What Starts Here Changes the World

Ariane Moore, 2022 Fulbright Tasmania Scholar

Completing a Fulbright program as a postgraduate Visiting Scholar at the University of Texas at Austin has been a transformative experience.

Attending for four months over the 2022 fall semester, my Fulbright Tasmania Scholarship provided access to incredible philosophy academics and resources to utilise towards my project: a thesis chapter contrasting a Kantian experience of the sublime with a secular mystical experience. My Fulbright research will contribute to establishing a coherent account of a nature-induced mystical experience, with significance for both environmental ethics and meaning-making in an increasingly secular world.

Besides academic work, I engaged in a variety of development activities that significantly impacted my professional growth.As a postgraduate researcher in environmental ethics, I consider applied philosophy to be a valuable resource for policymaking. With funding from the Fulbright Commission, I attended the 35th annual Concerned Philosophers for Peace Conference hosted by the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. I appreciated the practical nature of the conference as it discussed current and future threats to peace resulting from the impacts of climate change.

I also participated in a ‘Meet-A-Scholar’ event for Texas Global during UT Austin’s International Education Week. I spoke about my Fulbright project and research generally to an audience of undergraduate and postgraduate students, faculty, and staff, and shared personal stories about my life in Tasmania. Several attendees later told me that I was the first Tasmanian they were aware of ever meeting – an enormous honour for me and one that reinforced the importance of thoughtfully representing my home state.

The Fulbright program at UT Austin not only influenced my academic and professional life but also significantly impacted my personal growth. The program gave me a unique opportunity to live overseas for the first time, immerse myself in a new culture and academic environment, and learn from some of the brightest minds in my field of philosophy and beyond it. I was constantly exposed to interdisciplinary and internationally focused approaches to problem-solving, which expanded my knowledge and perspectives in ways I hadn’t considered prior to undertaking my Fulbright program. Interacting with professors, researchers, and students from different backgrounds and disciplines helped me grasp the nuances of the academic world outside of Australia.

My time in Texas increased my confidence to take risks and embrace unexpected challenges as a growth opportunity. I learned to navigate unfamiliar environments and became more adaptable and resourceful, developing my cross-cultural communication skills along the way. On my first day in Austin, I was nervous about walking to a nearby Target at sundown; three months later, I was wandering the French Quarter of New Orleans on a Saturday night, enjoying conversations with strangers and the freedom of solo travel.

Finally, my Fulbright program has given me a renewed sense of direction. Starting my PhD in March 2020, the same month the COVID-19 pandemic first gripped the world, was challenging. I kept my head down for the first two years of researching and studying. However, attending the University of Texas at Austin in my third year reminded me of the immense value of connecting with and learning from international scholars – both as a researcher and a citizen of the world.

As I enter the final phase of my PhD, I continually reflect on all I learned in the United States. When asked how my Fulbright program was, I’ve been using one word to summarise this complex story of education, opportunity, friendships, growth and culture: ‘expanded’.

The motto ‘What starts here changes the world’ is visible everywhere at UT Austin, and the sense of hope and community has profoundly impacted my understanding of what higher education makes possible.