The above photo is me in front of the Parliament Building.
This past weekend I flew to Ottawa to participate in the Fulbright Orientation program. This program included all of the Canadian Fulbright Students (such as myself), Scholars (above PhD) and Killam Fellows (undergraduate exchange students).
I must admit that I was somewhat nervous attending an orientation such as this, where everyone had been selected by the Fulbright Committee. I expected an environment where individuals were more strictly academic, and was unsure as to where I would fall in the program. In short, I had no idea what to expect. The people I met at the Fulbright Orientation, however, were phenomenal. The staff was excited to be working with everyone, and while the participants had an academic focus, they were impassioned, lively, and interested in the work everyone was doing.
After arriving and participating in a Welcome Lunch where we met the staff and participants, we watched a panel on the "Challenges Facing Canadian Universities in the 21st Century." Panelists included the CEO of Fulbright Canada, the President and Chief Executive Officer at Canadian Bureau for International Education, the Vice President at Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Executive Director of the U15, a group of Canadian Research Universities.
Following the panel we took tours of Parliament (see above photo) and the Supreme Court of Canada. We rounded out Saturday evening with a dinner at the Empire Grill.
On Sunday Morning, the Fulbright Scholars, led by a selected Fulbright Student participated in panel discussions relevant to their field. The panels were History, Arts and Education, Social Justice, Health and Environment, and Public Policy. Due to my past work in Social Justice, I was selected to moderate the Fulbright Panel. It was a phenomenal experience, and not one I will soon forget.
Following the panels, a group spent the afternoon at the National Gallery of Canada, and preparing for the evening.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the Fulbright Orientation was spending Saturday evening at the Carleton Ice Rink. For those that know me, ice skating is not my forte. I like to blame coming from Southern California (what is snow?), but in reality, it probably comes down to my complete lack of grace and balance. However, deciding that I wasn't going to let my klutziness hinder me, I strapped on some ice skates and a helmet, and went to work for the "free skate" section of the evening. I rarely got too far off the railing, but hey, I didn't fall so that is improvement.
There I was, happily skating in my circle when Michael, the CEO of Fulbright Canada, handed me a Fulbright Jersey and told me to line up for the Hockey Match. My plan for the evening had been to just participate in the "free skate" section, but I figured, "why not?" I lined up with the rest of my team (the Fulbright and Killam students) and faced the Fulbright Scholars. We sang the American and Canadian National anthems, and then the game began. I went out on the ice once, and I was absolutely terrible, but hey, I had a wonderful time. After I got off the ice, the next thing I know, Michael skates up to me again and says, "We are going to put you in the goal for about ten minutes." My immediate reaction was , "You are kidding, right?" Alas, he certainly was not.
Soon I was put in goalie gear and placed in our goal. Needless to say, my respect for hockey goalies went up ten-fold. It was incredibly fun, but again, not my skill set. I joke that Michael should have guessed my skill level when they handed me a helmet and my reply was "Guess I need to take off my rhinestone headband."
After our time at the ice rink, we had our closing dinner at Colonnade Pizza. At the end of the dinner, they gave out hockey awards to "Most Spirited," "MVP Scholar and Student," and "Most Improved." Fulbright Awarded me the "Most Improved" Award, and gave each of us a children's book called the The Hockey Sweater. I wear this badge with pride.
Overall, the Orientation program for Fulbright was amazing. I am still working on trying to figure out my place at Saint Mary's, but after the Orientation program it really allowed me to see that I do belong in this program. Here's to a great year as a Fulbright Student.
Below are photos of the book that I won for "Most improved" and me dressed up in my Hockey gear.