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They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and for many of the Fulbright scholars attending the pre-academic program at the Monterey Institute, the time they spend here is their first introduction to the United States. It has become a cherished summer tradition for MIIS to host the Fulbright English for Graduate Studies program here on campus, providing academic courses as well cultural experiences.

The students attend English language courses with Monterey Institute faculty, attend lectures by various faculty and community members touching upon different aspects of life in the U.S., and attend “Graduate Student Life Skills” workshops focusing on real-life issues such as health and safety, banking, computer skills, getting along with roommates and more.

Cultural activities include hiking at Garland Ranch, visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, traveling to San Francisco, participating in dinners at the homes of Monterey County community members, and attending a Monterey Institute community traditional Iftar dinner to celebrate the breaking of the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Among volunteer activities the students participate in are giving cultural presentations at the Boys & Girls Club, and helping with United Way‘s “Stuff the Bus” event this Saturday to provide school supplies to children in need.

“One of the things I really value about this program is that it helps the participants build a strong support network,” says Katie Dutcher, assistant director of Intensive English Programs. The students come from countries as far away from each other as Nicaragua and Turkmenistan, Indonesia and Albania, and after their experience in Monterey they depart to universities all over the U.S., returning home upon completion of their studies. “During this first month, all of these diverse and amazing people get to meet and form a team, and I love the way they support and encourage each other throughout their studies.”

One of the scholars said at the welcome reception that he believed there was a very negative impression of the U.S. in his home country, but after his time in Monterey he would tell everyone how wonderful the people are. No need to ask for a second chance at that first impression!

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir