Featured Person: David Albala
Before researching film production in the United States on a Fulbright Foreign Student Program, David started by researching wheelchair accessibility in his host environment.
Name: David Albala
Home Country: Chile
Disability: Paraplegia, wheelchair user
Host Country and Institution: United States, University of Texas at Austin
Program Length: 1 year
Program Type: Fulbright (MFA in Film and Television Production)
Was your international exchange experience arranged through an exchange organization? If so, what was the application process like?
I have known about the Fulbright program for a long time. My uncle received a Fulbright in the 1960s and I’ve wanted to apply since I can remember. I thought it would be a remarkable experience, and I wasn’t wrong. Fulbright staff in Chile were very helpful and encouraging all the time during the advising, application and orientation process. They were able to address any disability-related questions I had, and I had no problem with accessibility at their office.
What has your experience been like as a person with a disability in the United States?
I did a lot of research before I came to the United States to find things like accessible housing. To assist me during the first week while I got settled, I brought a friend from Chile with me; having someone here was very important to me. It has been easy for me to get around campus in my wheelchair as everything is accessible. I also have a car or I can easily take the bus when I need to go off campus.
While I am having a very good experience, it is a myth that things are perfect for people with disabilities in the United States. I have experienced classmates that have not wanted to work with me, but I accept there will be barriers wherever I go, and will work harder to make my projects and dreams come true.
How have you been developing your career in the United States?
I had been working many years making documentaries in Chile, and I came to study in the United States to make the transition to narrative films. In school so far, I have made two fiction short films, “Elevation” and “Soul Check Mate”. It’s been a great time to learn more, practice and start choosing what kind film I’d like to make in the future.
Do you have any goals for when you return to Chile?
As I work on my MFA I want to create networks for my future film projects and for other Chilean filmmakers that haven’t this wonderful opportunity, especially young filmmakers. I also want to make co-productions between the United States and Chile.
Read more Fulbright alumni with disabilities stories online in the special edition of the A World Awaits You journal by clicking here.