The Fulbright Student Institute is rooted in a philosophy of experiential education that blends community resources with thought-provoking academic work. New York State becomes the classroom as university residential living, excursions, and interactions with campus and local communities contribute insight into U.S. culture.
On arrival students begin an intensive three day exploration of New York City (NYC). Their destinations include the Settlement House, representing the world of 19th century European immigrants, ethnically diverse neighborhoods from Little India to Harlem, the 5 Pointz graffiti project, the National Museum of the American Indian, an AIDS service center, and a Broadway show. Instructors and staff use this initial time for everyone to become acquainted and comfortable while introducing them to basic course themes.
In NYC students receive their research project assignments, selecting a topic from a grid of 25 research subjects based on pairings of five Unites States institutions (religion, business, sports, education, and health) and five diversity concepts (race, gender, immigration, socio-economic class, and sexual orientation). Guided by basic principles of ethnographic research and participant observation, they use their daily experience to gather information while having fun (e.g. taking notes, photos, conversing with locals, reflecting with one another).
These informal discussions around the research become a pattern every day of the program with faculty reminding students to observe closely, interpret what they see and hear, and then question their interpretations. These supportive and stimulating interactions between student and staff were the most highly ranked program feature in the student evaluations.
Once at Binghamton University, students begin to explore campus and the surrounding community to continued their "field work." They examine the public transportation system and talk with patrons at the local bus station, explore the businesses on Main Street, look for visible signs of community-building, identify government and non-governmental services, analyze what the Binghamton community chooses to memorialize in public spaces, and talk with people by introducing themselves and asking them about what make Binghamton unique.
An ice cream social and organized meeting with newly arrived international students helps both groups break down stereotypes of the other and leads to further socializing. As they work on their research projects, Fulbright students become inventive in gathering data. This past summer they interviewed food service workers, fans at sport events, Walmart staff, local firefighters, students (U.S. and international), and dozens of people they encountered on buses, subways, walking tours, and in museums and restaurants.
These conversations not only helped Fulbright Institute students learn about U.S. culture, but also enlightened those they met along the journey about aspects of German culture. In the true spirit of exchange, the Institute contributes to campus internationalization and all those involved – students and community members alike - emerge from the experience with new insights.
Last Updated: 10/22/13