Dr Vladimir Leposavić | Fulbright Student Program Experience
In 2014, I was selected to spend an academic year as a Fulbright Foreign Student Visiting Researcher, representing Montenegro, in the United States. My basic goal was to conduct research in international human rights; more specifically, on the international legal protection of minorities at the American University Washington College of Law (WCL).
Moreover, I also had an opportunity to participate in a pre-academic summer program at the University of Kansas; consequently, my Fulbright experience started early in summer 2014.
During my time in Washington, DC, I utilized all the available literature, materials, and relied on my mentors and colleagues’ assistance to thoroughly examine my chosen topic. Beyond the topic of my thesis, my specialization in human rights law at WCL enabled me to gain insights that informed and will determine my future work. In fact, my work has now extended to the field of legal mechanism for the protection of all minority groups – including political, sexual and social minorities. Ultimately, these fields and these mechanisms protect the freedom and rights of the individual who is, in fact, the smallest and “first” minority.
Another matter that was of the utmost importance for me during my Fulbright grant was to enrich my experience by engaging with local communities whenever I had a chance. Starting with the opportunity to live with four Americans and learn from them, to attending different professional and social events as well as doing charity work and playing with an amateur soccer league – my community engagement experiences allowed me to meet wonderful people beyond those I met through my research.
The exchange program placed me in Washington, D.C., but it also enabled me to visit places in Kansas and Texas. I was further able to visit Florida, New York, and Virginia. Through my travels, I tried to meet as many people as I could to find out about life in America first-hand and, indeed, what impressed me the most about the country was its people. Regardless of their origin or status, people in United States were open, direct, funny and conscientious. The things I learned from them are things I am now applying in my everyday life and which also lead me to continue to return to the States.
Being a member of the Fulbright community is a great privilege, but also an obligation to continue developing your potential so that you can eventually consider yourself a citizen of the world. In addition, the fact that you represent a small country, as I represented Montenegro, means that most people you meet will likely not have another chance to know your society except through personal contact with you. Therefore, it is important to be aware that your study abroad is a kind of real diplomacy and as such, to focus on the best in you so that you can share it with others.
My advice to all applicants and future Fulbright Foreign Students is to be determined in how you approach the entire experience and reapply if you aren’t offered a grant. The experience of being a Fulbright Student starts with the application process. When it comes to choosing a state and university in the United States – there is simply no wrong path. Rather than letting your desired location and/or institution be the determining factor, I would focus on all the new things you want to learn and better understand during your Fulbright grant. As many pre-determined tasks will await you upon your arrival, your free time should be planned in a way that will allow you to fully immerse yourself in activities that you consider to be the most important for your future development.