Former student Kyrgyzstan bound
Alumnus Alva Robinson has received a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research in Central Asia.
The Fulbright program allows students from the U.S. to embark on graduate study in another country. Robinson, who graduated from UH with bachelor’s degree in English and sociology, will study pop culture in the Kyrgyz Republican.
‘It is a blessing to have the Fulbright award,’ Robinson said. ‘It is also demanding of what it requires.’
Robinson discovered the Fulbright program in September 2008, a week before the application deadline. Despite the shortage of time, he scrambled for references, a statement of purpose and necessary background information.
‘Thankfully, I was able to submit everything on time,’ Robinson said. ‘(The) Fulbright team in Seattle got impressed with my references from UH, also with my focus and my research.’
Robinson received an e-mail in January stating that he was under consideration. He originally applied for Uzbekistan, but that program was not accepting any students this year. After changing his proposal to the Kyrgyz Republic, Robinson received a phone call from representatives at the Fulbright office in April because they liked his proposal.
‘I was crossing my fingers,’ Robinson said. ‘I was sweating bullets for two weeks and then I got the phone call, saying that I got the Fulbright fellowship.’
Robinson will leave for the Kyrgyz Republic on Sept. 18 to research comparative literature, with focus on the revival of traditional culture within popular media.
One of the Fulbright Scholarship’s missions is to bring cultures together by giving students the ability and opportunity to create a cultural exchange.
Robinson’s research often leads him to create other types of cultural exchange. He started the Association of Central Asia Students in Seattle with three goals: To help Central Asia students to help find interested researchers who need assistance with
Central Asian languages; and to promote Central Asian heritage and culture.
Robinson said the Central Asia study is the backbone of his award.
‘Central Asians have a rich culture that has been existing for thousands of years,’ Robinson said. ‘I hope that I can bring that to the United States.’
Robinson also likes the cultural exchange beyond language.
‘Last year I learned how to make mole,’ Robinson said. ‘When you know how to make international foods is when you really know you are part of the culture.’
When Robinson arrives in Kyrgyzstan he will be living in a dormitory, with access to Kyrgyz students to help him translate Russian to English.
Aside from the Fulbright award, Robinson also plans to earn a doctorate. He wants to create an organization that can be useful for Central Asians, Americans and his ancestry, Mexicans, to achieve a mutual and beneficial understanding.
Robinson worked hard to earn his scholarship and knows the value of battling through tough tasks.
‘Never give up. This is what I learned the hard way. Don’t give up.’