A Year in the Fulbright Life: May’s Story
For the next year, Fulbright MENA will be showcasing a handful of students as they study in the United States with their new series, A Year in the Fulbright Life. Each month, spotlighted students will share an update as they continue on their Fulbright journey.
I arrived to my Fulbright Gateway Orientation at Indiana University Bloomington, which took place from July 31st to August 4th. It was such a great way to meet motivated and like-minded individuals from all over the world, and I even made some friends before moving to my host university in New York City!
After arriving in NYC, I attended class orientation, where I got to meet fellow first-year students before a full orientation with the middle/last year students, professors, and everyone else. We had the chance to play games to meet each other! It was such a great way to meet fellow students before starting classes. It’s already been a week and things are going so well!
After lots (and lots and lots) of house viewings, I moved in with some new friends. Now that I’ve moved in, it’s been such a relief!
I already attended a Fulbright event on a great rooftop where I met even more Fulbrighters and reconnected with previous friends, including a Lebanese Fulbrighter named Karim!
NYC is such a great place to be since everyone is constantly popping in and out, so I’m always happy to welcome Fulbrighters visiting from around the United States. We actually have an even bigger reunion in the upcoming week!
Knowing that the other students in the Fulbright community were just as lost as I was made the transition so much easier, since it was such a great way to ask questions everyone else is also asking! I feel like I finally have settled down, and I’m so looking forward to the next two years.
October was a hectic month as we delved into midterms, and really got into the rhythm of grad school in the United States. It has also been a very exciting month as I participated in extremely interesting classes and learned about topics which I am truly passionate about. It's always quite difficult to explain what Applied Theater really is.
We learn a bunch of things as an Applied Theater practitioner, but one of my favorites was learning how to lead games with participants, and how a simple game can lead to incredible theater where the participants decide what they want their theater to be about. As a facilitator, I equip my participants with tools, but they create phenomenal performances 90% of the time I would not have thought of. They challenge each other critically about the world around them; that really is what I love about what I do.
Theater to learn, challenge, and have fun! With anyone. Anywhere.
Also, I went as a surprise birthday party for Halloween…talk about last minute costumes!
November was very exciting because I made new Fulbright friends! I connected with two Lebanese friends living in the United States as we made plans over the Thanksgiving break to explore different parts of the country. We decided on Charleston in South Carolina where we were hosted by a Fulbrighter. We took a road trip and visited three states (South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee) and five cities (Charleston, SC/ Clemson, SC/ Asheville, NC/ Greenville, SC/ Gatlinburg, Tennessee) in only four days!!
It really was a fantastic break since we got to visit new places, see beautiful views, make new friends, recharge before finals period, and are even plan future trips around the United States together!
Even while traveling with other Fulbrighters during Thanksgiving break, I needed to make time to study for finals coming up…
My first two weeks of December were finals, finals, finals. Need I say more?
Right after finishing my finals, I went right back to enjoying the New York snow! After all the lovely holiday parties, I was ready to go home to Lebanon for Christmas break!
After all the studying, working with different groups of people, and ending the first term of grad school with great grades, having learned all types of amazing tools to use as a social and educational theatre practitioner, it was all totally worth the hard work. 1.5 years to go! I can’t wait!
My Christmas break was full of great adventures where I visited London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland before going home to Lebanon. I had a wonderful time exploring nature sites around Lebanon including Byblos, one of my favorite spots. I went to Byblos for a day of good food, seeing old ruins and the port.
We’re back! In mid-January I returned to New York City and to the rhythm of university after a fun Christmas break, but I was ready to be back!
Before the month became hectic with school, I tried to explore more and make more ‘me’ time, such as by taking more strolls in the parks and enjoying the views amidst the City.
I had more time to explore different boroughs from my own-which is currently Manhattan- and appreciating art around the New York City pockets. This was in Brooklyn:
I also made more time to visit great museum exhibitions, such as the temporary Michelangelo exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
We presented at Forum Theatre Festival for one of our classes! We prepared final pieces of Theatre of the Oppressed Work, and shared great social art together. The ‘Forum Theatre Festival’ was just a fun way our professor named our final ‘exam’ day, where we displayed our own forum theatre pieces to each other that we had prepared all week on.in May, we’ll have a much bigger “festival” coming up for my Theatre in Education Class. For those who don’t know, Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) describes theatrical forms that the Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal first elaborated in the 1970s (during political corruption and regime), initially in Brazil and later in Europe. Boal was influenced by the work of the educator and theorist Paulo Freire around his participant-centered pedagogy and work. Boal’s techniques use theatre as means of promoting social and political change. In the Theatre of the Oppressed, specifically in the Forum Theatre genre- the audience becomes active, such that as “spect-actors” they explore, show, analyze and transform the reality in which they are living since the performance would tell a story and conflict where that specific audience could relate to.
