After the Spanish Fulbright Mid-Year Seminar in Valencia in February, the Spanish Fulbright Commission gave me an opportunity to attend another mid-year seminar from March 23rd to March 27th – the 60th Annual Berlin Seminar for American Fulbright Scholars. While the Valencia Mid-Year Seminar was for Spanish Fulbright grantees only, the Berlin Mid-Year Seminar was for all Fulbright grantees located in Europe. Through this experience, I not only got  to explore Berlin for the first time, but I also got to have an interesting discussion about gender relations in Europe, learn about different European countries through Fulbright grantees’ presentations, and weigh the pros and cons of two U.S. graduate programs with American Fulbright grantees from Spain and German Fulbright grantees, who are going to the United States to study, so that I could choose the perfect graduate program for me.

As someone who plans to specialize in gender policy in OECD countries, I signed up to attend a workshop on gender relations in Europe. In my opinion, many policymakers and governments tend to put Europe, especially Western Europe, on a pedestal when discussing gender equality. It is true that European women have more rights protected and guaranteed by their governments than women from other parts of the world. Sexist microaggressions in everyday life, however, continue to exist in Europe. All the participants of the workshop on gender shared their stories on sexist microaggressions. I, for example, told them about a Spanish girl who wanted to get a man to fix her TV because “Men are better than women at technology.” Fortunately, I was able to fix it and show her that her remark was a sexist microaggression. Another workshop participant also told the group about a teacher who believed that his wife could not take control of her class because of her gender. Furthermore, we discussed the importance of intersectionality when examining gender equality as the immigration population continues to rise in Europe. For instance, a German woman’s gender experience in Germany is different from a female Turkish immigrant’s gender experience in Germany due to the Turkish woman’s race and immigrant status. After my Fulbright grant, I intend to study these issues in gender policy in OECD countries throughout my graduate program to formulate and implement gender policy that would encourage men and women to work together and improve gender equality.

Listening to Fulbright grantees’ presentations was another highlight of the seminar. As a foodie myself, I was fascinated by a presentation on the Slow Food movement in Turkey. Although my vegan taste buds were not excited to hear about meat and halal butchery, I found it interesting to learn about the conflict between the convenience of purchasing premade meals with meat and the cultural importance of halal butchery in Turkey from an anthropologist perspective. There was also a presentation on advertisements in Slovakia with Soviet elements. I thought it was interesting that Slovakian politicians posted their billboard ads with face shots but without political messages because I do not remember seeing U.S. politicians’ print ads with their pictures – they usually put their names, positions, and/or political slogans. Ever since the presentation session, I have begun to think about the possibility of applying for a Fulbright Research Grant in the future. I would like to conduct research on a topic that I am passionate about just like the presenters and share my findings with others at a conference like the Berlin Mid-Year Seminar to inform them about an issue that they might not be familiar with.

In addition to giving me an opportunity to participate in intellectually stimulating discussions, the Berlin Mid-Year Seminar was helpful in a practical way. I was debating between two graduate programs to attend this fall, and weighing the pros and cons of each program with a couple German Fulbright grantees that also got into the same programs and fellow American Fulbright grantees in Spain showed me which program would be a better fit for me. The German Fulbright grantees and I shared all the information we had about those two graduate programs. One American Fulbright grantee was especially helpful because she told me how to negotiate for more financial aid. After the Seminar, I was not only able to choose a program that would open more doors for me, but I was also able to receive more financial aid from the school that I am going to attend this fall.

I would not have been able to discuss sexist microaggressions, learn about the Slow Food movement in Turkey and advertisements in Slovakia, meet new people, and become friends with acquaintances if I had not been a Fulbright grantee and if the Spanish Fulbright Commission had not sponsored me to attend the Berlin Mid-Year Seminar. I strongly encourage future Fulbright grantees to attend the Berlin Mid-Year Seminar to gain more knowledge about Europe and expand their network.

 

Ji-Hyeun Kwon-Min

Fulbright ETA Grantee 2013-2014, Spain