Geoffrey Hiller, Independent Scholar - Photographer
Fulbright Specialist to National College of Arts, Lahore and National College of Arts, Rawalpindi (Pakistan)
My Fulbright Specialist grant gave me the opportunity to lead documentary photography workshops at the National College of Arts in Rawalpindi and Lahore, Pakistan. In addition, I gave a talk and presentation at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad about photography and cultural diplomacy. I also gave a presentation to students in the Communications Department at Ripah University in Islamabad.
It's rare for Americans to venture into Pakistan, so I know that students and faculty appreciated the effort I made in being there. My role as a “cultural ambassador” was every bit as important as my role as a teacher of photography. In addition to teaching students about photography, visual communications, and web technology, it was extremely important to meet faculty members and engage in dialogue about the issues and dramatic changes taking place in our shared industry. In spite of cultural and language differences, it was reaffirming to see how much we have in common.
The Fulbright experience also significantly impacted me. I learned to be more flexible and to see things from another perspective. In addition to teaching, I will cherish the memories of making deeper connections with students and faculty. Even after having previously traveled extensively throughout Asia, I found Pakistanis to be some of the most gracious and hospitable people I have ever met.
The trip was not without challenges. There was record-breaking heat of 117 degrees in Lahore. It did not seem to bother the students, but I appreciated the hotel with air conditioning that functioned well. Additionally, I arrived close to finals exams at the National College of Arts, so many students were preoccupied and unable to attend some of my field trips. On a personal note, I much appreciated the drivers assigned to me in both Islamabad and Lahore, as well as the staff at the guest house in Islamabad. The support staff of the U.S. Educational Foundation of Pakistan was exceptionally helpful.
Since September, 2001, relations between the United States and Pakistan have been strained. Prior to that time there was more interaction and exchange. The Fulbright Program is one of the few avenues to continue fostering such interaction and communication. I look forward to returning to the National College of Arts in Lahore and Rawalpindi and continuing the work that I've begun there.