Margarita Ramirez, who graduated from APU with a political science degree last May, planned to comfortably move on to graduate school and never considered applying for the Fulbright scholarship, which provides graduate students grants to study, teach or research a subject of their choice overseas. However, when vice provost for graduate programs Dr. Diane Guido and vice provost for undergraduate programs Nicole Roberts encouraged her to apply for the Fulbright scholarship, she changed her plans. Ramirez applied for and received the scholarship and is now studying in Portugal, researching how the Azores view the American Dream.
The Fulbright website describes its program’s mission statement: “The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” The program awards about 8,000 grants to students and scholars annually.
Ramirez joins the ranks of another APU graduate and two faculty members who received Fulbright scholarships last May. Matthew Gonzales, who graduated in 2010 as a political science major, teaches English in Spain while he researches contemporary Spanish identity. The faculty recipients were Dr. Michael Smith of the department of theater, film and television, and Dr. Mary Wong of the department of global studies, sociology and TESOL.
Ramirez was a Trustee Scholar, member of the Student Government Association, Honors Scholar, Alpha Chi Region VII national student representative and the 2012 recipient of the Gerald Wilson Scholarship during her time at the university. Even with her long list of accomplishments, she says that she did not apply for the Fulbright scholarship to add another honor to her resume.
Currently living in the Azores island chain in Portugal, Ramirez researches how inhabitations of the island view the American dream. “There is a word in Portuguese, saudade, that cannot be translated, but it reflects a deep longing,” Ramirez said. “My project is called ‘The Other Saudade,’ the longing of people in the Azores for America. It has to exist, or people would not have gone there, and continue to go, in large numbers. How do they view America, American identity and the American dream?”
Provost Mark Stanton, Ph.D., told University Relations, “The remarkable opportunities these Fulbright recipients engage abroad not only enhance their research and life experiences, but also contribute to the internationalization of the APU community upon their return. We celebrate their successes and we are proud of their accomplishments.”
Ramirez is grateful for the opportunity to be able to study abroad. “Anytime that you go abroad, you learn that God is so much bigger than what you can imagine when you are in your comfortable and familiar surroundings,” Ramirez said. “You learn to set self-centeredness aside, because you must adapt, learn and grow even when it doesn’t seem to make sense why people do things a certain way.”
The Fulbright scholarship is one way to use the knowledge gained at APU in a holistic way. “Consider all the papers you write, the books you plow through, the assignments that seem to make no sense, the chapels telling you to do something, the slogans about APU education changemakers,” Ramirez said. “With Fulbright, they all make sense. The academic, social and spiritual preparation really is for something. If you have a passion for scholarship, I can think of no better option.”