Some participants of the Fulbright Program,a prestigious international program coordinated by the US State Department,
had completed only weeks of their stint before being told it was ending,
because of the covid pandemic.
My four brothers my mom downsized because we all are old and moved out,
and then now to have to come home and live in a her tiny like retirement home,
like theres no space for us.
but some because of dire personal circumstances were able to stay abroad.
I dont have a great relationship with my family back home.
Its not really a great place to be.
So kind of honestly, through tears over the phone with somebody at the embassy and like the people here.
I was like, I like until health wise.
This is a much better place for me to be than going back home.
But the State Department cancelled the program in March, roughly eight months early for most participants.
These Fulbrighters had to scramble to get on a plane home.
Some wished they could have left even sooner.
I am a little bit disappointed with the State Department,
because I think they waited too long.
So that and especially for Fulbright that we had to fly a home through Europe,and so that was late for that things who had already blown up in Italy and I was pretty uncomfortable.
In an email to VOA a Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs spokesperson said that beginning February 28th,
it repeatedly urged and offered assistance to American Fulbright participants to depart from overseas and return home.
But many Fulbright Scholars say they didnt receive messages to consider leaving until early March.
The following weeks were full of rapidly changing guidance and panic they say.
March 11th we get a Tet or an email that saying,
hey we we pretty much recommend that you dont travel for for spring break.
But then two days later they sent another message that was like we strongly encourage you to get out of the country now.
So the mood just changed to really really really fast,
Participants are now considered alumni and will receive the title of Fulbright as well as the stipend through June.
But beyond finding new homes and supplemental income,
fulbrighters say theyre most disappointed that they couldnt finish their projects.
Its much more important and for me to have the experience,
and I actually do the research and make great connections with the people here than it is to write Fulbright alumni on my resume.
But other Fulbrighters say they dont fault organizers in the State Department.
You know its a pandemic. Everything changed and so I give a lot of breaks too.everybody a decision had to be made.
Whether they are looking for jobs in the United States or in their adopted country.
Fulbright writers have had to change their career plans for the rest of the year.
Yaser I VOA news Washington