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kelly proctor, CHINA, 2007-2008

Fulbright Year: 2007-2008
Country: China
Proposal Type: Research
Proposal Title: Freedom of Environmental Reporting in China
UGA Undergraduate Major: Newspapers
Graduation Date: May 2007
Hometown: Urbanna, VA

Journalism student Kelly Proctor, whose Fulbright year found her working throughout China, discovered – much to her elation – that just about anywhere you go, you’re likely to find a reference to the University of Georgia.

“When I started the Fulbright grant, I moved to Beijing’s Renmin University (‘People’s University’) and began auditing courses in journalism and ecology,” says Kelly, whose tenure in China began in the city of Harbin on a State Department Critical Language Enhancement Award. “It was fascinating to listen to journalism being taught from the viewpoint of a Communist Party instructor. Another interesting experience was when I was perusing the journalism books in the library and I saw a book from UGA’s own Conrad Fink!”

Kelly describes her activities in China as being “a graduate student, a volunteer, a homestay participant, a researcher, and a traveler.” In one of the homes where she stayed, Kelly resided with a couple from Mongolia whose 4-year-old daughter was on television. During her second homestay residency, she kept busy with a host of responsibilities.

“I translated Chinese language environmental blogs for the international free-speech advocacy website, was an English language instructor at an environmental non-governmental organization, and coordinated an effort with two fellow Fulbrighters to raise money to pay the medical bills of a factory worker who had fallen off of an overpass in Guangzhou,” she says.

Her role as a researcher also bore fruit as she developed a coding analysis of the freedom of environmental reporting in three Chinese newspapers and presented her findings at a Harvard University conference.

Kelly, who says her most memorable time in China came while watching rowing and track events at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics (“It was overwhelming to sit in the lovely Bird’s Nest stadium and watch history unfold as China, once a closed-off society, hosted the world,” she said), adds that her Fulbright year was helpful in terms of learning to cope with life’s complexities.

“The Fulbright was truly a singular experience, and one of the most intellectually and spiritually rewarding times of my life,” she says. “Through it I increased my confidence to handle life events. I felt better about my ability to handle difficult situations after I negotiated the labyrinthine Beijing bus system and haggled with my Chinese landlord about the price of rent.”

Now working as a consultant researching land conservation and ecosystem services in her native Virginia, Kelly says she hopes to find ways to contribute to the Chinese environmental system and also hopes relations between the United States and China can be improved.

“My Fulbright year taught me that China is an endlessly complex country, but one that the United States would do well to cooperate with, instead of rattle sabers at,” she says.

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