Thirty international scholars from 21 countries arrived in Athens in mid-July to spend a month with the Ohio Intensive English Program (OPIE), refining their English language skills and experiencing a cultural immersion before they head to graduate schools across the country.
The Fulbright English for Graduate Studies program prepares students on Fulbright scholarships for successful integration into community life and graduate study at US institutions of higher education. This year’s scholars are headed to universities including Cornell, Illinois, Michigan State, and Arizona for master’s and Ph.D. study, as well as research positions.
“OPIE is extremely pleased and excited to host the very prestigious Fulbright Scholars again after a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said OPIE Director Gerry Krzic.
“Every year, the process is competitive, and are we pleased that OPIE has once again been chosen by Fulbright to be a host. I believe it is a testimony to the superior quality of instruction and service provided by the OPIE faculty and staff, since many universities apply for the opportunity to host a program.It is particularly significant for us as we are celebrating our 55th anniversary as a program this coming fall as the oldest university-governed English as a Second Language program in the state of Ohio,” Krzic added.
More than 1,000 Fulbright Scholars have come through Athens via OPIE
Krzic also noted that “the program also raises the visibility of Ohio University — across nearly 30 years of hosting the program, approximately 1,000 scholars have become familiar with Ohio University and Athens, and all have left with a positive experience and image of our region. In fact, we are very proud of the many OPIE Fulbright alumni who have gone on to distinguished careers after finishing the summer program here.”
For the OPIE faculty and staff, the Fulbright program is a highlight of the year. It brings the world to Athens, and the scholars are motivated learners who always share keen insights about world affairs.
“We’re excited for the opportunity to learn about the variety of cultures this year’s Fulbright grantees bring to the Athens and OHIO community,” commented Becky Challenger, the program’s assistant director.
Hosting the prestigious Fulbright program offers many benefits to Ohio University, the local community and the state of Ohio.
The program includes a variety of cultural events. The participants have already been to Marietta and a cruise on the Ohio River, the Ohio Valley Summer Theater Production of “Shrek: The Musical,” and a Southern Ohio Copperheads Game.
Upcoming events open to the campus and community include the scholars hosting a Global Showcase at the Academic Engagement Center on campus on Aug. 3 and an international potluck dinner. The scholars are also partnering with the Community Food Initiatives to conduct service activities in local community gardens. And they will interact with community members in other parts of the state during a weekend homestay in Cleveland organized by the Cleveland Council of World Affairs.
OHIO graduate students are also involved in the program, which allows them to expand their network of internationally focused scholars.
Roshni Ashiq, a doctoral student in communication studies at OHIO, is employed as one of the program’s cultural liaisons. She enjoys interacting with the scholars and feels that “the more I give, the more I receive in knowledge of the world and learning the true meaning of inclusion and diversity.”
Maria Amalwa, a Fulbright scholar from Namibia, concurs. She appreciates the network with other scholars from unfamiliar countries, noting, “I’m from Africa and I wasn’t aware of the country of Panama. Now I have four friends from there, and I am learning about Panamanian culture and traditions.”
Gunay Aghamaliyeva, a Fulbright scholar from Azerbaijan, also enjoy learning from her classmates and faculty and can’t imagine going to her university without participating in this program: “If I had not attended this program, my adjustment to American academic life would be much more difficult.”
‘Fulbright grantees are cultural ambassadors’
The Fulbright program, established by the US Congress in 1946 as a way to improve international relations, provides grants and scholarships for Americans to pursue research and creative activities overseas and for international scholars to pursue advanced degrees in the United States.
“Through their academic work and future careers, Fulbright grantees are in effect, cultural ambassadors that encourage strong relationships between diverse cultures. Members of the Ohio University community make connections with these scholars that can last many years and lead to other global opportunities. When they go to their own universities, they take with them the lessons they learned and connections they made at OHIO The lasting effects are immeasurable,” said Summer Fulbright Program Director Aaron Schwartz.
While in Athens, the students will also be working on group research projects that they will present the second week of August as the program comes to a close.
“I’m excited to see the results of the group mini-research projects that they will complete in during the short program,” Schwartz said. “It’s amazing how such a diverse group of people can come together and complete a project about something that interests and present the results to an academic audience in English — a language that isn’t their mother tongue. It’s amazing to see the progress and development that happens during this program.”
For more information about the program, please contact Aaron Schwartz or Becky Challenger at OPIE.