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Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Chicago, IL – March 2012

I was privileged to be one of the three Fulbright scholars representing Spain in the Enrichment Seminar that took place in late March in the beautiful city of Chicago. During four days, we made ours the topic of the seminar: Diversity – A Chicago Work in Progress, by gathering in a single place, with academia from 38 different countries from all over the world. I found the opportunity to exchange impressions and knowledge with senior researchers from varying disciplines a once in a lifetime experience. Once more, our mission was to learn and to advise, but this time by looking beyond our own projects into the country hosting us, taking Chicago as an example. In only 175 years of history, the city has hosted a wave of immigrants, initially Europeans but now mostly Latinos, and Asiatic peoples that, in addition to African-Americans constitute the less favored sector of the American society. I was moved to learn about the economic difficulties that families from these racial communities have to face in order to cover annual school fees. Because public school funding is closely linked to local property taxation the quality of education is not equal for all citizens. To overcome this problem several powerful initiatives have been promoted in different institutions. The Museum of Science and Industry offers internships, learning laboratories and educational programs for school teachers regardless of their school grades or qualifications in order to make science equally available to the whole spectrum of the society. Even more enlightening, the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School has adopted a private sector approach to provide students a casual job that allows them to self-finance up to 65% of their education expenses without interfering with their studies. We were all impressed by their enthusiasm for learning and job commitment which should be an example for many unmotivated youngsters.
As a charming ending, we spent our last night in the city dining at the home of a local family to whom I couldn’t be more grateful for their hospitality, friendliness, and delicious food!!
In all, I strongly recommend future Fulbrighters to sign up for this seminar. In my view, it represents both a great opportunity to mingle with an international group of smart scholars and a time to reflect on the differences between the social systems in the USA vs. Spain and a lesson to learn what can be done to make things better in both countries… in definitive, you shouldn’t miss it!!