Getting around in the USA

At the end of my very enriching year in the USA, I find myself explaining to a lot of people that I have not only expanded my professional experience and network substantially but also enjoyed daily life in the USA. My family and I have discovered the small differences compared to living in Belgium, and thereby, we have learned so much about ourselves and our spontaneous lifestyle. We have been given a perspective outside our old box. Given my field of research is obesity, the obvious differences I have seen are in food preference and food culture, but a very interesting aspect for me was the American view on mobility. 

Most Americans that I have met, didn’t bother traveling for a few hours, by car, or by air-bus. A lot of the students and researchers have to travel outside their home region to pursue the best education or workspace possible. Following that, it also becomes a quality label if you have been invited to study or work away from your home institution. Of course, the Fulbright scholarship has really supported me to collaborate in a world-renown institution and made me a part of the experience-abroad community.

My Fulbright experience took place in the Midwest, where the car is essential to get around. It is a bit challenging at first, arriving from Europe, and finding out there is only 1 train a day traveling the trajectory of the commute. The car culture is apparent in the built environment with a multitude of lanes, drive-in options for banking, coffee running or mailing and huge parking lots. With the pick-up truck as the epiphanic symbol of the American freedom, a majority of automatic gear shifts, and  4-way stops, most traffic moves a little less hectic, and definitely more courteous than I have experienced in Europe. 

In the Pittsburgh Heinz history center, I learned that the regression of the city trolleys in favor of motor vehicles was the result of economic climate and governmental policies in the thirties, forties, and fifties. This really shows that the characteristics of human mobility itself are non-static, and the world can change in less than a human generation, which should help restore the public’s interest in politics and strategic longterm policies.

I am certainly happy I followed the Fulbright path to the USA, and thankful to have met so many people offering me different directions… let’s see where we all are headed.

Dr. Roman Vangoitsenhoven is a Belgian 2018-2019 Fulbright Visiting Scholar to Cleveland Clinic. Roman Vangoitsenhoven obtained his medical degree in 2010 at KU Leuven. He then started to combine research and clinical speciality training, leading to a PhD on “the role of diet in development and reversal of type 2 diabetes” in 2016 and an expected licence for clinical endocrinology in July 2018. He was awarded the Young Investigator Award of the Belgian Endocrine Society in 2016.

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