From November 2019 until July 2020 my family and I lived in State College, where I was a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University (‘Penn State’). This blogpost shares our experience, colored by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that unfolded during our stay, and how the Belgium-Luxembourg Fulbright Commission and the Institute of International Education (IIE) serve as a prime example of how supportive, fostering academic exchange programs should look like.
2020 will long be remembered as an eventful year. It will be remembered as the year in which, in March 2020, the WHO announced the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Less than half a year afterward, it is already clear that the global COVID-19 pandemic is widening inequalities. There is increasing evidence that some racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Inequities in the social determinants of health, such as poverty and healthcare access, affecting these groups are interrelated and influence a wide range of health and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.
Dark. Gloomy. Rainy. The Emerald City did not fail to live up its reputation when I landed on its ground in early January 2020. What was yet to come, no one could have ever suspected it…
I still clearly remember my arrival in New Haven, now over a year ago. To give me the time to settle in and attend the Fulbright Orientation Gateway in New Jersey, I had arrived two weeks prior to the start of university. Exhausted after the long flight but eager to explore the city that was to become my home for the coming year, I wandered down Prospect Street. I started at the School of Management – one of the few university buildings with a modern architectural design – then headed downtown, going from one college to the next, strolling through their courts, and marveling at the Hogwarts-looking constructions.
Living in the USA for an academic year was one of those things that I put on my bucket list a few years ago. When I found out about the Fulbright FLTA program that allowed young teachers to teach in the US, I applied to be a French teacher assistant the next day. Here I am, a year after my program has stated, remembering the two working semesters as a French TA on the campus of Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
In March 2020, the world came grinding to a halt — and with it, the Fulbright Commission in Brussels. Within a week, the staff of the Fulbright Commission went from planning a seminar and organizing pre-departure orientations to packing up their desks and jumping into crisis management mode. Over the past several months, the Fulbright Commission staff has settled into a new model of working from home … but running a people-to-people exchange program from home has its challenges.
It feels like yesterday: LAX welcomed me on January 8th. It was a lovely warm evening for someone arriving from a Belgian winter. I rented an Airbnb for a week to look for lodging until the end of my 4 months program, late April. A few weeks before my departure from Brussels, I already searched online for an apartment near UCLA Campus and found a very interesting place. I proceeded with the required steps until the payment moment, but there was something strange. The account number showed the name of an individual instead of the leasing company. Google did not provide me with any information regarding that name being related to the leasing company. A friend in the US called the company, checked the place, and confirmed that this was a scam. The Craigslist ad was flagged and I was saved from losing some thousands USD as a “deposit”. During my Airbnb stay, through a Facebook group “UCLA shared room” […]
These past four months have been a true roller coaster. I have been hesitant to share my thoughts and experiences as they have not been as rosy/ happy as I hoped and 1. I don’t love talking about my feelings and 2. I don’t like to dwell on negativity. But I started this blog to share my pure and unadulterated feelings about my experiences in Belgium and it would be disingenuous to withhold much of what I have experienced just because it may be negative. With that being said, for the most part, my experience in Belgium has been wonderful. People have been super kind to me. I have been surrounded by family which has been really wonderful. Despite loving my wonderful family and having great people around me these past months have been kind of lonely. In November, I moved into my own place- I have 4 roommates and an AMAZING room (It is my dream room). I am […]
Through previous experience abroad and in college, I have found that joining a local choir is a quick and rewarding way to make some friends and raise your endorphins (which can be a rollercoaster of highs and lows when assimilating into an unknown environment). I did my research over the summer of 2018 and chose the University Choir of Luxembourg. It was a done deal after running into the enthusiastic and fabulously Luxembourgish François Carbon, the choir’s communications director, who also happens to be the Minister of Culture for the University of Luxembourg, at a lovely farmers market in the town square of Esch-sur-Alzette. We arranged for me to come to choir the following Tuesday and have a quick audition before the rehearsal. But before any of the singing could happen, I had to figure out how in the world to get all the way from the tiny southern village of Oberkorn to university campus at the north end of […]
It is an interesting time to be writing and pursuing research on economic inequality. Like most of the rest of the world, the US is currently reckoning with a global pandemic that is widening inequalities—between higher wage workers who can do remote work and those who can’t, for example—, and the murder of George Floyd triggered a global conversation about white supremacy’s historical role in a particular kind of racial inequality. Yet income and wealth inequity has been endemic in the United States, particularly since the 1970s. This is partly why I moved to Belgium to study the impact of technological shocks (e.g. artificial intelligence) on the gap between the rich and poor as part of a Fulbright grant. And I was excited to learn more about Europe’s experience with progressivism from a Belgian perspective. As many in the US continue to push for policies like universal health care and higher tax rates for the wealthiest households, parts of Europe […]