Fulbright Salam was created by two Fulbright Austria alumnae, Isra Hussain and Arwa Elabd. While Isra came to Austria as a researcher and USTA in 2018–2019, Arwa spent the 2017–2018 program year as a Fulbright foreign language teaching assistant (FLTA) at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Both of them met in Austria and immediately connected over their Fulbright experience. It was clear to both of them that their experiences in the US and in Austria was very similar.
Leaving your comfort zone and going to another country is already a huge step that is often accompanied by anxiety. Every one of us who receives a scholarship and goes to another country has to deal with a new language, new culture, bureaucracy, meeting new people, finding a new place to live, opening a bank account, making new friends, and so on. But what connected Arwa and Isra was that as brown, Muslim women, these daily activities were often accompanied by daily discrimination.
Inspired by existing organizations within the Fulbright community such as Fulbright Noir, Fulbright Prism, Fulbridge, and Fulbright Latinx, Isra and Arwa decided to create Fulbright Salam. All of these organizations focus on various aspects of diversity:
- Fulbright Prism empowers LGBTQIA+ Fulbrighters to be out in the world. It was founded in 2018 by Michaela Gill, Lara Steinike, and Tim Sensenig (all ETAs in Germany in 2016–2017). The organization is fully incorporated as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit in the United States and accomplishes its mission by connecting LGTQIA+ Fulbrighters, collecting and sharing resources, and conducting programming. It currently provides resources for 13 countries—and includes alumni from many more.
- Fulbright Noir sheds light on the experience of black Fulbrighters all over the globe. They are committed to sharing the stories and projects of black grantees. This organization was founded in 2017 on the social-media platform Instagram, where stories from grantees and other helpful information are shared.
- Fulbright Lotus is a diversity initiative that centers on promoting and supporting Asian Fulbrighters abroad. Inspired by Fulbright Noir and Fulbright Prism, Thanh Mai and Amica Rapadas co-founded Fulbright Lotus in the summer of 2019. The organization’s mission is to offer guidance and educational support to members of the Asian diaspora. Fulbright Lotus stands in solidarity with fellow Asian Fulbrighters by raising awareness and visibility for issues the community faces.
- Fulbright Latinx has a similar goal as the abovementioned organizations but they put their focus on Latinxs. It’s an inclusive community that highlights the stories of Latinx members from the past and present and also give a lot of helpful advice during the application process.
- Last but not least founded in 2015, Fulbridge aims to build bridges and increase understanding between countries and cohorts. The organization encourages grantees to share knowledge about their host countries and learn about regions beyond their own placements. Their website endeavors to convey the diversity of grantee experiences and to promote grantee-led projects that foster cross-country collaborations.
Inspired by all these amazing organizations that all hope to make the Fulbright community a more inclusive space, Fulbright Salam wants to shed light on Muslims who receive a Fulbright scholarship—from and to the United States.