More Than a Master’s: An Unbreakable Bond
I was accepted to the Fulbright Program in 2021, which was one of the hardest years I’ve experienced due to the pandemic. Many different events including my Long-Term English Program and Fulbright acceptance letter were delayed because of COVID-19 as well. I was originally nervous that I would not get accepted into my program of choice, Landscape Architecture, but thanks to the Fulbright Program’s incredible support, my dream of studying in my field and in the United States came true.
The journey was incredibly difficult, especially for someone like me who has never traveled alone. But when I looked back at my experience, I realized all the obstacles I’ve faced so far made me the strong person I am today. Being self-reliant and completely self-sufficient empowered me as not only an individual but as a woman as well.
I also felt empowered by all the networking opportunities that Fulbright has provided for me. So far, I’ve had the chance to meet other Fulbrighters from all around the world, even from countries I’ve never heard of before! The bonds I’ve created with my fellow Fulbrighters developed extremely quickly and organically. We talk to each other every day to keep each other updated on our journeys, regardless of being in different states.
I have heard many inspiring stories from other female Fullbrighters in the Long-Term English program at Spring International School in Arkansas. The support system that I gained from the women I met there was unmatched; they’ve stood by my side when I’ve had my most trying moments. To this day, I have more than friendship; I have an unbreakable bond with these women. They’re some of the strongest people that I’ve ever known.
I’ve tried many new activities in Arkansas that I never would have thought of trying before, which proved to be important to landscape architecture. One of those activities was connecting with nature. I’ve learned that Arkansas is known for being one of the top states for maintaining its nature trails, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hiking. I have also started regularly running, taking walks, and having picnics with friends, classmates, and instructors.
Currently, I’m studying for my Master’s in Landscape Architecture at Kent State University in Cleveland, Ohio. I’m learning very valuable information about the design disciplines of landscape architecture. As a Libyan architect with three years of experience, I learned that my home city of Benghazi is lacking many of the elements I’ve learned about in class. However, I hope to use this as an opportunity to make the design structure of Benghazi better in the future. Taking from my experience, I had the chance to give a presentation to my classmates about Libya and the projects that I have designed. Within my department, I represented my country to my classmates, which was a new learning experience for them.
My classmates are the best; they come from all over the United States and are caring, supportive, and generous. Since I’ve been a student at Kent State, they’ve supported me consistently. Unfortunately, I recently experienced a death in my family back home, which caused feelings of loneliness and sadness, but having my classmates surround me in my time of need made me feel so supported. They showed me compassion and love in some of my darkest days and have truly become my second family. We’ve shared so many memories together, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and so many fun hang-outs!
I encourage every woman to apply to the Fulbright Program. Yes, the journey is not always easy, but it’s absolutely worth it. I encourage all women to take those obstacles head-on and follow their dreams.
Aya is a current Fulbrighter from Libya. She is studying Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design at Kent State University.