Fulbrighters Share Their Fulbright Mementos

A memento is defined as “something that is kept as a reminder of a person, place or thing.” This month we asked Fulbrighters to share a memento from their Fulbright experience, and tell us the story behind it. Read on to learn what makes each of these items – including a pine cone from New Zealand, a photo of Senator J William Fulbright, and a Paraguayan bus ticket – so meaningful.

I taught class nine at a government school in New Delhi, India and one of my students was a very talented artist. She loved to practice her calligraphy skills in English and was always winning awards at the school for her poster designs. One day she gave me this beautiful rock that she had painted with a moon and the word “Magic” on the front. On the back of the rock she painted my name “Ms. MJ,” which was how my students knew me (but most days it was usually just “ma’am!”) 

I love this memento of my time as a Fulbright in India because it reminds me not only of my creative and fun students and my memories of India, but what magic is and how to cultivate it in my daily life. Magic happens when you reach out as your authentic self and seek only to learn from others and end up creating meaningful connections that inspire you. Magic happens when you listen and embrace differences, whether they be cultural or otherwise, and support others. This memento reminds me to always cultivate magic in my life and the way I approach others and the world. 

– Madeline “MJ” Welch, 2017-2018 Fulbright-Nehru ETA (USA) to New Delhi, India

I am from Cameroon, West Africa, and I came here on a Fulbright to get a Master of Science in Special Education in Portland State University.

Growing up, I have always admired many aspects of the Indian culture especially, their outfit and dance moves, as Bollywood movies were and are still popular in my country. But I never dreamt of putting on that outfit and even interacting with Indians. Thanks to a Fulbright, I have so many Indian friends now at Portland State University and always take part in their cultural activities. I even own a saree, a popular Indian outfit.

Eileen Leynteng, 2018-2020 Fulbright Student (Cameroon) to Portland State University, OR, USA

This is a portrait of Senator [J William] Fulbright, which is my main memento of the time I spent as a visiting Fulbright student from the Netherlands in Austin, Texas from 2009 to 2011. One of my closest friends in Austin, a fellow Fulbright student, had it made to hang in his living room after our first SXSW [South by Southwest film/music festivals], which took to another level our appreciation of the city and our gratitude to the program that brought us there. From then on, the senator looked on approvingly (mostly) whenever several of us would get together to share a drink, a meal and – always – a good story.

After my friend sadly left Austin for his home country a semester ahead of me, he gave me the portrait as a keepsake. In subsequent years, it has traveled with me as I moved back to the Netherlands, then back to Austin, then New York and now Rio de Janeiro, always reminding me of that formative time, the friends I made and the things I learned, and how privileged I’ve been to experience it all.

-Mario van Gastel, 2009-2011 Fulbright Student (Netherlands) to University of Texas Austin, USA

I was on my Fulbright in the fall 2003 in Estonia (University of Tartu) where I taught peace studies. I was with my family – wife and 2 small children. I attached a small reflector on my backpack (which I still have) because as the fall progressed, it was getting darker during the day and the drivers were a bit … well …. more aggressive. We didn’t have a car, so I walked to my classes. Being safe is always important– especially from traffic.

David J. Smith, 2003-2004 Fulbright Scholar (USA) to University of Tartu, Estonia

I was in Indianapolis for 6 months in 2010 and my memento of that wonderful period of my life is an inscription on the top of Indianapolis Public Library. I lived near the library and after work I liked to go there to read something. On the top of the main door there is an inspirational inscription: “Time by minutes slips away, first the hour and then the day. Small the daily loss appears yet it soon amounts to years.” Since then several times I’ve found myself thinking about my friends in Indianapolis, the other Fulbrighters I met at the annual meeting in Washington DC and what a life-changing experience the Fulbright has been for me. Those six months have been memorable and whenever I think about that period, the inscription of the library comes to my mind.

Carlo Vascotto, 2009-2010 Fulbright Scholar (Italy) to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), USA

This sounds silly, but I saved a pine cone from my time in New Zealand as a Fulbrighter in 1994. I’ve been to many countries in the world, but New Zealand remains one of the prettiest places I’ve been. I think I picked up the pine cone on a drive up the Coromandel peninsula, just as a reminder of its beauty. Just in the last year I thought about throwing it away, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Cindy Elmore, 1994-1995 Fulbright grantee (USA) to New Zealand

One of my favorite mementos was the recipe, provided by my dear friend Ági, for the wonderful sajtos pogácsa (cheese biscuits) that she used to make for me in Szeged. Mine never turn out quite like hers, but they are a tasty reminder of Hungary and good friends!

