In the wake of a catastrophic coral bleaching event earlier this year, I felt led to tell the coral reef’s story and apply to a Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship. I discovered this fellowship right before embarking on our 5-week study abroad trip to the British Virgin Islands with the Marine science And Nautical Training Academy (MANTA) and the College of Charleston. This is by far the busiest time of year for our nonprofit; prepping and coordinating 23 people to travel safely out of the country, and orchestrating an amazing trip to inspire and teach students about the marine environment. Therefore, not the best time to work on submitting such a huge project proposal with Fulbright National Geographic. In addition to co-leading the program, I made a point to document the trips and tell the student’s stories of their experiences abroad as a project for the fellowship and MANTA. This left me with one month after our return to the states to finish the rest of the application requirements and secure affiliations and international collaborations from two countries even with challenges from Hurricane Matthew, phew!
Well, today is the long awaited day… it is Fulbright fellowship submission day. In the final hours I wait for the last pieces to come together. I have learned so much throughout this process! To start, this is my first project proposal. I have learned how to better organize my thoughts as a project on paper and allow myself the freedom to think big. Projects such as this require a massive amount of teamwork, so I have learned to reach out for lots of help through reconnecting with previous colleagues for recommendations and connections and requesting mentorship support from world renowned scientists and researchers in Australia and Indonesia. It is humbling to realize we are all on the same page, and all agree this coral bleaching story needs to be told in a way that bridges the gap between science and the community.
Just in itself, completing this application in such a time crunch feels like an incredible accomplishment. Regardless of the fellowship’s outcome, the support from others has truly been a great success. I am beyond grateful for all the support I have received from multiple international institutions, nonprofits, and universities. I am confident that the connections I have made throughout this application process will further guide me towards fulfilling my life’s purpose.
This Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship application has been an Ebenezer for me. An Ebenezer is a way to celebrate and recognize the divine success from pursuing a dream, and this whole process has been just that. Strength in myself, trusting in others, growth in my faith, and learning to enjoy every moment while pushing aside fears, stress, and doubts. Throughout this past month, I kept reminding myself that all great things come from taking big risks and being disciplined to achieve your calling. I am so grateful to have accomplished this growth in myself.
Thank you everyone for your support including colleagues, potential international mentors and collaborators, family, friends, and the MANTA students for inspiring me to speak up for our oceans. My heart if full of gratitude as the support for this project has been overwhelming! I feel the biggest hurdle was overcoming the fear that surrounds a dream too big to hold, but that breath of accomplishment concluding your Ebenezer moment and pushing past that fear is worth every single struggle!