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Memories of Fulbright

On August 1, the global birthday and 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, some Russian alumni took to their social media to remember the times they took part in the Program. Some were brief, others spared no words.


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Alexey Bakulev, FLTA 2013-14:
«Thanks to Fulbright, I had a chance to discover the U.S. from a unique perspective; thanks to Fulbright, I had a chance to learn and share a lot; thanks to Fulbright, I got to know the unforgettable Juniata College; thanks to Fulbright, I made friends with wonderful people. Happy Anniversary, Fulbright!»


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Olga Novolotskaya, VGS 2011-12:
«Lots of great memories, people, adventures, and an incredibly important professional experience.»


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Alexandra Montotova, FLTA 2019-20:
«75 years ago today, on August 1, 1945, President Harry S. Truman signed the Act that made the Fulbright Program possible. It is a truly a great occasion as the Fulbright Program has impacted my life in a lot ways — as much as that of many others. I will always be proud of being part of this great community.

It’s symbolic that the anniversary coincides with my vacation—I have been staying at my parents’ place for a few weeks now, hence I have a lot of time to reflect on things. Technology helps with that too because I often see notifications popping up on my phone that say, “Look back at your trip to …”, and many of them are the ones from my Fulbright period in the U.S. The place where my parents live and where I grew up is called Akhiny, a small village in Irkutsk Oblast, Siberia, Russia. I still call it ‘home’. It’s a fascinating place. First of all, it is located in a very remote area. People call it the last stop because of the two shuttles that take people from the city of Irkutsk here and back and vice versa. It’s mind-blowing that there used to be no mobile service, let alone Internet access. Back then, the only way to entertain yourself would be TV, pastime with friends, or books. While I had school friends, I also really loved spending my time on educating myself. As a teen, I developed a passion for English. American English, to be specific. I loved American music, movies, and TV shows, and I really wanted to understand every word without having to use subtitles or watching the dubbed version. Other than that, I really wanted to see the world out there since I had never traveled far before. All that would require being skilled in English, and the only way to achieve that goal was to master my English. However, the fact that I lived so far away was a huge obstacle. Also, according to the school curriculum, we were supposed to learn German as our L2, which I really enjoyed, but I also wanted to learn English. So I had no choice but to grab seven old dusty English textbooks from the school library and somehow use them. My parents were surprised yet excited about my endeavors. So over the next few months I would try to use any opportunity to read the grammar rules and big chunks of text from those textbooks. Sometimes it was frustrating because the books were clearly outdated or because I couldn’t comprehend certain things. But I managed to finish the course successfully, and in the end I was able to express my thoughts properly. Too bad I had no one to practice my English with.
It all changed when I was in 10th grade, the time when a very brave Internet provider decided to expand their coverage area by including Akhiny in it. I was on cloud nine. When everything was successfully set up at home, I downloaded free books and everything related to English, and created social media accounts with the sole purpose of improving my skills. I wanted to be fluent so badly I tweeted in English only, so my Twitter followers had no idea where I was from. When I look back at my old notes from that time, I see errors here and there, but the passion to be better is just over the top. That helped me convince the school administration to let me take the English exam and pass it. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the overall score—it was more than high enough to be able to enroll at Irkutsk State Linguistic University.



It was during that time that I first heard of the Fulbright Program. One of my professors was an alumnus, and having seen my passion for English, he suggested that I apply. When I was a senior, a Fulbright ETA from the U.S. was placed at our university. A bright scholar and a wonderful human being, she told me a lot about her own experience, and just like the professor, she became an inspiration for me as well. Four years later, I got my Bachelor’s Degree in American Studies. After the summer break, I started working as an English teacher at a language school in Irkutsk. That was when my intentions to apply for a Fulbright grant became firm. A year later, I finally applied for the FLTA program. “And now I wait,” I told myself and went on yet another summer break.
It was here, in Akhiny, when I got an email from the Fulbright office in Moscow that said I had been selected for the next stage of the competition. I was speechless. “Is my dream coming true?” I thought. Indeed, it was. The next two months were devoted to the preparation for my interview and the language exam. It was an unknown realm for me, but I was really excited to explore it. Luckily for me, the interview went well, and the exam was passed successfully, as I learned later that year. The spring of the following year started with a lot of paperwork. My parents and my sister were supporting me throughout the whole period of preparation. Finally, in August 2019, I left Irkutsk and got on my first transpacific flight.

I was placed at the University of Texas at San Antonio. To say I was happy is an understatement. The time difference of 13 hours and a completely different type of weather (imagine hopping from Siberia to Texas)—I got used to all that very quickly. I had the best supervisor I could ever wish for. I had the best roommates I could wish for. I made friends I still talk to despite the distance. Working at UTSA, exploring the city, and spreading the word about my culture while learning a lot about others was a fantastic experience. Not only that—I really enjoyed attending the Fulbright events. Those were amazing. I got to meet people from around the world and get inspiration from the spokespeople. I got to travel around the U.S. before the pandemic. When it started, even though I might have been stressed sometimes, working remotely was definitely a new helpful experience...
There are just not enough words to describe how grateful I am for the Fulbright Program. It made my dream come true and it will never cease to be an inspiration for my future endeavors. The program will sure do the same for so many others who are yet to join this amazing community. I wish them the best of luck.»


The 75th Anniversary Year celebration of the Fulbright Program began January 1, 2021 and will highlight the impressive accomplishments and legacy of the program and its alumni over its first 75 years, both in the United States and around the world. The campaign will spotlight the relevant and impactful work of Fulbrighters and recent alumni, with the goal of inspiring the next generation of Fulbright participants and promoting a positive vision for the program’s future. Accordingly, the 75th anniversary campaign is heavily focused on engaging with and showcasing Fulbright alumni. 

A dedicated 75th anniversary website (www.fulbright75.org) was launched to showcase anniversary events and facilitate ongoing engagement. This site will house alumni stories, a calendar of anniversary events and activities, and many other digital elements.