When I heard about the Fulbright Program for the first time more than 10 years ago, I never thought that one day I would be a Fulbrighter. After this amazing journey, I can say that this is one of the most exciting adventures I will ever have in my life. I am Lina- an Egyptian journalist, translator, and thanks to Fulbright, I now hold a Master of Arts in Multimedia Journalism from Arkansas Tech University.
I remember the first day I arrived in Russellville, Arkansas. I experienced my first culture shock — living in a town that has only 30,000 people in it. It was a huge change for a girl who lived her whole life in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, where there are more than 20 million people. This brought doubt and worry that my experience would not be the best. However, I was absolutely wrong!
I quickly realized how beneficial going to school in a smaller community was. It gave me the privilege of getting to know my professors better. They are dealing with a smaller number of students and this allows them to have time for students and really assist us with our studies. I was also the only Fulbrighter in my school. In fact, it had been about five years since the last one. This gave me more opportunities to speak more about being a Fulbrighter and my culture.
The Fulbright experience is not only an academic one, but also a cultural one. To me, being an Egyptian is an honor. Egypt is well-known by Americans for its famous pyramids. When someone finds out that I am from Egypt, they start to ask me about the pyramids. I soon learned that I was the only Egyptian in Russellville. For some people, it was the first time they have had the chance to meet an Egyptian! This was a great opportunity to tell them more about my country, culture, and even cook Egyptian food for them. I was highlighted in an article titled, “Know Your Neighbor” in The Courier where I talked about my experience as an international student in Arkansas. Also, during International Education Week I presented to students at an event put on by the International Student Services Office at Arkansas Tech University about Egypt and its culture. I was able to talk a lot about my country and even show small models of the pyramids. I also shared my experience as a Fulbrighter and an international student in an interview conducted by my school, Arkansas Tech University.an interview conducted by my school Arkansas Tech University. Arkansas Tech University.an interview conducted by my school Arkansas Tech University. Arkansas Tech University.an interview conducted by my school Arkansas Tech University.
As a journalist, I like to discover places and meet new people. I traveled to more than 10 states in the United States. Through these trips, I figured out that the United States has different cultures and lifestyles, and each state is unique. Media and pop culture always show the fancy urban life of the United States. We always see cities like New York, but we rarely see rural cities like Russellville. In this kind and small town, I found the love of the community that surrounds me and supports me always. Whenever I faced hard times, I would always find an American friend who had my back and helped me. This changed the perspective that I had from the media about Americans and how they care only about themselves — which is wrong. Now I know that it is not about nationality, it is about how you were raised.
I graduated in May 2021, and my graduation project was a journalism-style website about Syrian refugees in the United States. I am currently a multimedia intern at the refugee advocacy organization International Rescue Committee. After finishing the internship, I am planning to go back to Egypt. I miss it so much! When I return, I will be sure to share my experiences while in the United States.
Being a Fulbrighter makes me feel like I belong to a unique community. This is because of the unconditional support I received from my Fulbright and AMIDEAST advisors, especially my AMIDEAST Program Officer, Forrest. I am really sad to leave Arkansas and the friends I have grown so close to the last two years. However, thanks to social media and technology, we will have the opportunity to keep in touch. I am ready to go home and start to give back to my Egyptian community, Fulbright community, and the world. It was hard, especially with Covid-19, but it was a life-changing experience that I will remember forever. What a marvelous journey! It will always be an honor to be a Fulbrighter.
Lina is Fulbrighter from Egypt. She recently graduated from Arkansas Tech University with her master’s in Multimedia Journalism.