How a five minutes break at la Grande Ecole du Droit changed my life – From Paris-Sud University to the University of Oregon

 

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  • The chance of an application, the work of the will

During the break in the lecture by Professor Harris, on another freezing December day about a year ago, my eyes froze on one of the innumerable posters which line the walls of the faculty. That day, it was not a poster offering me a job as an English speaking baby sitter but one with the serious label ‘French-American Fulbright commission’ which is known to offer a generous scholarship in different US universities. The list also mentioned the criteria to be eligible. What a bargain ?! usually, you get discouraged when you see you’re not eligible although the first sight of the poster had made you dreamt. But this time, I checked all the criteria and was delighted to see I matched them all ! I was thrilled and I must say I already pictured myself on the benches of a US campus, holding a Starbucks cup. I was ready to live the American dream.

After a period of a few weeks of application punctuated by the writing of the application form, an oral and in short, an intensive work, I received the mail of selection by a warm day of spring.

• An exceptional academic experience

The program is called “Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSIs) for Student Leaders from Europe”. The SUSI programs for Student Leaders from Europe last five weeks. The institutes consist in a balanced series of seminar discussions, readings, group presentations, and lectures. In 2017, each Institute had up to 22 undergraduate students from all over Europe and included a four-week academic residency component and a one-week integrated study tour. In 2017, the institutes were hosted by the University of Southern Carolina, the University of Oregon, and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga on the topics of Civic Engagement, Environmental Issues, and Social Entrepreneurship, all respectively.

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The Institute I attended is the SUSI on Environmental Issues. It has allowed me to explore current themes in environmental studies, which included natural resource management, sustainable development/ sustainable agricultural practices, food security, ecotourism, energy generation (new and traditional forms), and water management and treatment. The program was interactive and experiential, with field trips to research facilities and opportunities for classroom discussion. The issues were explored from numerous angles: local grassroots activism and civic initiatives, market-oriented approaches, and federal government policies and regulation. I had amazing opportunities to engage with policy makers, lawyers, individuals in technical positions, community representatives, indigenous leaders, and other key actors committed to the protection and management of the environment.

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During these five weeks, I developed a project around green tourism with some other participants. I had the honour of presenting this idea in Washington DC at the SUSI Review Ceremony. Now back in France, I intend to continue this project in team through the program “Les Entrepreuneuriales”, Paris-Saclay edition, for which our project application was successful.

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• An extraordinary human adventure

The 2017 Summer will probably remain my most important summer in my young adult life. I participated in a human experience that made me grow up, challenge my achievements, widen my field of vision and finally has allowed me to access new perceptions as well on my field of study that on the surrounding world. I came back to France, changed, with all the unforgettable moments I had in the United States, determined, ready to meet new challenges.

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What I remember, after 5 weeks of seminar, is that only one person, one project, one moment can change our lives forever. To change our mentality, our thinking, to force us to see under another angle everything, that we thought, that we knew and force us to ask ourselves the toughest questions: Who am I? Did I understand what happened? Do I want to lead this life?

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Link for 2018 SUSI’s Application: http://www.fulbright-france.org/fr/espace-bourses-USA/programmes/summer-institutes-student-leaders

Link for 2017 SUSI on Environmental Issues video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQd9mhqEf7w&t=179s

Benjamin Bienert (GED2)