How We Met

Thinking about traveling around the world and then actually doing it involves some interesting planning techniques, as one might imagine. In my case, I drove to a nearby office supply store, bought a globe, and then used my thumb and forefinger to casually measure distances between places where friends live. Very quickly it seemed, I was able to plot a feasible path all the way around the world! Truly, I could not believe how quickly this plan came together. Here is the story of how I came to know such special people…

The Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program

Most of the people I am planning to visit were at one time studying in the US through the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program at Boston University. This program, founded in 1978 and sponsored by the US State Department, brings roughly 200 people per year to the United States. They study at roughly 15 colleges and universities based on discipline, of which BU gets assigned 10-12 each year. The Fellows at BU reside in student housing on Buswell Street (unless they choose otherwise), and engage in a full year of academic studies, professional affiliations, and conferences throughout the US. The professional affiliations are work assignments with US companies for 4-6 week periods, to provide experience and understanding of our businesses and economic system; new opportunities for these affiliations are always welcome.

As host family, I open my home for dinners and special occasions, take the Fellows sightseeing from time to time, and in general provide a home away from home for them — we are their extended family. I have been host family for eleven years to these Humphreys Fellows, although the list of friends made through the BU and MIT programs is much longer:

  • Vesna Dimitrieska from Macedonia 2008-2009
  • Anna Fatneva from Kyrgyzstan 2009-2010
  • Nassera Senhadji from Algeria 2009-2010
  • Azzeddine Daif from Morocco 2010-2011
  • Rima Zarough from Libya 2010-2011
  • Zbynek Stork from Czech Republic 2011-2012
  • Abdel Lawani from Benin 2012-2013
  • Isikeli Voceduadua from Fiji 2012-2013
  • Eonyoung Park from South Korea 2013-2014
  • Angara Sukhbaatar from Mongolia 2014-2015
  • Ali Jafferani from Pakistan 2015-2016
  • Latu (Sera) Kaukilakeba from Fiji 2016-2017
  • Edward Kapili from Zambia 2016-2017
  • Aziza Pulotova from Tajikistan 2017-2018
  • Frank Obeng from Ghana 2018-2019
  • Rena Ibrahimova from Azerbaijan 2018-2019

A formal description of the Humphreys program follows:

The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program was established by the U.S. Congress in 1978, in honor of the late Senator and Vice President – a national leader dedicated to promoting civil rights and mutual, intercultural understanding. The objective of the Program is threefold:

  • To support distinguished, mid-career professionals from designated countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Central and Eastern Europe to form bonds with one another as they develop their professional expertise in the United States;
  • To support U.S. citizens in higher education, business, and government to learn from, and establish lasting ties with, emerging leaders in other countries.
  • To promote understanding of U.S. cultural, economic, legal, and political systems throughout the world.

The Program is a Fulbright exchange activity funded by the U.S. Congress through the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and administered by the Institute of International Education. It provides ten months of non-degree, graduate-level study, leadership development, professional affiliations, and related opportunities for cultural exchange.

Nearly 5,000 men and women from 157 countries have been honored as Humphrey Fellows since the Program was established in 1978. Eighteen universities in the United States currently host Humphrey Fellows.

Boston University has been honored to be the only university to continuously serve as a host campus since the Program’s inception in 1978, and so far has hosted over 500 Fellows from over 120 countries. 

Source: https://www.bu.edu/hhh/about/

University Exchange Program

Engineering exchange programs can be challenging to coordinate in terms of matching up the curricula, but the benefit of seeing your field of study (and life in general) from an entirely new light is tremendously worthwhile.

As a mechanical engineering student at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, I had the privilege of spending the entire third year studying in Scotland at the University of Dundee. Karen (Leigh) Skelton was the upperclass student assigned to be my guide and mentor for the year; she had also come to Stevens on exchange the year before, where we became friends and sisters in the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity (since there were not many women in engineering at the time, many fraternities had ‘sister’ programs as well). At Dundee, Karen and I were the only two female mechanical engineering students during the year I was there. Her husband Steve also has an engineering background, and I will forever be impressed at how they built their own home.

Stevens Institute of Technology — New Jersey, USA

University of Dundee — Dundee, Scotland

The International Youth Service

As a young person, the IYS helped me to connect with new friends around the world. By completing a form and paying the seventy five cent fee, I would be sent the address of an international student who wanted to participate in a letter exchange. Forty years later, I look back on a lifetime of friendships that have made the world a much smaller and more welcoming place.

I met Nadine Van Huyse of Belgium through this program, and we have been writing since 1979. She and her husband Rik have been welcoming me to Lauwe, Belgium many times in the years since, along with her family – Tom and Janneke, with children Brent and Fran; and Brecht and Elke. Belgium has so many wonderful sites to see, from beaches to big cities, historical to modern sites, and not to forget its chocolates and trappist beers — and most of all its friendly people. Always many reasons to return…

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