The most resilient class: that is how the NYU community came to call my fellow students and myself during the virtual graduation ceremony. The speakers congratulated us for the resilience we had shown and encouraged us to stay resilient as we were navigating through our bar exams and the ensuing job search. At first, I shrugged, as I did not, and still do not completely, grasp how fast my experience in the U.S came to a grinding halt, even as I was watching my prerecorded graduation ceremony while sitting on my terrace in Luxembourg. With the ceremony a few weeks behind me, the bar exam registration guaranteed, and the fall internship confirmed, I believe that I am finally able to look back and to try to make sense of what happened.
If it was indeed resilience that marked the last few months, I also felt emboldened by the memories that were present at every step and the strong community that we had built over the months preceding the lockdown. It was indeed painful to watch most of my friends leave the City in a hurry, hastened by the encroaching global lockdown, without being able to say goodbye; it was excruciating to wander through the empty streets of SoHo and West Village, looking for masks, prepping myself for my own departure. However, even locked up in my apartment in Manhattan, or later on in Luxembourg, I felt that the bond that tied me to my fellow students only grew stronger and that by reminiscing about the many social events we attended prior to the shutdown we were able to endure the contemporaneous monotony of our daily lives.
The Fulbright enrichment seminar that I attended at the beginning of the year played a crucial role in that regard. I believe that the few days we spent in Nashville, Tennessee, pose as a great contrast to what was about to follow. As I was processing the photographs depicting these joyful people enamored with the City of Music, I realized how lucky we were as a Fulbright community to have gathered in the center of the U.S. one last time before social distancing became the norm. The few days we spent discussing the symbiosis between technology and the music industry during the daytime and enjoying the best of Blue Grass after sunset suddenly seem like the grand finale to my Fulbright experience. Watching a guitarist in trance firing up the crowd in a bar while being too young to enjoy the drinks the guests were consuming, was certainly a strong image that will linger on, as is the thought that it was the streaming industry, decried originally as the end of small bands and artists, that finally revitalized, diversified and refined the music taste of the melomaniacs.
Even though my year in the U.S. took an unexpected turn, I am grateful for the unwavering support that I have received by the NYU and the Fulbright community that allowed me to remain focused on my finals and recruiting processes in the midst of a global pandemic. This support has allowed me to forget to a certain extent the impact of the current crisis on my personal experience. What I will remember with fondness are the countless hours spent studying the intricacies of American corporate tax law, the endless nights strolling around in new neighborhoods, and the hopefully life-long friendships that I made on and off-campus.
Tom Bleser is a Luxembourgish 2019-2020 Fulbright Student in Law at NYU. Tom is completed a professional Master’s Degree in tax law at Pantheon Assas University in Paris. In addition to his studies, he works as a tax adviser for the Kering group. In his leisure time, Tom is passionate about photography, hiking, and running.
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