Virginia Tech will be sending two Fulbright scholars on international trips in the fall.
Nicole Faut, a rising senior interdisciplinary studies major, will be studying murals and public arts administration in Bangalore, India. Lily Gonzales, who graduated last spring with a master’s in architecture, will be creating a digital replica of a basilica in Barcelona, Spain.
The Fulbright Program grants about 8,000 scholarships to more than 150 countries each year, giving students the option of doing their own research or teaching English. A major focus of the program is to provide a forum for cultural exchange and to break down stereotypes.
“Being with kids is fun and it’s mutually beneficial,” said Holly Berkley, a graduate from Tech with a degree in psychology.
According to Berkley — who is currently teaching English in Malaysia on a Fulbright scholarship — there are few native English speakers in the eastern part of the country.
The program also helps put faces to countries, according to Patrick Seiler, a graduate student studying technology. He is from Germany and is studying at Tech as a Fulbright scholar.
“The understanding is easier if you can relate somehow to someone,” he said. “That’s the whole idea, to enhance a mutual understanding between countries, and I would say it has succeeded in that. It brought some attention to some issues that I wasn’t aware of before”
Almost as important as the trip itself is what scholars bring back to their home country.
Faut will study an initiative in Bangalore, which is to cover every wall with murals. She hopes to use the knowledge she gains to make murals more prevalent in the U.S.
“Murals are this really interesting medium for people to express themselves in a public space,” she said. “You know, other than murals, you really don’t see too much of that. And I’m interested in if the publicness of the art actually helps the community feel a little more cohesive together.”
According to Faut, murals help provide a sense of identity in communities. She also said that having art on walls discourages gang members from tagging.
Gonzales hopes to use the digital replica of Santa Maria del Mar to educate students back in the U.S. She would like to see her project featured in the CAVE in Torgersen, which is a box users step into wearing goggles to be in a virtual room.
She initially became interested in her program when she was studying abroad as an undergraduate, and she was interested in the Fulbright as soon as she heard about it.
“The Fulbright is really great,” she said. “But, not a lot of students seem to be aware of it. It’s a great resource.”
Christina McIntyre, the Fulbright coordinator for Tech and associate director for the Honors Program, has also noticed this trend.
“More students should be getting scholarships,” she said. “You don’t have to be in Honors.”
Each year, one to three students from Tech receive scholarships. About 15 to 20 apply, and McIntyre would like to see that number doubled.
Because the program focuses on cultural exchange, GPA is not everything.
“There’s a big focus on social skills and outreach in the community,” said Tobias Ecker, a German Fulbright graduate student studying aerospace technology. “The goal is to make it more well-known; more Americans should be applying.”