Maine Fulbright Stories offers memories and insights about international exchange experiences from Fulbright Award grantees who either came from Maine, or came to Maine, to complete their Fulbright Awards.
Edna Luz Pedraza Garzon
Fulbright: Graduate Scholarship Program for Doctoral Studies in the United States, 2016
Why did you originally decide to apply for a Fulbright?
Applying for a Fulbright Scholarship was a challenge because this is a prestigious program in Colombia. Therefore, it allowed me to measure my abilities against thousands of highly qualified candidates and to overcome my fears. The Fulbright program represented a test, it was an answer, a price for a dedicated job, and it will be a responsibility to fulfill the expectations of Colombia and the people in the United States behind this scholarship.
How did the Fulbright experience help your professional development and career?
The Fulbright program is letting me improve in multiple areas. The first one is having access to technical knowledge that I would not have in my home country due to topographical or technological limitations. Fulbright has opened my mind to new options for research in Colombia. It is not only because of the methods learned but also for the importance of the systematical study of natural resources. It contributes to the protection of the aquatic ecosystems. However, the asset is not only technical. Being in an academic environment that stimulates critical thinking, discussion, and multidisciplinary meetings have taught me about the importance of addressing problems from multiple perspectives to achieve better results. Finally, this program represents the opportunity to be in contact with people of different cultures but common objectives. It lets me think about the challenges and opportunities that not only my country but South America have for the conservation of natural resources through investigation.
What were your favorite experiences in the United States?
Undoubtedly, my favorite experience was the opportunity to do my research in the Greater Yellowstone Area. It gave me the chance to travel across the country and to see the transformation of the landscapes from Maine to Montana. I am sure that not so many international students have this possibility. During this fieldwork, I enjoyed camping, walking through the mountains, and visiting lakes. I learned that Americans show interest in knowing about the studies of their natural resources and for science. However, the most valuable memory was feeling the adrenaline of being in nature, facing the possibility of having a close encounter with a Grizzly bear. That is, for sure, an experience without comparison.
What would you like to tell Mainers about the Fulbright Program?
The Fulbright Program is the best opportunity to communicate to the world that this country is more than the most renowned sites. This program has allowed me to live with American citizens and to understand the values of American culture. Besides the social gain, being a Fulbrighter in Maine allowed me not only to understand the meaning of the word “cold” and my tolerance to winters, but also to learn the passion that Americans feel for this country, its politics, the significance of freedom, and the power of local communities as the engine of transformation.