It’s a dream for many Europeans to study and live in the US. Well, for me that dream came true in the summer of 2018 by participating in the Study of the U.S. Institute on Environmental Issues.
On June 27, 2018 I arrived in Eugene, where the University of Oregon is located. This would be my home for four weeks. During my time at the university, I realized the program is not only focused on one subject: I learned more about the leadership of the future, American history and values, living together with different nationalities from all over Europe and most importantly you will get to know yourself. Next to the theoretical classes, we had the opportunity to turn this theory into practice by doing some field trips with a focus on the environmental issues that the people of Oregon encounter. I was surprised how “green” the state of Oregon is, not only the nature but also its inhabitants way of living. Almost everything in their daily lives is oriented in an eco-friendly way, which was inspiring for developing our Capstone projects. These Capstone projects were supposed to help ourselves with making a change in our daily lives back in our home country.
In our free time, we had the opportunity to volunteer in the local communities. These activities really helped us to get deeper insights into the importance of those organizations that are focusing on a better and greener future.
The highlight of my stay in Eugene was celebrating the 4th of July with my American host family. It was such a wonderful experience to spend this day with Americans. Every family is celebrating this day differently; my family chose to go on a hiking trip and enjoy each other’s company.
After four amazing weeks in Eugene and becoming part of the ‘Ducks’ family, it was time to go to the biggest city in Oregon: Portland. Here, we learned more about the climate and renewable energy in the city. Of course, we had time to visit the city itself and paid a visit to the famous Powell’s book store which was truly amazing for a bookworm like me.
Next step: New Orleans in Louisiana. The people there are facing tremendous problems with the rise of the water level. We went on a field trip to learn more about the measurements that were taken in infrastructure in order to protect New Orleans against the threat of an environmental disaster. Furthermore, we also discovered the history of the city of New Orleans through a guided tour. Afterwards, we were able to attend a jazz concert in the Preservation Hall and visited the Whitney Plantation. Visiting the Whitney Plantation in the humid climate of New Orleans, was one of the most confronting moments of my life. The combination of the weather and the personal stories of the slaves made it an unforgettable experience. Although we only spent three days in New Orleans, the city has stayed in the back of my mind ever since.
We ended our five weeks in the USA with the presentation of our Capstone projects in Washington DC. In our last days in the capital of the U.S., we had the opportunity to visit the city ourselves. This was a great time to say goodbye to the friendships that were made during those memorable weeks.
If people ask me what I’ve learned, I would say that the program made me more mature and helped me thinking with a more open mindset. Therefore, I would like to thank everybody who has made this experience better than I ever could imagine. Go Ducks!
Matthias De hont is an international business student at Thomas More University College in Mechelen. In the summer of 2019, he participated in the Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders in Eugene, Oregon.
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.