Kristen Cvancara – Fulbright

Kristen Cvancara
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Fulbright Teaching/Research Scholar Grant in Finland

When planning ahead for my sabbatical, I realized that a Fulbright award was an excellent opportunity for me to achieve the goals of growing professionally and living abroad with my husband and our three children. I applied for a grant in Finland because I wanted to work with a colleague with whom I had been collaborating since 2002. I drafted a plan for a project that would blend our research interests and reviewed it with my Finnish colleague at the 2009 NCA conference in Chicago. With encouragement and support from her and her department (including a letter of invitation), I submitted my Fulbright application in the summer of 2010. In March of 2011, I was notified by letter of the acceptance of that application. My two goals were finally realized in January of 2012 as my family boarded a plane headed for Jyväskylä, Finland, where we would live for the coming 5 months.

While in Finland, I taught two courses and conducted research in the Department of Communication at the University of Jyväskylä. The teaching connected me with students from all over Europe, exposed me to different worldviews, and prompted me to adapt my teaching style in new and unique ways. The research project blossomed into a study involving five countries on four different continents. It was amazing to watch this kind of collaboration develop through conversations, emails, Skype calls, and joint meetings. I had the opportunity to build relationships with Finnish and European colleagues, fellow Fulbrighters, and members of the community where we lived for 5 months.  All of these experiences changed me, and my family as well. The challenges and obstacles we faced together forced us to re-evaluate beliefs that we took for granted, revise ineffective strategies, and review our motivations for living outside of our comfort zone. Even when reflecting on the most difficult days, I marvel at the amazing, wonderful experience the Fulbright grant provided us.

A Fulbright experience is worthy of the preparation devoted to crafting a solid application. Check out the following websites for more information on Fulbright grants, the Fulbright Center in Finland, and the Fulbright scholar list to view others from the discipline who have earned grants. I especially encourage individuals with children to apply. In keeping with Senator Fulbright’s initial goals, living abroad with children is a prime opportunity to strengthen their empathy for others and foster a worldview that integrates compassion and understanding.

Author: Center for Intercultural Dialogue

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, the Director of the Center for Intercultural Dialogue, manages this website.

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