Monday, May 9, 2011

Fulbright Personal Statement

When I was 15, I volunteered at a city dump in Porto Velho, Brazil where people lived and
raised their families. I had never seen such poverty in one location, and never have since. It was eye
opening and shocking experience that jarred me from my safe, assumed perfect world. I began to
consider the multitude of problems that others faced. I learned that there was so much that I did not
know about other cultures and that they did not know about the US. This consideration and surprise
is part of what lead me to study international relations in college. From an early age I was interested
in politics and why the world is the way it is. I always questioned my mom and other adults about
things that I thought never made sense. Like why did all the moms on TV stay home all day while
my single mother was always working? This confusion contributed to my desire to study politics in
college. As I progressed through college, I became more interested in gender and how it affects the
political system. When given a chance I wrote about women and politics to further my knowledge. I
knew I wanted to focus in on women in the international arena when completing graduate research.
I discovered my career goal of working for the State Department ever since I discovered
exactly what it is the State Department does. As I matured and expanded my boundaries, the career
track I wanted changed, but I have never wavered on wanting to join the State Department. I want to
become a Foreign Service Officer with a track in public Diplomacy or Consular work. I want to help
brighten the image of America abroad. I believe that the only way to do this is to interact on a daily
basis with the people of the country I am working in. I have had the opportunity to do exactly this in
both Brazil and Russia. I hope to continue to do so when I live and study in Skopje, Macedonia under
the auspices of a Fulbright Fellowship during the 2011-2012 academic year.

As I started college, there was no doubt in my mind I would study abroad as part of my desire
to see international relations in action. I was able to achieve one of my life goals in my second year at
college when I completed a semester study abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was purely
exhilarating to see another culture in such depth, to live, breathe and be a part of it. One day, early in
the semester, I was wandering around downtown St. Petersburg, utterly lost, freezing cold, and
unable to talk to anyone since I had only had three classes of Russian. I was having the time of my
life. It was then, when I couldn’t stop smiling in the weather that I usually detested, that I knew that
this, right here, this culture is what I wanted to study. I fell in love with the city and the history of
Russia. I suddenly knew that my life was going in the right direction and that I wanted to study this
culture and others like it. I needed to know more about the world that I lived in, especially the former
Soviet Union. Upon my return on the US, I started taking more courses on Russia and Eastern
Europe, which onlysolidified my desire to work for the State Department later in life, after getting an
advanced degree.

When thinking about my future after undergrad, I knew that I wanted to complete graduate
level research on civil society in Eastern Europe before undertaking a US master’s program in
diplomacy. I had always known about Fulbright and tried to emulate the philosophy and ideals
behind the program. I became interested in Macedonia when learning about Eastern Europe; the
Balkans were largely ignored. They were never part of the curriculum. I knew that I wanted to delve
deeper into the Balkans and write my thesis about them. I tried to check books over the summer to
learn more about this area, the region that created the political science term “balkanization,” but there
was literally only one book about the regionat my local library. When I looked further for a book
specific to Macedonia there were none. This only sparked my interest more, only made me want to
study this culture more. Going to Macedonia to study gender and government will tie all of my
interests of improving the world around me together; it will link my past studies and my future

(Statement of Purpose) Civil Society and Government- Forging a Better Partnership in Macedonia

       Ethnic strife is usually the hot topic of the Balkans, but what about gender? The problems
of gender cut across all ethnic boundaries to affect every person in Macedonia. I want to study
gender there because it is one of the only social issues that literally affects every citizen in the
country. There are many ethnic based nongovernmental organizations (NGO) but only a few
gender based NGOs- yet they are crucial to the equal access of women to government services.
Civil society is comprised of the volunteer-based organizations that help provide the basis of a
functioning society. Civil society and government often work hand-in-hand to provide for the
citizens of their country. Sometimes this work, while vitalto the success of the government,
might not be completed due tobureaucratic hurdles or focused blocking by officials against
people’s rights.At other times, one part of a country’s civil society will be treatedalong a
hierarchy of more access to less access or funding. In Macedonia, I will be taking courses at the
Euro Balkan Institute, such as Pop Culture and Gender or Modern Balkan History, and
volunteering at a local NGO. Dean Kolozova has stated that the Euro Balkan Institute will
provide me with contacts in the local NGOs.

