Getting around in the USA

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 […]

Which Language for Local Food in Wallonie?

I just returned to my dissertation fieldwork site after 38 years thanks to a Fulbright Scholar’s Grant.  Back in the 1980s I examined the use of the regional Gallo-Romance dialect, Walloon, in Liège, Belgium and particularly in the puppet theater.  Over the past couple decades I’ve gotten increasingly interested in how people resist the global industrial food system. Upon arriving at the Liège train station last week, my interest was piqued by the poster announcing a show of local alimentary products called CBon, CWallon (http://www.cbon-cwallon.be). It took a minute to understand that they were not using aberrant initial consonant clusters, but the practice of using a letter (or number) to stand in for the name of that letter, like the francophone usage of K7 for “cassette.” I went to the C’est Bon, C’est Wallon Fair today, wondering whether the Walloon language would appear as well as the products of Wallonie. One of the first booths I saw was a beer […]

Decently Athletic…Definitely Not a Runner

That’s how I usually describe myself. That’s how I described myself when I first got to Luxembourg, sitting on Ingrid’s balcony, chatting with the other ETAs about our college experiences. Alexis played tennis. Ev started a running club. I was on the Bates club sailing and equestrian teams. As I said, I’m decently athletic, but definitely not a runner. And then I found the 10K. On my original application to be a Fulbright ETA, I wrote that one way that I wanted to engage with the community was through athletics. This race, I figured, would be a great way to connect with other runners both in our Fulbright cohort and with other people I had recently met at the University of Luxembourg through Erasmus. No, I had never been in a running club before. And no, I was not in any way trained to legitimately run races, but I was going to do the Agora Red Rocks Challenge. As it […]

Bright Belgium

Given its northern latitude and corresponding dark winters, I’ve enjoyed how Belgian cities fill the streets with lights during the winter months. Mechelen, the city where I live, kept its Christmas lights on all day long to counteract the grey clouds, and after January 1st had passed they were transformed into Valentine’s Day lights that featured hearts swinging above the city streets and adorning the Stadhuis (City Hall). During a recent week in February, Brussels took light installations even further in its annual light festival, “Bright Brussels.” I took the train in from Mechelen to explore the festival one evening and was impressed by the artistry of the installations and the ways they illuminated certain elements of Belgian culture.  In tribute to Belgian artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, whose 450th death anniversary was in 2019, the Porte de Hal/Hallepoort served as the backdrop for b71’s “Winter,” an animated mural featuring characters from Bruegel’s paintings. Across Belgium, institutions are using technology […]

How a biochemist in Belgium found community through music

In high school I was definitely a band kid. I played in every musical group available to me, and my world revolved around music.  The sense of belonging and community I felt as a member of a musical ensemble was unparalleled. This was why I kept playing in college, even as I decided to pursue a career in biotechnology research. When I applied for my Fulbright grant, I proposed that I would join a local orchestra to foster the same sense of belonging with my Belgian neighbors. When I arrived in Gent, I began researching different community groups. I found the Gent University Harmonic Orchestra (GUHO), a student-run,100-piece wind-instrument orchestra. I filled out an online questionnaire, and I was invited to audition. When I arrived, I played a short audition piece and was invited to stay for the rehearsal. During this first rehearsal, I was surprised how mentally exhausting it was for me to keep up with the directions and […]

The 12 (x4) Days of “Lëtzebuerger Chrëschtmaart”

Without the holiday of Thanksgiving holding Luxembourgers back from starting the yuletide festivities, Christmastime in the Grand Duchy begins in the middle of November. Strolling down the streets of Luxembourg City to the Place d’Armes city center, I was surprised to see the preparations for the installation of holiday decorations shortly after the end of October. Needless to say, however, I didn’t mind! This time of the year, bright, sparkling lights drape elegantly over nearly every major street, shops amp up the festiveness of their window decorations, and the irresistibly sweet smells of roasting nuts and all the traditional confections you can imagine waft through every inch of the city. In Luxembourg City, you’ll find not one, but three “Chrëschtmaarts” (Christmas Markets) that began on November 21st and will end on January 5th. If large crowds are not for you, not to worry! Various smaller towns throughout the country have their own smaller yet even more charming markets, full of […]

A year in Pittsburgh

As a Fulbright Visiting Scholar I, together with my husband and two children (one and three years) went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We arrived on a cold Sunday, December 30th in an empty house in a suburban area. During our first month, we had snow, 0° Fahrenheit and snow days (schools, universities, certain institutions are closed due to the cold).

The Kindness of Strangers

Moving abroad takes a lot of faith: faith you will overcome the language barrier and culture shock, faith that you will be welcomed into the community, and a lot of faith that you are doing the right thing, even when things get tough. Luckily, my hop over the pond has been a pretty euphoric experience so far, mostly due to the kindness I have seen and found in Gent. Last night, I decided to make a trip to a sports center on the other side of town. As I sat down on the tram, I glanced at Google maps on my phone for the name of my stop. I had 5% of my battery left, just enough to make it to my destination. I stuck my phone in my coat pocket and read a book while I waited. After I exited the tram, I reached for my phone to check the directions again. Nothing. I rummaged through my purse, but […]

Life in the Midwest. For Real.

When I told my friends that I got a scholarship to go to the University of Missouri, most of them had the same reaction. I can’t blame them: before starting my application process, I would have had the same question… I used to explain to them that it was a small town somewhere in the Midwest, 600 kilometers south of Chicago. Today, as I am about to leave, my answer would be totally different. Columbia is not just a spot on a map anymore. It is a town and a University where I’ve been living for four months, and where I felt welcome from Day 1.

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