Rocio Oliva

Rocio Olivia

Fulbright Academic Grant, 2017–2018

In a rural community of Cusco, I sat in a small wooden chair while an 8-yr-old girl braided my hair. She asked me how to say words like “chair,” “hair,” and “braid” in English. I asked her about those same words in Quechua. We both laughed at my terrible pronunciation.

I was told I had a new student to prepare for the GRE, a dentist who hoped to study at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. We bonded instantly. She received her acceptance from Brandeis and is now my best friend in Peru.

I sat in a circle with women from the US and from Peru, grandmothers and high school students, professors and stay-at-home moms. We each shared our experiences and stated a word that encompasses being a woman based on those experiences. As we went around, I heard each of their powerful stories followed by words like “strength,” “sacrifice,” “hope,” and “love.” Tears and hugs were inevitable.

Fulbright is about these connections. The connections that last a few minutes and the connections that give rise to lifelong friendships. The connections that show us the differences between our cultures and the connections that make us realize we are all the same.