Archive for July 12th, 2008


Pre-departure Orientation

Jul 12, 2008 in Uncategorized

Fulbright India StudentsThe pre-departure orientation was for Fulbright researchers (students) and scholars (professors) going to South and Central Asia. I was a great time to meet other Fulbrighters, especially those traveling to India. I learned that although there are not other students going to Madurai, there will be a few professors in the near vicinity. One who in fact has spent several of the last 20 years living in Madurai. Its exciting to know that I will have other people in the neighborhood to visit with!

The highlights of the orientation included a safety session by George Goodrich, who talked about keeping safe overseas. I think he provided us with some great advice, most of which is common sense, but sometimes we forget the simple things. For example, how to maintain a low profile while overseas (including not wearing college gear, etc.). Another Fulbrighter pointed out that personal safety is a challenge for women who may be subject to harassment on the streets. I suggested a whistle and spiky clothes. But seriously, what about mace in emergency situations? He also recommended some interesting web sites which are now included in my links section (see right).

We also got to meet Girish Kaul, the Senior Program Officer for USEFI. Everyone seems impressed with how well he has done facilitating our scholarships so far, and the previous students had only good things to say too. Nice!

The second evening of orientation we had a formal dinner reception. The seating was assigned, which turned out well because I met some of the scholars traveling to India. Most of them were working on projects that sounded interesting, but way over my head. Like the study of fractals for solid surface analysis or dissecting the nature of intelligence through the caste system. Stimulating conversations though.

The final thing I would like to write about is the presentation by Gary Weaver on Cross Cultural Issues. His presentation was in the morning on the third day of the orientation, so good thing it was interesting and entertaining! One of the things he talked about was an analogy of culture to an iceberg. Behaviors are above the water as the portion you see, but the majority of the monster is below the water in thoughts and values. Interesting. Obviously I’m not going to do his presentation justice here, but the discussion about how Americans live in a “to do” culture where we identify ourselves by what we do vs. the “to be” culture of many parts of the developing world who describe themselves based on relationships from birth was useful. Also, Indians will come up with creative ways of saying “no” without actually saying it, and I should do the same to avoid being rude or crass. Sounds easy enough.

Anyway, I thought that the best part of the whole trip to Washington was the formal dinner and the pub afterward, despite the fact that the speaker during dinner was not impressive (being generous here). See below for some of my pictures from the Renaissance Hotel Lobby and Irish Pub afterward: