Sep 30, 2015

The Fulbright grant ends but the Fulbright experience has just started

By Bernd Wurth

Fulbright Alumnus, German Student 2012/2013

Moving to Texas from a small town in Westphalia is a huge step. Being born and raised in Westphalia, you experience people who are down-to-earth, calm, and hardworking. These are virtues that you embrace for yourself. On the other hand, there is Texas, the Lone Star State, where everything is bigger (and according to all Texans also better). It is also the Friendly State, where people are genuinely friendly, upfront with their opinions, confident, and even boasting (from a Westphalian perspective). In addition, my clothing style was supposed to change to boots, jeans, shirt, and a hat. By the end of my studies I should own at least two guns and a horse that I ride to university. So far the stereotypes. Did I turn into a "real" Texan? No. Did my perception and my understanding of the American, and Texan culture in particular, change? Yes.

A trip to the botanical garden in San Antonio

I finished my Bachelor’s degree in early 2012 and received my Fulbright grant for my graduate studies at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) for the academic year 2012/2013. UTSA might not seem like an obvious choice, but they offered an interesting program and were, hence, one of the universities that I contacted during the Fulbright application process. Eventually, it was Dr. Flannery, Head of the Department of Entrepreneurship and Technology Management at the time, who showed me the research opportunities at UTSA. Studying and conducting research at a fairly young university that is on the path to become a Tier 1 Research University was an exciting experience. UTSA went through major changes under Dr. Romo’s leadership (and still does) and you could feel the excitement and the willingness to improve and advance the university on so many levels.

Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Minneapolis/St. Paul

The M.Sc. in Management of Technology (MSMOT) program at UTSA was in many ways complementary to my undergraduate studies in engineering. With a focus on technology commercialization and technology-based entrepreneurship, the courses that I took built on my existing knowledge about design and product development. Small classes, a great diversity among my fellow students ranging from people like me, who just finished their undergraduate studies, to senior managers in their 50s, and engaged professors provided a fertile ground for discussion and active learning.

In addition to my studies at UTSA, I worked as a research assistant for Dr. Cory Hallam. Not only did he introduce me to simulation approaches in business and entrepreneurship (and the social sciences in general), his mentoring and guidance fostered my development as an academic as well as on a personal level. Working with him inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. and we still collaborate on research projects. After graduating from UTSA, my research has (naturally) evolved and diversified but it traces back to the work we did.

Although studying full-time and working part-time had an impact on my free time, I was able to experience the "Texas way of life". From country music, line dance and two-step to the mechanic bull and the shooting range, my friends introduced me to everything one has to experience while living in Texas. And it took even less time than I thought to get to enjoy American football (which is more of a religion than just a sport in Texas, and, hence, essential for settling in). While I occasionally keep greeting people with a friendly "hey y’all!" and people here in the UK stare at me, I did not turn into a cowboy. There are, however, significant differences in the German and Texan way of life (and to my American friends: yes, there is more to Germany than Lederhosen and Sauerkraut!), there are things that people in both countries can learn from each other.

I was also fortunate to be invited to attend both a Fulbright Gateway Orientation at Lincoln University, PA and an Enrichment Seminar in Minneapolis/St. Paul. It was an incredible mix of people from over 70 countries and totally different cultures, with a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. The program and the workshops at both events were great, but it was this mix of people, the socializing, and the discussions that made both an incredible experience. Further to the variety of backgrounds and countries of origin, meeting scholars that were spread out all over the U.S., experiencing different cultures and specific regional characteristics, provided a whole new perspective on the U.S.

San Francisco was among the best places that I visited during my stay

Fulbright has ever since accompanied me. Together with other German alumni, I shared my experiences and practical tips with German Fulbright scholars during the Berlin Seminar 2014. It was great seeing how they were looking forward to their time in the U.S., having the same concerns and issues that we had before leaving Germany.

In addition, I shared some of my experiences in the U.S. as well as an overview of my current research with American Fulbrighters, who took part in the Fulbright-Scotland Summer Institute (FSSI) 2015. The FSSI was co-hosted by the University of Dundee and the University of Strathclyde, where the students spent three and two weeks, respectively. Together with one of my supervisors, Dr. Niall Mackenzie, we organized a workshop around the creation of social enterprises, during which I gave a presentation about my time in the U.S.

Lastly, I started working on a collaborative project with a former Fulbright scholar from Mexico. As part of the Dual Year of Mexican-UK Partnership, we are working on a workshop with participants from both countries to increase the collaboration between universities and industry and foster student entrepreneurship. It’s an event that connects people, not all of whom are Fulbright scholars, but it embodies the Fulbright spirit and would have never happened without Fulbright.

Me presenting some of my research that is based on my work at UTSA at a conference in 2015

I am grateful to the German-American Fulbright Commission for providing me with this opportunity, the people I met and the impact it had (and still has) on my life!

In the academic year 2012-2013, Bernd Wurth was a Fulbright grantee at The University of Texas at San Antonio. Bernd holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences in Soest, Germany. During his stay in the U.S., he got a Master of Science in Management of Technology. Bernd is currently pursuing his doctoral studies in management science and entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK.

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