Enthusiastic – and highly caffeinated – smiles greeted the Royal Library of Belgium as the newest cohort of Fulbright grantees slowly trickled into the building, newcomer jitters in tow, eagerly awaiting their program orientation. After a steady chorus of casual greetings and public transit mishaps, Fulbright Executive Director Erica Lutes formally opened the presentation by asking each grantee to introduce themselves to the group — and introduce themselves they did.
This year’s group of Fulbright grantees boasts a wide array of incredibly accomplished individuals, with eight student researchers, nine English teaching assistants, and five scholars (to arrive in the spring) in Belgium, six English teaching assistants and one researcher in Luxembourg, and three Schuman researchers. With such a diverse range of backgrounds to draw from, there did not appear to be one academic stone left unturned.
Polite chuckles laced with pride accompanied the account of many grantees’ interests, and, with projects like “exploring the role of prenylation in plant crop productivity and plant defense” or “understanding the implications of chronic pain on philosophies regarding life well-lived,” one begins to understand why: these are the movers and shakers of the world. Each and every one of the Fulbright grantees were united in their awe-inspiring ability to do and to do it well.
The day was a blur of technical information, including grantee responsibilities and resources, and an introduction to cultural differences that asked grantees to think about what diversity looks like in a European context. As orientation drew to a close, the newly acquainted Fulbright family made their way to the BELvue Museum for a guided tour on the history of Belgium. Minds spinning with details about their new home, the grantees wandered the former house of the Belgian monarchy, quickly exchanging phone numbers on WhatsApp and making plans for the future before splitting off toward their respective lodgings in Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp, Leuven, Luxembourg City, and beyond.
Putting faces to the names of those with whom we have been communicating these last few months is always such a rewarding experience for us here at the Fulbright Commission. To our newest grantees, we wish you nothing but the best in your adjustment to Belgium and Luxembourg! We would also like to acknowledge our colleagues at the U.S. Embassy to Belgium, the U.S. Embassy to Luxembourg, and the U.S. Mission to the European Union; thank you for your participation in orientation events and your continued support for the American Fulbrighters.
Shelby White is an intern at the Fulbright Commission in Brussels. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California.