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Carpe Diem; Study Abroad

Midnight Runs in Bogotá

Simone Johnson, Columnist

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After graduating from Pace in 2012 with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in sociology, Fulbright Scholar Hannah Tall booked a flight to Bogotá, Colombia.

When Tall first heard about the Fulbright U.S. Student Grant as a freshman, she knew she had to learn more about the opportunity. 

“I remember going to the Study Abroad office around April, and I heard about it in passing as an opportunity to go abroad after graduation,” Tall said. “I went on to do my own research about the program that summer, and it was on my radar as an exchange opportunity ever since.”

The Fulbright Program is an international educational exchange program, which awards U.S. citizens grants to study, teach, research or explore a talent in another country, and non-U.S. citizens to do the same in the United States. Recent graduates, teachers, creative and performing artists, professionals, scholars and groups are welcome to apply. 

Tall received the U.S. Student Grant to be an English Teaching Assistant at La Universidad Militar Nueva Granada.

“One of my passions is travel and another one has been working with young people. So applying for Fulbright was my way to lend my skills to young people abroad,” said Tall, now New York Program Manager at STOKED, a New York City and Los Angeles based non-profit fostering youth development through action sports. 

Applying for a Fulbright grant takes focus and determination as the application process is rigorous.  Among other factors, selection is based on quality and feasibility of the grant proposal, academic or professional record and personal qualifications. 

 “It was challenging, inspiring, fulfilling,” Tall said. “A journey, nothing like I expected, but I would not change any part of it.”

Tall taught English to university students, military personnel and individuals on weekends. 

“I worked to support the professors with curriculum development and facilitated and maintained a conversation club at the school.  For my side project, I initially proposed to start a student club,”Tall said. “I wanted to start a sports club, but that didn’t work out. That was not the need. So, what did I do? I went with my gut.”

Tall observed a lot of hunger and homelessness in Bogotá. She also noticed that there was not a strong service-learning culture at La Militar, especially around issues students really cared about.  

“I asked my students what some issues were that they were concerned about. What were some things that they saw that they’d like to see change? What did they want to learn more about?” Tall said. “One of the reoccurring things we discussed was the habitantes de la calle (or homeless population) and how they were everywhere.”

From these conversations, Tall’s civic engagement imitative was born. She phoned an organization called Fudación Pocalana and soon she and her students were participating in weekly meal delivery service events called Midnight Runs. 

“Volunteers gathered to make, and deliver food to homeless people in various parts of the city,” said Tall, “Pocalana also created a unique space where volunteers also had time to get to know the people who they were helping, sit down, hear their stories and connect with them. They were able to better understand the issue that they complained about from the other side of it”.

Tall’s experience as a Fulbright Scholar abroad impacted her in many ways. It confirmed to her that she wants to engage with all of her interests. 

“My time in Colombia allowed me to reflect on how I want to use the skills that I have in psychology, civic engagement, travel, education and non-profit work, to create some meaningful opportunities and change for young people,” Tall said. 

Still not sure about applying? Award benefits include round trip transportation to host country, room and board covered and accident and sickness health benefits. In some countries, book and research allowances, midterm enrichment activities and full and partial tuition are awarded. 

Fulbright is a great option for a student that cannot study abroad during their undergraduate study. Tall encourages interested U.S. and international students, especially juniors and seniors, to seek a mentor and apply. 

“Reach out to former recipients to get questions answered. It’ll give you some of the best insight as to whether or not this program is for you (which it is).” Tall said.  “It’s for anyone that’s open to learning and growing.”

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