar began on Thursday, November 8 with opening remarks from campus leadership and a keynote address. The Fulbright Students also had an opportunity to network and mingle with fellow participants, speakers, staff, and special guests during a welcome dinner hosted at the UC Davis International Center.
Prior to Friday’s workshops, the leaders of UC Davis Global Affairs Fulbright Program were introduced. The leadership seminar was implemented as a result of a partnership between Global Affairs and the Division of Continuing and Professional Education, staff representatives from the U.S. Department of State and, the Institute of International Education (IIE).
With topics ranging from networking and team building to emotional intelligence, the workshops featured a variety of speakers including Pierre Khawand, the founder and CEO of the burgeoning mindfulness and leadership software People-OnTheGo.
At the end of each presentation, Fulbright Students had the opportunity for questions and comments. Many students took this opportunity to discuss the workshop content with both the presenters and their peers. A common theme amongst the Fulbright Students was the notion of opportunity and accountability. The students see themselves as agents of change for Afghanistan and in turn hope to hold each other to the highest standard.
Friday concluded with presentations from select Fulbright Students. The Fulbright Program provides students with two years of education credit towards their master’s or doctorate degrees. Many in the Afghan cohort are in their first year in the Fulbright Program, with a small portion of them beginning their second year. Students with over a year's experience spent the evening offering advice and stories about their time in the program.
Explorations in Sacramento
Beginning at the UC Davis International Center, Fulbright Students posed for the first of Saturday’s group photos.
Led by Continuing and Professional Education, International's Academic Director Tina Castillo, the Fulbright Students participated in discussions and games aimed at simulating the reality of cross cultural experiences. Much to their delight, Castillo kept the students engaged by peppering her presentations with singing, call and response, and imagery. The workshops concluded with the students setting future goals.
In the afternoon, Fulbright Students hopped on Sacramento-bound busses where the day’s second group photo took place at the state capitol building. After exploring the outside, students had the opportunity to tour the 144-year-old structure.
Breaking into two tour groups, the students eagerly questioned the tour guides about the building’s art, political implications, and architecture.
After the State Capitol Building tour, the Fulbright Students enjoyed a meal of freshly baked olive bread, handmade pasta and sorbet at Sacramento’s Il Fornaio.
The dinner concluded with an intercultural exchange of songs among the group. Castillo shared her personal favorite “Imagine” by John Lennon, while the students shared multiple songs by their favorite Afghan artist Ahmad Zahir.
Reflecting on the Weekend
Prior to their early Sunday morning flights, the students had an opportunity to reflect upon their experiences in the Fulbright Program and their time at UC Davis.
Nasrin Sultani, Project Management, Florida Institute of Technology - Orlando:
“The Fulbright Program is incredible, I love it. You get the chance to meet new scholars from all over the world and you get opportunities, like this seminar, where you find new people from your own country.”
Muhammad Naser, Public Health, Montclair State University:
“From the onset, Fulbright is about new cultures, new perceptions, and new thoughts. The leadership seminar exemplified this, we got a needed break from school and met other Fulbrighters with important ideas for the future of Afghanistan.”
Safia Amiry, International Development, Ohio University:
“Being a Fulbrighter is such an impactful experience. Coming to the United States, we are ambassadors for Afghanistan, this opportunity to represent our nation gives us the chance to show that our country is not just war-torn, we have a beautiful and diverse culture.”
About Global Affairs at UC Davis
Global Affairs brings the world to UC Davis, welcoming more than 10,000 international students, scholars and leaders, and hosting programs that inspire global curiosity, understanding and engagement. Compelled by the valuable outcomes of thinking globally, we make transformative opportunities a reality by supporting the thousands of students and faculty studying and researching internationally—and by facilitating collaborations that tackle the world's most pressing problems through more than 150 international partnerships.
Putting our vision of a UC Davis community that engages, thrives, and leads in this interconnected world into action, Global Affairs is now in pursuit of an ambitious goal: Global Education for All.
About the Fulbright Afghanistan Program
This activity is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as part of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world. For more information, visit fulbright.state.gov. This activity is administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE).