On November 18, Fulbright alumni and current grantees from Albania and the United States gathered for a virtual celebration of the Fulbright Program’s 75th anniversary. During Albania’s Fulbright Day, which coincided with International Education Week, Public Affairs Officers Chad Twitty and Amanda Roberson delivered welcome remarks and highlighted the many contributions of Albanian Fulbright alumni in academia, where a large number hold leadership positions.
The event featured a panel of distinguished Albanian Fulbright alumni—Mr. Zydi Teqja (University of Wisconsin), Ms. Marjana Semini (University of Virginia), and Ms. Merita Xhetani (New York Blood Center, Long Island)—who spoke about the tremendous impact that Fulbright has had on their lives and careers. Following their Fulbright grants, Mr. Teqja created a new Bachelor’s degree study program in Landscape Architecture at Albania’s University of Agriculture, Ms. Semini became one of the founding members and first directors of Albania’s School of Magistrates, and Ms. Xhetani implemented a new approach to research and student engagement as Professor of Genetics at the University of Tirana. Fittingly, the panel was moderated by another Fulbright alumna, Dr. Entela Hodaj Celiku (Harvard Medical School).
After the panel, Public Affairs Section Tirana opened the floor to Fulbright alumni from the United States and Albania, who shared their own stories of Fulbright’s impact on their lives. For example, Dr. Arben Beqiri, a surgeon at the University Hospital Center “Mother Teresa” in Tirana, credited the Fulbright Program with enabling him to spread the most innovative techniques in laparoscopic and endoscopic surgery to hospitals across Albania. Once unheard of, these procedures are now routine. Capturing the sentiments of American and Albanian Fulbrighters alike, Dr. Beqiri called his Fulbright “the privilege of a lifetime.”
In closing remarks, Program Officer Zach Przystup highlighted some of Fulbright’s recent achievements in Albania despite the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. First, the Government of Albania’s generous contribution of $165,000 to the Fulbright Program for five years will increase the number of grants available to Albanian students pursuing Master’s degrees in the United States from 10 to 25 over that time period. Additionally, in 2020 the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) used special funds to support three additional Albanian students studying media literacy, disinformation, and democratic governance in the United States. Finally, with Albania’s implementation of mandatory English language instruction starting in the first grade, Fulbright will be exploring the possibility of bringing the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program to Albania, furthering the Program’s mission to foster mutual understanding, share knowledge, and improve lives around the world.
Note that Albania held their Fulbright Day celebration earlier than their official date of December 2nd.