How a biochemist in Belgium found community through music

Stories

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.

Who are the people in the neighborhood? A historical look at “neighbors” and their communities. Dr. Sarah A. Cramsey

My parents have lived next to the same three families for thirty years.  They have never fought over property lines, noisy parties or the shade provided by various trees.  Relations between “them” and “us” have almost always been friendly. We wave hello, feed each other animals during times of vacation and redeliver errant mail. Yet, I can honestly say that I don’t really know them at all.  Outside of the family unit, the first collective that most humans belong to is their neighborhood. And yet, “neighbors” in both my personal experience and in the historical past remain under-known quantities.  More specifically, we might ask, what does it mean to have a relationship with a “neighbor” and how does it become possible to feel “rooted” on a street, in a neighborhood, in a city or in the broader nation? Ask we did.  And after two days of discussing these questions and the larger issues of “neighbors,” a dozen experts assembled in Brussels began […]

That which Upholds a Society and Founds a Community: The Visible and the Unnoticed

Societies need people to function and communities need something in common around which to coalesce. These needs are met in different ways by and for different people. While we acknowledge the importance of doctors and lawyers, teachers and professors—what might be called the upper-class workers—we tend not to notice the people who have the greatest effect on our day to day lives. Yes, the upper-class workers are important, preforming specialized task or providing specific help in our times of need, but how often do we pass by the people who found our sense of normalcy. I’m speaking of the janitors, the grounds keepers, the bus drivers, the servers at functions—a group of people who, in my experience thus far, tend to be immigrants, or at least people of non-Western European descent. In my brief time in country, I’ve had people thank me for engaging them in conversation and listening to them. For asking questions about their experience and showing genuine […]

I’M FINALLY HERE: Starting my Fulbright, Getting adjusted, Navigating “solo” time

GREETINGS loved ones! Ahh… I can’t believe I’m writing my first Fulbright blog post! It seems like just yesterday I was editing my application essays until 4 am and entering class like a ghost the very next morning with a gallon of Loyola Starbucks coffee in hand. Those were the days… (sarcasm intended, though not regarding Loyola Starbucks. God I miss that place. And all the money I wasted there.). It also seems like just yesterday I was writing my blog posts about studying abroad in Leuven — this deja-vu is even more surreal, especially given the fact that I’m BACK in Belgium and there are just so many parallels between my time in Leuven and my time thus far living in Brugge. However, though I’ve only been here for just under a month, I already know that this experience will be far different from my previous time living in Belgium. Most obviously, I’ll be here for a substantially longer […]

2019 SUSI Program in Boston: Youth, Education, and Closing the Skills Gap

The Study of the U.S. Institute on Youth, Education, and Closing the Skills Gap explored how advances in technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics are shaping how we work, where we work, and the skills and education required to work. Ryan Danenberg, a bachelor’s student in Applied Electronics at the Haute École Francisco Ferrer in Brussels was nominated by the U.S. Embassy to Belgium and the Fulbright Commission of Brussels to participate in this SUSI Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston during the summer of 2019.

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