Ellen Litwicki, 2015-2016 Fulbright Scholar (USA) to University of Szeged, Hungary

It was an honor to serve as a Fulbright Specialist and to learn more about Kosovo and Balkan history, culture, and communities.  Since the 2008 declaration of independence, the NEWBORN monument honors a new future for country, nature, and women. I spent the 2019 Day of the Woman in Prishtina where the redesign of the Newborn monument featured photos of Kosovar women role models including the former President, researchers in gender studies, documentary filmmaker, Taekwondo athlete, and survivor of the Serbian-Kosovar conflict. The 2019 FemArt activities in Prishtina highlighted the peacebuilding and changemaking power of women united across Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. This is symbolized most strikingly by Mother Theresa depicted here with millions of staples, an icon for peace, service, and compassion.

-Karen Kwok 2019-2020 Fulbright Specialist (USA) to Kosovo

Interested in learning more about Kosovar history? Check out this Kosovo oral history project.

I purchased prints of Budapest at the Christmas Market. This one reminds me of my “neighborhood.” My apartment was very close (almost around the block) from the Parliament, and down the street from the Danube. I took Metro 3 instead of Metro 2, so I walked through Liberty Park everyday on my way to the Metro and saw children playing and families with them every day. I was fortunate to be able to complete my 2019-2020 Fulbright to Hungary in January, and I feel sympathy for those who followed, who had to evacuate the country after only 1-2 months there. I had an incredible experience! So many wonderful people, a healthy lifestyle, beautiful parks, and lots of music.

Darlene DeMarie, 2019-2020 Fulbright Scholar (USA) to Budapest, Hungary

I was the Fulbright Librarian at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library in Norwich, England. I was there for two years and it was one of the most exceptional experiences of my life. While there, I visited a small antique store and purchased this antique Union Jack which now hangs proudly over the fireplace in my bedroom. I treasure it.

Judith Jerome, 1998-2000 Fulbright Scholar (USA) to the United Kingdom

My memento is a ticket from the bus, known as the “colectivo” in Paraguay. These tickets were given when you got on the bus, but were never checked and I was never really sure what they were used for, maybe to keep track of the number of people riding? You find them everywhere, in your backpack, pockets, etc.

The colectivos in Paraguay are old and rickety, they sound like they might break down at any given moment yet still drive extremely fast, weaving around cars and motorcycles. But boy do they have character, often painted in bright colors, decked out in Jesus swag, decorations hung from the inside ceilings, cumbia blasting full volume… not a single bus is the same. Vendors getting on and off the bus selling anything from toothbrushes to socks to chipa, one of my favorite Paraguayan foods.

At first the colectivos hindered with the flow of my daily life in Paraguay, with no Google Maps route, no formal bus stops (you just flag a bus down when you want to get on), no schedule, and very little information each line’s route. I can’t count the number of times I got very lost, ended up in a different city, or the bus just simpily did not come. But as I got to know the system through trial and error and asking a lot of people for help, it became my favorite part of my time in Paraguay. Instead of a hinderance, it was liberating. I could go anywhere, at anytime, and I got lost less frequently. Now back in the US, inconvienced by having to be at a specific bus stop at a specific time, I miss the efficientiness and adventure of the colectivos.

Alexandra Novak, 2018-2019 U.S. Fulbright Student (USA) to Paraguay

This traditional Sherpa dress was a gift from the Everest Women while completing a Fulbright Specialist project in Nepal 2017-2018. It was worn with an elegant necklace handmade from paper beads by a group of my students. These momentos were so much more than a dress and a necklace, they represented being accepted into a extended cultural family. They represented acts of love and inclusion. I was invited to personal gatherings: Sherpa New Year celebrations, weddings, birthdays, and weekly dinners. These items represent friendship and family a half a world away in the Sherpa community . The relationships and the memories built during my Fulbright experience will last a lifetime. Fulbright is forever!

Patrice Moulton, 2017-2018 Fulbright Specialist (USA) to Nepal

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