I believe in the power of hard work, discipline and hope. Six months after arriving in the United States, these particular beliefs of mine were invigorated by the enthusiasm of people from different nationalities. There is a common will to have a closer look at different cultures and to exchange knowledge and ideas. The Fulbright Scholar Program provides the avenue for cultural and intellectual understanding among people of the world. This noble idea has given me an opportunity of a lifetime; an opportunity to embrace something new, receive and contribute to knowledge, and give something beneficial in return.
Fulbright is actually one of those few programs that enable real contact between people from different continents and religious beliefs. It is amazing when a person can share a flat with an Iraqi; have a Russian neighbor; share an office with a Taiwanese and an American and have Japanese, Egyptian, Italian, Korean, Pakistani, Chinese, and God knows the rest as office neighbors. If you are looking for that individual, well, look no further. I have all these different nationalities around me and I not only feel like a global citizen, I feel great! In addition, on Fridays there is “Weekly Coffee hour” from 4pm to 6pm; this is an avenue to meet people from all over the world. Every Thursday is the “African Tea Hour” from 4pm to 6pm; this is a chance to meet people from all over Africa. This is a part of the magic of being a Fulbright Scholar in Michigan State University.
I have an enthusiastic and supportive sponsor at the Michigan State University, the Department of Telecommunication, Media and Information Studies (TISM). My research thesis is on the Impact of Social Media on undergraduate students and the possible strategic intervention of Theater for Development in a technologically driven society. So far, my knowledge and understanding of the field of Communication and Media Studies has been broadened because Michigan State is home to some of the most renowned authorities in my field. I am proud to say that Professor Robert LaRose, the renowned American scholar on Social Media is my academic adviser and Nicole Ellison, another famous Social Media professor is also a few offices away from mine. I am glad for the opportunity to learn more and to be able to translate what I’m learning positively in the lives of my students and colleagues back home.
After six months in Michigan, I am less susceptible to the initial culture shock. I also think most of the number 25-bus drivers (my bus route from the office back to my house), faculty members and students have moved beyond curious observation of the colorfully dressed African lady in head cover. We now engage in conversations that often start with “How’s your day going?” or “Oh, I like your dress.” or “Where you from?” Because I’m asked these questions in the friendliest way, I find myself chattering on about my home country, Nigeria, the Fulbright program, and how I am learning so much in such a short time at Michigan State University.
I should add that the love of sports is contagious at MSU. The Spartans, as they are proudly called, are very friendly and helpful. I have never met people so eager to learn about identities, languages and cultures. I guess the Spartan spirit reflects the Fulbright ideal. Their academic passion is combined with the love of football—not football as it is known in Africa, Europe and elsewhere—American football, or as I prefer to call it, “handball”. Game days are “lock-down” days. All academic buildings are closed and some bus routes are limited during the game. Hours before the game starts, people are already partying. The serenity and beauty of East Lansing suddenly becomes accentuated with a mixture of excitement and anxiety.
As a Fulbright Scholar at Michigan State University, I have access to numerous educational facilities and resources. I have experienced unique friendship and cross-cultural dynamism. My hope for the coming months is to attain the academic objectives for which I set out to achieve at MSU and also to establish a long-term collaboration between my home University, Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria and Michigan State University.
Rasheedah Liman is a Fulbright Scholar from Nigeria. She is a PhD researcher with the Department of Telecommunication Media and Information Studies. Her current research is on Social Media Use among Students. She loves reading and freelance writing.