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Photo credit: Maria Sanchez

Thank Fulbright – Thanksgiving—what a tradition! More than 100 alumni and friends joined Fulbright Austria in celebrating Thanksgiving on "Giving Tuesday" (November 27) at Glacis Beisl. Austrian and American Fulbright alumni from seven decades mingled with friends of the Fulbright Program over a traditional dinner co-hosted by Fulbright Austria and the Austrian Fulbright Alumni Association to celebrate and recognize our first major donors.

We asked Maria Sanchez—one of the Fulbright Alumni, current Fulbright recipients, and guests of honor that enjoyed the turkey & wine reception—to share a few words about her experience that evening.

An evening full of thanks and giving

I had the chance to meet Robin Dunnigan, the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Austria. Being from California, she was quick to offer a lending hand if I ever missed home. I also met Paul Schwind and Cornelia Stellwag, both Fulbright Alumni, who gave me many recommendations on places to visit and things to try in Vienna. We joked and spoke about their experiences in a different country as well as some of the challenges I’ve had to overcome here in Austria.

Soon after, I gave a short speech about how Fulbright and my community-based grant had shaped my life. I remember being nervous and scared because there were so many important people there. Paul and Cornelia were very supportive and let me know I had nothing to worry about.

Near the end of the night, I sat with some of my Fulbright Austria friends and some of the Fulbright Austria staff members. We spoke about where we’d traveled and how things were going with our projects and shared many fun and interesting stories. It’s moments like these that remind me of how grateful I am to be part of the Fulbright Austria family.

There was a strong sense of appreciation and support throughout the night. Despite being different from everyone—a first-generation Mexican-American woman—I felt comfortable and inspired to take on the world. In fact, after speaking about and listening to the experiences of those around me, I decided I wanted to become a global leader as well. I would love to go to meetings all over the world and help increase understanding between countries—and not just with global health problems, which is what my background is in, but with human rights issues as well. As I said during my short speech, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not."” - Dr. Seuss

Maria Sanchez is currently a combined grantee studying at the University of Vienna as a Fulbright student while simultaneously teaching English as a US teaching assistant in the USTA program administered by Fulbright Austria on behalf of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.