Moving to Ann Arbor made me feel all kinds of feelings a human will experience in a lifetime. The first days you feel excited, tired, hungry and unsure. If you are lucky enough, like me, you’ll have a colleague who helps you fill your refrigerator and a program director from IHAA who knows everything about taxes.
After a week, you are kind of settled in, but the administration can take very long… You feel like paperwork will never stop and you’ll never find time to explore the city. If you are like me and kind of hard for yourself, you’ll get easily sad and disappointed. What saved me, you wonder? LAUNDRY! I did my very first laundry in the USA. If I could manage that, I could manage everything. I felt extremely happy. This accomplishment was definitely worth mentioning during Skype conversations with the home front.
Little by little, I could achieve more and it didn’t matter how small it was (ow yeah, I cooked broccoli!) it made me feel better and more confident. I agreed with myself that I would give me more time to adjust (but I will never get used to those weird, never fitting, “look at me peeing”-restroom doors) and that I have to accept that I can’t control everything.
Teaching at the University of Michigan is all pretty straight forward. For example: I’m a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant, but I’m the Primary Teacher, but my name tag says Lecturer, but my students call me Professor and after a few weeks they are allowed to call me Liesbeth. Yes, that first sentence was slightly ironic. Some facts: American universities are much more informal than Belgian ones. A class at American universities lasts 50 to 80 minutes. All the buildings have their own style. You will find colorful chalk messages everywhere on campus, but do watch your step! Squirrels and chipmunks have right of way.
Students on campus are nice enough to remind you all the time where you are: T-shirts, caps, even water bottles have “University of Michigan” on them and students proudly wear and use them.
How can a Belgian girl fit in? I try to dress casual and not too formal when I have to teach, I already have three Umich T-shirts, two socks and a cap. And yes, I feel very proud to wear them. I love the Michigan gear and you kind of get addicted to it. Just so you know: Michigan is cold in the winter, there will be snow, chilling wind and frozen nose hair. You even could be treated on a snowstorm in November already!
I don’t mind the cold and snow, but I hate walking on ice. If only I could hang something on my coat that distributed salt while walking… The cool -you get it ‘cool’, haha- thing is, I tested my winter boots and I love them! They are warm, high enough and not too heavy. You really need that!
I had the honor to celebrate my first Thanksgiving in an American family who I may call my friends after these few months. I had a great time: tasty food and lovely people. It was one of those moments when you look at your watch and you are surprised already six hours went by and it only feels like six minutes.
This is Michigan! GO BLUE!
Liesbeth Vicca is a Belgian 2019-2020 Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant in Dutch to the University of Michigan. Liesbeth Vicca teaches Dutch and German to 15 to 17-year-old pupils and coaches ex-OKAN pupils at two schools in Leuven. Liesbeth has worked in OKAN classes where she taught Dutch as a second language to children aged 12-18. In 2018, Liesbeth received the degree of Academic Teacher Education Cum laude (Dutch and German). In 2017, Liesbeth received the degree Master of Translation Cum laude; Dutch-German-Spanish. Liesbeth speaks Dutch, German, Spanish, French, English, Russian and Flemish Sign Language. Liesbeth gives Zumba classes. She is also licensed to teach Aqua Zumba. Besides her Zumba classes, she likes traveling, reading and singing.Articles are written by Fulbright grantees and do not reflect the opinions of the Fulbright Commission, the grantees’ host institutions, or the U.S. Department of State.