A Ten-week Journey… A Life Changing Experience

4 min readMay 5, 2021

In 2019, I participated in Junior Faculty Development Program in TEFL/Linguistics Cohort as a visiting scholar at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). As a Lecturer of Linguistics and Translation in the Department of English Language, Literature and Simultaneous Interpretation at the Faculty of Humanities, Women’s Branch at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, I currently teach girls and I offer support to my students so that they can achieve their dreams. I would like to thank the Fulbright Program for granting me this opportunity. This program was beneficial for me at the professional, academic, and personal levels.

Mai in front of the Statue of Liberty

The Fulbright JFDP Program opened new horizons of academic research for me. I was introduced to several academic ideas and resources that helped me a lot. Likewise, I have also learned about many international conferences and opportunities for young researchers. I was also impressed by the support offered to young researchers and I really dream to achieve similar programs in Egypt!

On the professional level, I learned up-to-date techniques in the field of teaching English as a foreign language and linguistics at the university level. This enabled me to develop my teaching skills and to integrate innovative techniques in my classes. I was also inspired by many leading women at UMBC, role models in their fields. One of the goals that I have achieved after returning from the program is initiating a “Conversation Club,” with the help of another colleague at the department, to encourage my students to practice their language and improve their speaking skills.

Speaking at a conference

Participating in Fulbright JFDP was an eye-opener. It was a journey of self-discovery as it enabled me to learn more about my abilities and skills. The program opened new doors for volunteer activities that gave me the chance to help people in my community in Egypt. I participated as a volunteer mentor for women at the “She Can 2019” event. I also participated in “Give it Back,” which is a competition administered by the U.S. Embassy in Egypt for Egyptian alumni of U.S. Government exchange program alumni. Applicants submit proposals for carrying out ideas that would help the community. Every year there are ten winning projects all over Egypt. I have participated in this competition multiple times and have won three. I was a volunteer member of a winning project in 2019 and also participated in two winning projects in 2020. In 2019, the idea of our winning project was to support young female writers by offering them training so that they would be able to write and publish their stories for kids. In 2020, one of the winning projects aimed at offering training for youth on producing good content on social media platforms. The other project was an awareness campaign to inform people about the necessity of recycling plastic.

Along this journey, I was also nominated by the American Embassy in Cairo to be a member of the first Alumni Council in Egypt. During my service, I have discovered several skills that I did not know about before, for example, my leadership skills. This culminated in 2020 as I was selected as the Head of the Alumni Council. I believe that I did a good job and managed to achieve great success with the 25 members of the council despite the pandemic.

Being a Fulbrighter made me believe in the power of the individual. I believe that even if we cannot change the world, we can affect change in the small circle where we work and communicate with others. I am a strong believer in the “ripple effect,” and this motivates me to go forward. Being a Fulbrighter means being a distinctive person in your field of specialization. It means being a changemaker who motivates and supports people to be better. The Fulbright Program is an inspiring experience! I am thankful for all my family members who made it possible for me to participate in this program, and I do thank Fulbright for all the support they offered me. With their help, I was able to advance in my teaching career, which I am passionate about. I see it as a journey of changing minds!

Mai is a Fulbright alumna from Egypt. She was a 2019 JFDP TEFL-Linguistics cohort participant.

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