NORMAN — The University of Oklahoma hosted a weeklong gateway orientation for 58 Fulbright scholars representing 36 countries.
The orientation was one of 10 held across the United States and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.
The purpose of the orientations is to promote cultural diversity and increase understanding between nations, and to help the scholars learn to balance their academic, personal and professional roles while they pursue their studies.
Students arrived on campus July 31 and were welcomed by OU President David L. Boren and former Fulbright scholar Shelby Lewis of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and professor emeritus at Clark Atlanta University.
Lewis, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010, highlighted the “importance of the Fulbright Program as a people-to-people program that is intended to bring about mutual understanding and peace” and said Fulbright scholars have gone on to be Pulitzer Prize winners, heads of state and Nobel laureates.
“We are encouraging Fulbrighters to tell their stories ... to talk about their adventures, their opportunities, their pain and their triumphs,” she said.
OU's College of International Studies coordinated the events.
“After months of preparation, I feel rewarded to have had the opportunity to meet so many future international leaders and to watch them energetically interact with one another,” said Sarah Highsaw, student programs adviser for international student services.
Mohommad Payab, 27, a civil engineer from Afghanistan, described the journey that led to his becoming a Fulbright scholar.
“I was so happy to be selected as a part of such a prestigious program, especially being from Afghanistan. I feel a responsibility to go back and spread the knowledge that I learn since not everyone has this opportunity, and I hope to be able to facilitate projects in Afghanistan that are within budget, are able to withstand the harsh elements, and implemented in the best possible ways,” Payab said.
Ickhyun Song, 28, an electrical engineer from South Korea, said his goal is to “design electrical systems that can operate in harsh environments such as temperature, radiation and high pressure. These electrical systems will hopefully be applied to space and deep sea exploration. I'm very excited to be a part of such a prestigious program and I can't wait to see what the future holds.”
On Thursday, the orientation concluded with an American Indian cultural evening. The Fulbright scholars will spend two years in the United States to complete their studies and research.
Highsaw said OU was asked to submit a proposal to host a Fulbright orientation and awarded a grant based on her proposal. None of the scholars will be studying at OU.