World Citizen: Embarking Scholar Embarks on Fulbright Experience

by Alice Serar

An intelligent, ambitious young scholar sits before me at an outdoor café near APU, where we converse in French. She listens attentively to my stories about living in Belgium more than 20 years ago on a Fulbright Scholarship. The poignancy of the moment is not lost on me as I realize my role reversal from student to mentor. I ponder the legacies generated by this great scholarship program and try to imagine how the one beginning right before my eyes will unfold over the years. We peruse travel books and pretend our French café is in Europe, both wondering what’s in store for this remarkable woman. Meet my student, my friend, Alice Serar! Carole Lambert, Ph.D., Director of Research

Window to the World< Sporting pigtails and armed with a pink Minnie Mouse suitcase, I anxiously awaited departure on my childhood dream vacation to Orlando, Florida. With two hours to spare, my dad took me by the hand and we wandered around Los Angeles International Airport. Stopping at the threshold of the international terminal, I gazed with awe at the swarms of people of every nationality bustling throughout the room.

As he guided his captivated six-year-old daughter through the terminal, my dad explained that the people passing by came from all over the world. I remember little of our family’s week-long adventure at “the happiest place on earth,” but I will always recall that moment when the enormity of the world hit me, and I realized I belonged to an international community.

Leap of Faith This snapshot of an awestruck young girl stumbling upon her life’s ambition must have touched someone’s heart on the Fulbright Scholarship Selection Committee. I always find it challenging to capture who I am in the short personal statements I conjure up for various applications. All the words I delicately arrange into a paragraph or two about my interests and goals hardly offer a glimpse into what makes me me. How do I explain that I have always preferred CNN and The Economist to MTV or Cosmopolitan? That a wall-sized world map flanks my bedroom wall, and books about the Middle East peace process and European integration clutter my shelves? That my bottomless ambition and burning desire to see every inch of God’s earth have kept me daydreaming for years of the moment I would walk through that international terminal at LAX and journey to a foreign land?

As clichéd as it may sound, I have always held the conviction that I am handcrafted by God, unique in my interests and in His plan for me. Without a background as a missionary’s kid or diplomat’s daughter, and with little travel experience outside the treacherous annual family road trip as a child, my international motivations are hard to explain. As perplexing as it may be for me, my family and friends struggled even more to grapple with the concept when I received a Fulbright Scholarship to study the international relations of the European Union for a year in Bruges, Belgium.

After the initial excitement and exchange of “congrats,” most asked, with smiles still grinning from ear to ear, “Where exactly is Belgium?” Many teens in my church youth group back home, having never heard of the EU, are still under the impression that I am studying the United Nations. Though full of love and support, few relatives and friends could offer tangible advice or guidance in the few months prior to my grand leap into the unknown.

Culture Mentor To my good fortune, one woman made certain I would board the plane in late August carrying more than heavy luggage and little-to-no knowledge about the culture I would be stepping into. Carole Lambert, Ph.D., whom I had met during the Fulbright application process at APU, completed her Fulbright year in 1985, conducting research in Belgium.

After receiving the news about my scholarship, I eagerly accepted her generous invitation to meet weekly during the summer to review my French and gather insight about what lay in store across the Atlantic. Sipping juice or a cappuccino at a local French café, Dr. Lambert laid out the do’s and don’ts in Belgian society and recalled lessons learned from her time spent in Brussels. Always equipped with a bundle of learning materials—French language CDs, travel guides—she overwhelmed me with her care and kindness. She became sincerely devoted to ensuring my smooth transition to a year away from all familiar to me.

As a severely unprepared aspiring world traveler, the mentoring relationship I developed with Dr. Lambert last summer played an essential role in preparing me both practically and spiritually for my amazing experience thus far in Bruges.

The College of Europe, with its internationally recognized EU studies graduate programs, hosts 300 students from across the globe. In this incredible microcosm of world cultures, I often find myself learning equally as much outside the classroom as in it. A classmate from Poland can relay the real dynamics of Polish elections, and another from Kosovo can express with passion the real-life implications of independence for the state.

While my master’s studies certainly find me working until the late hours of the night and catching naps on a corner desk on the third floor of the library, academic life is made endurable and enjoyable by the remarkable relationships I have formed with my colleagues. Together, we explore this beautifully preserved, small Flemish city and daily discover more about Belgian culture, each other, and ourselves.

Gateway to the Future The Fulbright Scholarship has provided a gateway to achieving my dreams; my time in Bruges has only just fanned the flame. Just as I thank God for that moment with my dad in the international terminal, I thank Him, too, for a mentor like Dr. Lambert, who guided me through to takeoff.

Alice Sear '07, a Glendora, California resident, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations at APU. aliceserar@gmail.com

Culture Mentor To my good fortune, one woman made certain I would board the plane in late August carrying more than heavy luggage and little-to-no knowledge about the culture I would be stepping into. Carole Lambert, Ph.D., whom I had met during the Fulbright application process at APU, completed her Fulbright year in 1985, conducting research in Belgium.

After receiving the news about my scholarship, I eagerly accepted her generous invitation to meet weekly during the summer to review my French and gather insight about what lay in store across the Atlantic. Sipping juice or a cappuccino at a local French café, Dr. Lambert laid out the do’s and don’ts in Belgian society and recalled lessons learned from her time spent in Brussels. Always equipped with a bundle of learning materials—French language CDs, travel guides—she overwhelmed me with her care and kindness. She became sincerely devoted to ensuring my smooth transition to a year away from all familiar to me.

As a severely unprepared aspiring world traveler, the mentoring relationship I developed with Dr. Lambert last summer played an essential role in preparing me both practically and spiritually for my amazing experience thus far in Bruges.

The College of Europe, with its internationally recognized EU studies graduate programs, hosts 300 students from across the globe. In this incredible microcosm of world cultures, I often find myself learning equally as much outside the classroom as in it. A classmate from Poland can relay the real dynamics of Polish elections, and another from Kosovo can express with passion the real-life implications of independence for the state.

While my master’s studies certainly find me working until the late hours of the night and catching naps on a corner desk on the third floor of the library, academic life is made endurable and enjoyable by the remarkable relationships I have formed with my colleagues. Together, we explore this beautifully preserved, small Flemish city and daily discover more about Belgian culture, each other, and ourselves.

Gateway to the Future The Fulbright Scholarship has provided a gateway to achieving my dreams; my time in Bruges has only just fanned the flame. Just as I thank God for that moment with my dad in the international terminal, I thank Him, too, for a mentor like Dr. Lambert, who guided me through to takeoff.

Alice Sear '07, a Glendora, California resident, earned a Bacherlor of Arts in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations at APU. aliceserar@gmail.com