I also joined the “Dinner Diplomats with Fulbright Alumni” event held by OneToWorld, where I met fellow Fulbrighters in the arts field! It was so lovely being hosted for dinner by educational puppeteer Carol Sterling in her home, and meeting a fellow foreign Fulbrighter, Eduardo del Olmo, an actor from Spain. We had a great time.
I usually have classes every single Saturday, so the one time we had Saturday off, I decided to explore upstate New York over the weekend. I went to Beacon!
I visited the popular postmodern art museum in the area, Dia: Beacon.
We then hiked up the Fishkill ridge trail!
We did it! All the way to the top of the mountain, we had a beautiful view of the Hudson Valley.
Spring Break is finally here, so I’m off to sunny Arizona! It really was a fantastic break full of exploring and nature.
Decided to start our trip with a hike up Camelback Mountain!
The very top of the Camelback Mountain after a two hour hike!
We decided to have a weekend road trip to really discover Arizona. Stop 1 of our road trip- Sedona!
Stop 2 and our main goal- The Grand Canyon National Park!
As we were on our way back, we passed through Horseshoe Bend!
I also met up with fellow Fulbrighter from Jordan- Mohammad — at Arizona State University in Tempe!
May means lots and lots and lots of work. For the last few months we have been working very hard on our Theatre-in-Education (TIE) course entitled ‘Teaching Through Theatre: The Theory and Practice of TIE’. TIE is a specialized genre that uses interactive theatre to address educational goals suitable for students from pre-K to high school, adult education and older. Our course consisted of choosing an age range for which to create an original piece over the span of two days, in the respective sites. As a way to commemorate all our hard work, we then had our work showcased publicly at what our school called the TIE Festival!
My group and I had chosen to work with kindergarteners around the theme of language. One classroom was a Spanish and English immersive dual language program. The second was a general education class that had students who spoke Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Arabic, Urdu, Bengali, Ukrainian, and so on. After meeting with our school site and the teachers, we ended up creating a social studies and science participatory performance. After discussing with the teachers to learn their curriculum as well as the students’ needs, we decided to create our piece about planting, butterfly life cycles, and the environment. Our final product: The Butterfly Effect! Or, El Efecto Mariposa!
We built our costumes out of everyday materials (table cloths, newspapers, plastic bags, paper cups, head bands, rubber bands…) at home!
Our TIE Festival 2018 showcasing! Our blurb read
“The Butterfly Effect (El Efecto Mariposa)
This English and Spanish bilingual TIE piece for early learners will explore how the consequences of our actions impact our community ecosystem. It will also incorporate the use of other languages.
Inspired by the life cycle of plants and animals, participants will be transported to the magical Great, Green, Garden where rainbow butterflies are preparing for the Yearly Great, Green, Garden Festival. However, the butterflies soon realize that the Garbage Monster, or el Monstruo de la Basura, is threatening to ruin the festivities by littering on the garden! How can they stop them?! What are the consequences if we don’t take care of the world around us?”
Our work with the children at then in the two classes and in the Festival went so well! Teachers were blown away at the participation of some of their quieter students, the level of problem solving, the focus, and their willingness to go on this imagination journey with us! Spoiler alert: our Garbage Monster ended up being a flower this whole time that couldn’t grow because of the butterflies’ own littering!
Beginning of June= End of Year 1 of Grad school! I am now halfway through my MA in Applied Theatre at CUNY SPS in New York City!
A well-deserved summer break in San Diego, California to catch some waves, before I begin my summer academic training in NYC!
May is a second-year Fulbrighter from Lebanon working on her MA in Applied Theater. She’s currently a student at the City University in New York.
Follow updates from May and other Fulbright students on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Check back here every month for more updates on the blog and Medium Series to see what May does this year!
Read more Fulbright stories here.