A Year in the Fulbright Life: Mariam E.’s Story
For the next year, Fulbright MENA will be showcasing a handful of students as they study in the United States with their new series, A Year in the Fulbright Life. Each month, spotlighted students will share an update as they continue on their Fulbright journey.
Mariam, a new Fulbright, recently arrived in the United States to start her masters at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I was lucky enough to be hosted by this wonderful American family, George and Donna Beestman, who are volunteers with Madison Friends of International students! They provided me a temporary house, helped me lease a studio, find furnishings and get settled before my classes at UW start. Such initiatives are very important in building mutual cultural understanding. By hosting international students they believe the world comes to them!
“One of the things I’ve noticed is how much football plays a huge role in American culture. It actually gives an identity to the city with the team mascot, the chants and the team colors. When football season started, Madison was all red, and people were tailgating all over the city. The atmosphere became very energetic and vibrant. Our mascot at Wisconsin is called Bucky Badger, and here I am posing with him. I’m all ready for football season!”
“Earlier this month, I decided to change the route I take to go home from campus. I tried the lake path next to Lake Mendota in Madison, and I was amazed! The beauty was so surreal, it looked like a painting. One of the best things about studying in the United States is having such beautiful nature around. It’s so relaxing. I’m blessed.”
My friends and I went on a road trip from Madison, Wisconsin to Minneapolis, Minnesota this month. We were an international group from Finland, South Africa, the United States, and Lebanon. A Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant named Laura was kind enough to host us at her place and take us around the city. We explored IKEA, the Mall of America, the Stone Arch Bridge, and even had an Ethiopian lunch!
I spent my winter break back in Lebanon, my home. It was a very much needed break and I got the chance to reconnect with my family, friends, and colleagues. Seeing them proud of what I’m doing gave me a push forward! I am going back more determined than ever.
I experienced my first Madison winter this January! It was all covered in white and nature was gorgeous. Lake Monona near my department was frozen and people did all sorts of winter activities and fishing on it. It was beautiful to see.
February was a busy, fruitful month! I visited my fiancé Yasser in Austin, Texas. Yasser is also a Fulbright scholar pursuing his Masters in sustainable design at the University of Texas, Austin. It was a nice escape from Madison’s cold. The weather was amazing that weekend so we even went kayaking down the Colorado River!
I also had the chance to attend the Wisconsin Speech and Language Hearing Association Annual Conference at Wisconsin Dells. It was inspiring to see faculty members recognized and given awards at the ceremony.
Madison finally experienced spring. After the long cold winter, it was beautiful to see the whole city blossom. Madison is located on an isthmus so it’s surrounded by two lakes. I’m therefore making use of the beautiful weather and spending my time by the lake on a hammock and on the picnic blanket!
I ended the semester with other Fulbrighters in Nashville, Tennessee. I attended the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar for first-year students in the Fulbright Program. The theme was “Innovation in Music,” so it was perfectly located in the music city of Nashville. The seminar included 60 people from 124 countries! It was a lovely opportunity to reconnect with Fulbright scholars from Lebanon and to make new friends from around the world.
During June I went to the Henry Vilas Zoo, one of the few remaining free zoos in North America. It was a beautiful and fun experience. The atmosphere was very positive as there were families everywhere! I especially enjoyed seeing animals I had never seen before like giraffes and penguins.
This month, I was back in Lebanon and I spent an amazing summer home. Summer is a great time to go to the beach since Lebanon is a coastal country located right on the Mediterranean. I also enjoyed other landscapes like the beautiful mountains north of Lebanon.
The best part however, was eating traditional Lebanese food that no food in the world can compare to!
During August, I returned back to the States to pursue my second year of graduate school. The international student office organized a boat tour in collaboration with the Wisconsin Alumni Association. The badger bus took us on a tour in Lake Mendota around campus!
During this month, I visited my fiancé who’s a Fulbright student at University of Texas-Austin. We walked around the beautiful city and toured the state capitol, which is the sixth tallest state capitol in the United States. We also celebrated his birthday by attending a concert by Ramin Djawadi, the composer of the “Game of Thrones” soundtrack. It was a breathtaking experience and journey to the seven kingdoms of Westeros!
Mariam is a second-year Fulbrighter from Lebanon working on her Master’s in in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences. She’s currently a student at University of Wisconsin- Madison.
Follow updates from Mariam and other Fulbright students on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Check back here every month for more updates on the blog and Medium Series to see what Mariam does this year!
Read more Fulbright stories here.