SUU In View (Alumni Magazine - Spring 2004)
SUU Fulbright scholar travels to Portugal
Jon Smith left the comfort and familiarity of SUU this past Fall semester to share his expertise of the broadcasting field and in turn, perhaps learn a little himself, as a Fulbright Scholar at a Catholic University in Porto, Portugal. Teaching at SUU for 15 years, Smith, associate professor and department chair of Communications readied himself and his family for a different way of life before departing to the new country for a 6 month stay.
Smith’s venture abroad was made possible last year when he received a coveted position as a Fulbright Scholar. Smith applied for the award in August 2002 because he knew it would enable him to expand his international broadcasting experience as well as grant the opportunity to share knowledge with students from a different culture.
Though Smith was primarily in Porto to teach, his time there provided much opportunity for learning. “I have learned a lot about Portugal’s history and its contribution and significance to international events,” he said. “We visited the city of Lisbon and saw a thriving, busy city that was rebuilding itself for a second time after being destroyed by a major earthquake in 1755…that was before our Declaration of Independence was signed!”
Smith’s realizations are part of what founder, J. William Fulbright, hoped those involved with his project would come to understand when the program was established in 1946 after WWII as a vehicle for promoting “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world.”
In Porto, Smith worked with students to produce their own bodies of work. Because Brazil is the largest Portuguese speaking country most of the programming and films broadcast in Portugal are Brazilian. Smith’s goal was to help develop more Portuguese media producers and help produce more Portuguese programming.
Smith has also been an ambassador for SUU, handing out several business cards and taking opportunities to discuss the academic strengths of the University and the beauty of the surrounding national parks.
Living in a 3 bedroom apartment with his wife and 4 children in the second largest city in Portugal, Smith had to take a train to find open space. Though it took time to adjust to cultural and environmental differences, perhaps; it’s the idea that he and his family have grown accustomed to a new way of life that Smith has grown most comfortable with. “We have learned how to read maps and charts in order to get around. I have gained a better appreciation for the differences of people all over the world. Everyday things that we take for granted and accept in the US as superior may not be. The shape of light switches, how toilets work, how food is prepared; the way we do it in the US is just different, not necessarily superior.”