Be open and tolerant, so that you can learn and teach

While it is important to prepare for your Fulbright journey, you cannot possibly know what to expect. The only thing I can guarantee you is that you will grow.

The Fulbright program is not only about what you will have accomplished at the end of the year. Rather than a goal, the Fulbright program is a process. As a Fulbrighter, you will be equipped for studying abroad: a Pre-departure Orientation in Brussels and a Gateway Orientation once arrived in the United States will prepare you for your time here. Your Fulbright mission starts at that moment. 

The most valuable advice that I have been given by an alumni during the Pre-departure Orientation before coming to the United States was this: “Talk to as many people as you possibly can. Do not lose any time, do not be shy, be open and tolerant.” At my Gateway Orientation in Rochester, where I could discover the Rochester Institute of Technology and visit the Niagara Falls together with Fulbrighters from more than seventy different countries, I immediately tried to follow this advice. My mission was clear: as a Fulbrighter you are supposed to promote mutual exchange between the United States and your home country. In other words, you become an ambassador. While this mission was clear in my mind, I could not yet grasp its full meaning (but I would soon learn).

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The goal of the Fulbright program is to bring people from all over the world to the United States in order to guarantee mutual exchange between Americans and those who come here. Hence, I would try whenever possible to present (and represent) my home country – small Luxembourg, its language spoken by less than half a million people, and the all-important Schengen area – to the people I would meet. Very soon, that is, at the end of the Gateway Orientation, some of my new Fulbright friends would start calling me “Professor.” I was surprised at first because my goal was never to act like a Professor. But upon further reflection, I realized that this was exactly what the Fulbright program is about: learn and teach. Listen and talk to people – to as many people as you possibly can (because the year will go by quickly).

The Fulbright program is all about education – but education in the broader sense. Of course, it is important to be an active participant in class and to strive in your academic work: all this is part of your mission as a Fulbrighter, which aims at excellence. In my case, I studied law at Cornell University known for its mythical campus, which stands majestically on a hill in the middle of countless gorges (“Far Above Cayuga’s Waters” goes its alma mater), and which features the famous McGraw Tower. During my year at Cornell, I made a lot of effort to contribute my (often very different, that is, broadly speaking a continental European) perspective to the seminar discussions and conferences in which I participated. I took for example a seminar on “Race and the Criminal Justice System” and a course in Federal White Collar Crime. I am also more than happy that I have been awarded the CALI Excellence for the Future Award for the Best Research proposal written during the “Cornell Research Colloquium,” which is the Law School’s most advanced research seminar. While I am specialized in law, I tried not to limit myself to Law School classes but also pursued courses at the Government School and at the Sage School of Philosophy. However, your mission as a Fulbrighter is not supposed to take place only within the walls of the library (even though the Cornell Law Library is fascinating!).

There is always the risk of hanging around in a small group with your fellow Europeans. But this is not why you came here. Always remember: “Meet as many people as you possibly can.” Trying to avoid the pitfall, I engaged from the beginning with people from various countries and disciplines (not just from the Law School) and met regularly with my fellow Fulbrighters at Cornell for dinners and cinema sessions. For the same reason, I chose to apply for the Cornell LL.M. Association: I got elected Vice President, which helped a lot with my goal of being involved and getting experience. My function encouraged me to get to know and to make the link between my classmates, my fellow American students, and the faculty. Our various events – Bowling Night, Karaoke party, and the traditional Thanksgiving dinner – gave us the opportunity to exchange in an informal setting and brought us closer together.

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The Fulbright program is all about education, in the sense of getting and sharing experience. The people you meet will change your life forever, and you will change theirs. During my time in the United States, I met a lot of people who are very different from myself: people with diverse backgrounds, religions, opinions and life goals. A girl born and raised in Johannesburg, a boy from Knoxville and somebody from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg inevitably look at the world differently. Thanks to the diverse perspectives that my friends gave me, I started to see the world with different eyes. Quickly I adopted a new view not only on the United States, but also on my home country (and probably the world).

In the course of my Fulbright program, I had classes with Professors who provided me with profound insights into American education and with completely new methodological tools. I had fascinating discussions with people from all over the United States inside and outside the classroom about intellectual as well as daily topics. I learned about American culture through enjoying music and going to sports events. I attended for example the Ice Hockey game against Harvard University at Lynah Rink (Cornell’s Ice Hockey arena) where my American friends and myself sang along with the Big Red Pep Band. Finally, during winter break, friends whom I met in Ithaca came to visit me in Luxembourg, which gave me the opportunity to act as an ambassador for my home country and to show them Luxembourg City’s fortifications, the Grand Ducal Palace and the European Court of Justice.

My Fulbright experience may thus be summarized as follows: Be open and tolerant, so that you can learn and teach. I will always be grateful to the Fulbright program for making all this possible. 

Felix Hennico is a Luxembourgish 2019-2020 Fulbright Student to Cornell University. Felix Hennico holds a Maîtrise from Sorbonne Law School and is currently enrolled in a Master in law at the University Paris II Panthéon-Assas. Felix also holds a Maîtrise and is presently enrolled in a Master in philosophy at the University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. Felix participated in the Cornell Law School Paris Summer Institute and the NYU Summer School. He completed internships in law firms such as Clifford Chance and Elvinger Hoss. Felix is a former Secretary of the Luxembourg Students’ Association in Paris, holds the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and studied the saxophone at the Luxembourg Conservatory.

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

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