Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Get a Multicultural Experience in the U.S. as a Fulbright Scholar

By Mahmood Alhosni

As a language teacher at a private college in Oman, I always had an interest in languages and interactions between people with different cultural backgrounds. This was probably the main motivation that pushed me to study abroad to learn more about languages and cultures. Professionally, I also had an interest in how technology provides us with tools for more effective learning in the 21st century. After completing three years teaching, I learned about the Fulbright program offered in my country and was encouraged to apply. I saw it as a good opportunity to further my studies and learn about new cultures. 

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The Fulbright program particularly was a very good incentive for me to continue in the process of applying. People in the program were very helpful and made the process of applying to universities much easier. I had to especially spend a lot of time preparing for exams, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The GRE was a bit frustrating for me since it involved math skills, which I was not confident in—but since it was required of me to ensure a better prospect of being accepted in an American university, I studied and finished well.

After I completed taking the exams, I spent a lot of time deciding which universities to apply to. I literally had no idea which universities I should apply to because there are hundreds of universities scattered across the 50 states of America. By seeking advice from friends, those who have been to the U.S., and “search engines” I figured that I wanted a university with a certain set of courses that correspond to my areas of interest and field. I also wanted to live where there is snow because this is something new and doesn’t normally occur in Oman.

Finally, I chose three universities to apply to but the final decision of where I would attend would be made by the Fulbright officers based on financial factors and other related issues. Initially I was not so comfortable with this idea of not having the final decision on what university to choose. But then I thought it shouldn’t be a big issue for me as I wasn’t concerned about the name of the university but rather what they can offer me. I cared about how diverse the university is so that I can have a real practical experience in communicating with different cultures alongside learning new things. 

A few weeks later, I heard back from the Fulbright officers about which school I got admitted to. Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) was the final decision made from among the universities I applied to. I can say that I was excited about this choice actually. Having looked at their academic program, I was now looking at the campus from its aerial view map. I saw green areas with beautiful sceneries and a river in the middle of the university campus! This beautiful campus just gave me one more reason to accept the admissions offer from this university. At the time I had no idea how close FDU was to New York City but when I arrived, I realized how exciting this place really is.

What has really surprised me the most in the U.S. though is the diversity this place has—especially the East Coast and New York City. I was really excited to meet a lot of people from different countries around the world. It is exciting to hear so many different languages being spoken in one place. During my time here so far, I have had unique chances to stay with American families for Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and Thanksgiving. I was also able to have interesting conversations about American life and world issues while tasting delicious home-made food—especially during Thanksgiving! There are other celebrations from different cultures in New York City that I enjoyed, such as the Chinese New Year, Moon Festival, Malaysian Independence Day, and managed to attend some popular holiday parades in NYC as well. Additionally, I attended similar events done by international students on the FDU campus as well. It’s really amazing what one can learn from these events. It’s also interesting what kind of foods you get to taste!

Even though so many people speak different languages, I am still able to communicate with all of them through English. Isn’t that just mind blowing? I have enjoyed exchanging cultures with a lot of people and students here in the U.S., especially with international students. Diversity, I think, is what really brings people together and makes the world a wonderful and colorful place.


Mahmood is an English-language professor in a private college in Muscat, Oman. He became a Fulbright scholar in 2012 and did his Master’s in Multi-lingual Education at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. He is very much interested in how people use language to communicate, and in how technology can be used to foster independent language learning. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, photography and visual arts, and learning Chinese!

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