December 11, 2014

Finding Meaning on the Other Side of the World

After unexpectedly losing her husband of 28 years, Jennifer Donovan was looking for a way to reinvent herself.
“I was feeling lost,” she states. “I work at a university, so I am familiar with Fulbrights, but I thought they were only available to PhDs who wanted to do research. I did some research online myself and discovered the Fulbright Specialist program, with a specialty in communications. That fit me perfectly, so I decided to apply.”
The opportunity was a good fit for Jennifer because of her role as Director of News & Media Relations at a university. 
The Fulbright Specialists Program gave Jennifer the chance to explore a new part of the world “from the inside.”
She explains that the thing she enjoyed most about Thailand was “learning about an entirely different culture, with different beliefs and attitudes, and yet the same hopes and goals that people in my culture have.” She also credits the exchange with getting her “back on track, understanding that I can continue living a useful and interesting life without my soulmate.” Professionally, Jennifer gained a great deal of respect at her university, and her exchange opened doors for her to make more of an impact in her role within the institution.
Upon her return to the United States, Jennifer started developing a long-term relationship between her home university in Michigan and her host university in Thailand. She considers academic exchange an opportunity to work together in a mutually beneficial manner with other institutions, and has incorporated it into her daily life by spearheading an exchange program at Michigan Tech. The program currently brings Thai interns to Michigan Tech and is also developing further programs including faculty exchanges.
Will Michigan Tech pull students from India or Korea next? One never knows what the future may hold, but Jennifer recognizes a need for her communications expertise to strengthen international university programs in these developing countries. Advice Jennifer has for future exchange participants, includes learning at least a few key phrases in the host-country language, which enables a much more “interesting and less stressful experience.” Wherever you’re headed for your next adventure though, it is crucial to take Jennifer’s example and find meaning your journey.