BRATISLAVA, July 30 – The Fulbright Program is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Sixty Nobel Prize winners, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 39 heads of state and prime ministers, or 16 Medal of Liberty laureates by U.S. Presidents. They are all graduates of the Fulbright Program, one of the most prestigious and largest international educational exchange programs in the world, operating in partnership with the United States with more than 160 countries around the world. The Fulbright Program is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. In Slovakia, the “Fulbrighters”, as the graduates of this program are called, include personalities in the field of politics, diplomacy, medicine, law, culture or economics, who share the acquired knowledge and experience in their personal and professional lives.
The Fulbright program, whose mission is to increase mutual understanding between citizens of the USA and other countries, has been operating in Slovakia for 27 years. Thanks to it, 362 Slovaks have personal experience with studying and research in the USA. As part of the exchange program, there were already 381 Americans in Slovakia who studied, did research or taught English in secondary schools.
Slovakia is one of 49 countries in which the program is administered by an independent bilateral Fulbright Commission, which was established under an intergovernmental agreement between the United States and the Slovak Republic in 1994 and is governed by a board of directors consisting of an equal number of Americans and Slovaks.
The executive director of the Fulbright Commission in Slovakia, Lýdia Tobiášová, is a graduate of the program herself. In 2009-2010, she spent half a year studying criminal law at Fordham Law School in New York. “What I value most is that thanks to the program, I really learned to think” outside the box “. I discovered new approaches to solving legal problems and had the opportunity to see up close how it is taught at an American university. In addition, the host faculty provided me with the opportunity to sit on the bench with the Brooklyn Community Court judge, who dealt with various legal disputes at the hearing, as well as petty crimes, in a free and very open dialogue with all parties. Such an approach to justice was completely new to me and it was very different from ours, ” the director of the Fulbright Commission in Slovakia described her experience. According to L. Tobiášová, the huge added value of the program is also the amount of personal and professional contacts that a person acquires and often lasts a lifetime.
“The Fulbright scholarship was one of the best opportunities in life to experience a different education system, to meet the best brains in my field, to discuss classes with professors who had a curious and partnership approach to me. It showed me the streets of New York as well as the city dwellers themselves – I walked through it, watching his life and looking for connections with urban development. It has shown me how perseverance, curiosity and the desire to keep moving are the real philosophy of life, and how complaining, as a cultural phenomenon, will lead us nowhere. Especially the last people of our country need it as salt, because the potential is here, ” said urban planner Milota Sidorová.
“The stay was crucial for me and literally eye-opening. After returning I benefited from the results for many years, published 2 books and a number of articles. Not to mention that, at least that’s how I perceive it, I managed to understand the extremely complicated migration policy of the USA and individual states of the Union, ” sociologist Michal Vašečka described his experience.
Thanks to Fulbright, 37 Slovaks studied at prestigious American universities in medicine and psychology, 42 in political science and law, 44 in science, 12 in mathematics and information technology, 43 in art and journalism, 17 in architecture and urbanism, 47 in management and more than 54 Slovaks in the field of American studies. On the contrary, in Slovakia there were 177 Americans in the field of American studies, 41 in public administration and management, 38 in the field of political science and law, 27 in the social sciences and Slovak studies and 26 in the art and journalism.
Graduates include poet Maya Angelou, writer John Steinbeck, former foreign minister and diplomat Henry Kissinger, economist Milton Friedman, sociologist and former Slovak prime minister Iveta Radičová, Slovak ambassador to the UN in New York Michal Mlynár, Bratislava region head Juraj Droba, mayor of Bratislava Matúš Vallo, sociologist Michal Vašečka or winner of the ESET Science Award in the category of Outstanding Young Scientist under 35 Ľubomíra Tóthová and many others.
President Harry S. Truman signed the law on August 1, 1946. The law was initiated by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, inspired by his personal experience of studying at Oxford in the United Kingdom. The first participants in the program traveled abroad in 1948. Approximately eight thousand scholarships are awarded to American and foreign participants each year. They are selected in a transparent selection procedure, where the decisive criteria are the academic and professional qualities of the candidates, the achievements, professional potential and, no less important, the ability and willingness to share knowledge and experience with people from different cultures. Every Fulbrighter also becomes a kind of ambassador of his country.