My Fulbright adventure began in September 2018 when I arrived in “The Windy City” to start a Master of Law at the University of Chicago. My year as a Fulbright scholar has been a truly amazing experience! I was able to connect with people from all over the world and got a unique inside to the American culture.
Being in an international Master’s Program, made it possible to get to know students from over 50 different countries, to share my values as an ambassador of Belgium and to learn from other’s. Building bridges amongst cultures can happen anywhere at any time; by participating in a soccer league, by going on trips together, by working on group projects or by simply having dinner together. My school encouraged exploring each other’s cultures by inviting students to host “national dinners”. During these dinners, countries presented the other students with their traditional food, drinks, dance, and music! In addition, both the girls and the guys in our program formed soccer teams to play in the graduate school intramural competition. This was also a way to interact with graduate students from different campuses. Finally, also in the classroom, the insights from both the American and international students would enrich the class discussion.
During my year I had plenty of opportunities to really learn about the American culture as well! For Thanksgiving, I was invited to celebrate with an American friend and his family in their home in Saint-Louis. His mom prepared a traditional turkey and all possible side dishes you could imagine! A few months later, I was able to join one of the biggest celebrations in Chicago, Saint-Paddy’s day! The river was colored entirely green, and everyone was dressed up as leprechauns. Finally, I got to know a lot of Americans from different states throughout the various trips I made, from camping in Indiana to skiing in Michigan, to sightseeing in New York, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.
Apart from my multicultural experience, my Fulbright year also allowed me to finish my research project. My research focused on judicial ethics in international adjudication and I had a wonderful experience working together with Professor O’Connell. In my final research, I presented pressing issues in the legal framework and enforcement of judicial ethics in international adjudication. By calling the attention to the importance of impartial, independent, diligent and competent international judges, and proposing concrete solutions for today’s issues, it is my hope that this research will improve the enforcement of judicial ethics in international adjudication.
Lastly, I was able to give back to the community! In Chicago, I was able to connect with the local community by volunteering in a clinical child advocacy project where I advocated for the best interests of immigrant children in closed detention in Chicago. I wrote best interest recommendations and visited the children I worked with on a weekly basis. This experience allowed me to connect with the volunteering community in Chicago and all the social workers who are trying to make a difference for these children. During my Enrichment seminar in Philadelphia, we were provided with another opportunity to volunteer in a local revitalization project where we helped clean up the neighborhood and participated in beautification projects.
I am deeply grateful for this experience and I hope that all future Fulbrighters will dive into this adventure with enthusiasm, courage, and eagerness to explore. This way they will be able to write one of the most exciting chapters of their lives!
Evelien Van Espen is a 2018-2019 Fulbright Student in law to the University of Chicago, School of Law.
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.