|USIA Fulbright Scholar in Austria|
I am a doctoral student on a Fulbright Student Grant in Vienna, Austria. I am studying the neurophysiology of swallowing, specifically the role of the cerebral cortex in the motor planning of swallowing using electroencephalographic techniques. The experience of living and working abroad has been invaluable both professionally and personally. I am very grateful.
Certainly, the esteem of the Fulbright Grant and the research that is funded through receipt of this award will open many doors for me academically and professionally. I am honored to be studying under the leading researcher in my area. This will allow me to develop research skills that will place me in a highly competitive position for future research appointments. My academic preparation in the United Stated prepared me well to pursue this work, but the application of that preparation has been optimally completed in this highly specialized laboratory.
Secondly, the personal gains of living abroad have been enormous. Having grown up in a military family, I was accustomed to moving but always within a fairly homogenous culture. What has been very remarkable to me here is that even though the superficial cultural issues, or customs, may be quite different, the underlying characteristics of people are the same in any location. I have found the people here to be helpful, friendly and as curious about me as I am about them. Living in such a small country as Austria, other countries such as the Czech Republic and Hungary are but a half-day trip away and present remarkable excursions into differing quality of life and customs.
It has been said that the students in the Fulbright Program were responsible for its success. I would also like to add that those involved in administration of the program contribute greatly to its success. Very unfortunately, I was recently hospitalized for five weeks due to minor surgery with major complications. For this, I would like to extend my regrets to the Fulbright commission and apologize for any additional concerns or embarrassment that this may have caused. I could not have anticipated these difficulties prior to accepting my Fulbright award.
I would, however, like to extend to the commission a letter on behalf of Dr. Lonnie Johnson, executive secretary of the Austrian American Fulbright commission here in Vienna, for his attention during this time period. Although during the initial week or two I was not conscious of much, I understand that Dr. Johnson was checking on my status and advocating for my care throughout this time period. Very importantly, and thankfully, he stayed in close contact with my only family, my brother in Texas. He provided information as to my status in a manner that my brother did not over-react and fly to Vienna unnecessarily. I wanted to specifically commend Dr. Johnson for his support as I think he extended himself "above and beyond the call of duty".
When I regained consciousness adequately to be aware of my surroundings he continued to provide on-going support. This support was provided by facilitating interpretation between the medical staff and myself when language barriers were problematic, advocating for my care when I was unable to do so and, when I was able, taking me on short, but exhausting excursions down the hall. Very importantly, his daily visits were comforting: a welcomed consistency in the overwhelming confusion of the entire situation. He was kind and supportive, but when needed he encouraged me to plan ahead for my care on discharge. Now that I am home and returning to work, he is following up just enough to let me know he is concerned without being overbearing. This is also greatly appreciated.
I am recovering from this illness as quickly as possible and have returned to the hospital, this time in a working capacity. I want to assure the Office of Academic Programs that I will work diligently to make up for the time lost while in the hospital as a patient and will produce quality, publishable research by the end of my Fulbright year.
I am very grateful not only for the Fulbright award that is allowing me this opportunity, but also for the kindness and support offered by my doctor during my illness.