Fulbright Scholars: Maria Hamalian and Natalia Shakina

April 22, 2012

Sara Lynn McCall Graduate Assistant

Fulbright Scholars: Maria Hamalian and Natalia Shakina


VALDOSTA -- Since August 2011, Maria Hamalian of Lebanon and Natalia Shakina of Russia have been teaching at Valdosta State University through the Fulbright Scholars Program. The program provides grants to approximately 800 foreign scholars from over 95 countries to lecture and/or conduct post-doctorate research at U.S. institutions for an academic semester to a full academic year.

Maria Hamalian

Hamalian is Lebanese of Armenian origin and was born and raised in Lebanon. She enjoys traveling and has a great interest in languages and cultures, which has been her starting point of becoming a Fulbright scholar. Mastering Armenian, Arabic, English and some French boosted her chances of achieving the privilege of carrying the title of a Fulbright Scholar.

She received her B.A. in English Language and Literature and Methodology of Teaching from Lebanese University in 2010 and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in English Literature.

VSU has a new Fulbright Scholar teaching Arabic on a yearly basis, and Hamalian’s application was matched with VSU. She arrived the U.S. in August 2011 and started teaching Arabic in the fall. Although she has taught English before, this is her first experience teaching her native language of Arabic. This experience has given her the opportunity to appreciate her native language further and be inspired by her students' interest.

“My fellow Fulbright scholars and I agree that this experience has had a long-term impact on our lives and potentials of reaching to others and making a difference through our domains,” said Hamalian. “I believe we have succeeded in bringing our cultures closer together and celebrating both our similarities and differences. As a Fulbright Scholar, I will always carry this title with much gratitude and pride because, as we say, ‘Once a Fulbrighter, always a Fulbrighter.’”

Being a Fulbright Scholar is a privilege and a goal that Hamalian has always aspired to achieve. The experience has given her the opportunity to learn through teaching and being actively involved in the American community and unique culture. Her involvement in the Fulbright Scholar Program highlighted her belief that even though international cultures can be highly varied, humanity remains a universal attribute that people from around the world have in common.

Natalia Shakina

Shakina is from the relatively small Russian city of Tomsk, which is in the middle of Siberia. The city is over 400 years old and is called Siberian Athens because there are many educational institutions, which include six state and several non-government universities, colleges and schools.

She studied at the Tomsk Pedagogical University and majored in English. When Shakina graduated in 2008, she started working for the National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University and worked for three years as the English instructor.

During her second year, she applied for the Fulbright Scholarship and was successful in her endeavors. The process took about a year, and Natalia came to the U.S. at the beginning of August 2011 to have the orientation at Columbia University, NY. After orientation, she came to Valdosta to start the semester of teaching her language and sharing her culture at VSU.

“I must say that I was and still am amazed how different and at the same time similar we all are,” said Shakina. “I am not talking about the difference in Russian and American culture only, as I was able to meet Fulbrighters and exchange students from all around the world. I am proud to call myself a Fulbrighter.”

Although Fulbright Scholars do not get to choose the university, state or city they will work in, Shakina is extremely glad and thankful to be at VSU. She is enjoying this experience and her love for her students is evident. This is her first experience in teaching her own language, but she says her students make it easy by their interest and curiosity.

For more information on the Fulbright Scholars program, contact VSU’s Center for International Programs at (229) 333-7410 or visit www.cies.org.