         I plan to use my time in Macedonia as preliminary research for my future graduate
studies, possibly at the Euro Balkan Institute. I will be taking courses that will provide me with a
foundation of knowledge that allows me to complete in depth research. The courses at Euro
Balkan will supplement my experiences with the NGOS and allow me to gain the background
needed. I want to address many different questions including: How can people change the
society that they live in? What access do they have to the government or to the people? How
does the ideal of volunteerism affect the way that Macedonian civil society works? How does a
society change from 2001, when Freedom House stated that “volunteerism [is an] alien concept
in Macedonia,” to an entire section in their 2009 report that stated that NGOs were receiving
competitive funding from the European Union (EU)?A NGOs ability to help the community it is
working in is dependent upon their ability to receive funding which is connected to the access
they have to funding sources, such as the government of Macedonia or the EU. Through
funding,NGOs and other members of the civil society will be able to reach out to the community
and to do more to help the people who live there, be it through interaction with a reluctant
government (Freedom House 2009) or through raising awareness of important issues in the
community. In Macedonia, they might focus on people-to-people contact to help solve ethnic
problems. My research will attempt to see how the government works with civil society. It will
provide information about how NGOs can reach out to the government and how the government
could reach out to NGOs. My study will either re-affirm existing action plans to access
government services or foreign aid or suggest new avenues. It will also address new ways of
working in closer connection with the government to better serve the people of Macedonia. Since
anNGO’s ability to access the government can be seen as a litmus test for how democratic that
government is, observing their access will provide information about how to contact the
government for the people of Macedonia. There are times when civil society, NGOs in
particular, actsas a mouthpiece for the general population, bringing pressing problems to the
government’s attention. My project is only able to be completed in country as it is critical that I
observe the daily interpersonal interactions between government officials, NGO members, and
the communities in which they work. In addition, I will have access to local libraries, such as the
one at Euro Balkan or other universities in Skopje, research and professors that are only in
Macedonia. In addition, I need to observe the workings of the Macedonian government in
progress during the present day, not just through a series of articles. Being in country will give
me access to primary sources verses the secondary sources that I currently have access to, which
are subject to the authors own interpretation.

         I will be completing research in the participant-observer framework. The participant
observer framework is a type of in-depth study where a researcher will not only observe the
actions of a group but willalso participate within the group. Following the participant-observer
research stylewill allow me to be both an impartial observer and an active helpful member of a
local organization throughout the year. The interaction will involve me with my host community
in an intimate way, allowing me close communication with a wide range of Macedonians that I
would not otherwise receive if I just stayed within the ivory towers of academia. It allows me
privileged access to see how they view their own lives and their interactions with the
government.My volunteer work will show them a commitment to help my host country in the
best way I can through my dedication of time and labor. My end goal is to produce a 15-25 page
research paper that will provide the background for more in-depth research studies in the future. I
am choosing to base myself in Skopje because the Euro Balkan Institute, which provides critical
research in the area of contemporary politics and gender in the Balkans, has offered to provide
me with affiliation. The Euro Balkan Institute has a postgraduate program in Gender Studies as
well as Contemporary Political Thought, and by basing myself at this institution, I will be able to
combine the resources of this institute with my personal studies, which will provide me with a
steady foundation. In addition, being located in the capital will allow me greater access to the
government of Macedonia, including its public officials and some of the most actively dedicated
members of society trying to reach the government. I believe that observing the civil society
located in the capital will give me the best results for my study, since it theoreticallywill have
closer interaction with the government.

         By the beginning of the Fulbright Award year, I will have completed my Bachelor’s
Degree in International Studies with a minor in History. As part of the degree requirements, I
will have finished an Introduction to Women’s Studies course, numerous political science and
anthropological courses, andhave completeda thesis. My thesis will focus on the admission
process that Macedonia has to go through to be admitted to the EU and what that says about the
EU’s larger foreign policy goals. In addition, I will consider the impact enlargement has on
Macedonia. This will allow me to gain a more intimate knowledge about the country and the
region than I previously have, since I have never taken any courses that have had a focus on the
Balkans or had a course considered them in more than just a passing fashion. I also plan, as part
of my thesis and other papers throughout this year, to gain knowledge of the history of
Macedonia and the Balkans, which will allow me to understand the historical significance of the
modern governmental interactions with their constituents and prepare me for my research in
Macedonia. I will be well versed in the culture of Macedonia by my arrival in country in the fall
of 2011. I also will be at a beginner to intermediate level in Macedonian language. Studying
gendered politics in Macedonia will provide insight into a complicated area with little available
research in the US that has far-reaching consequences for every person not only in Macedonia
but for alsoevery country in the world.

I got it!

I got a Fulbright grant to Macedonia!

Over the next few posts, I will place the statement of purpose and my personal state up on here to give you an idea of what I will be doing over there. I will be affiliated with the Euro-Balkan Institute. I will be with the Department of Contemporary Political Thought for the course of the academic year. Hopefully, I will be able to study the language for a bit before jumping into the research part.

However, over the summer (read June 17-August 12) I will be learning Macedonian at Indiana University in Bloomington!!

Can't wait to get started!

See you around the globe!