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

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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.

“How can I help you?” Americans serving the greater good

New Yorkers pride themselves having a PhD for minding their own business, even treasuring their reputation for being rude. Is this true? As a Fulbrighter in New York, I say: “fake news!” New Yorkers ask me countless times how they can help me. In shops, employees are ready to point me to the needed row; at university, colleagues help me to settle in; and in the street, complete strangers guide me in the right direction the moment I seem lost. “How can I help you?” seems like a mantra I hear all the time.

2019 U.S. Grantee Orientation

Enthusiastic – and highly caffeinated – smiles greeted the Royal Library of Belgium as the newest cohort of Fulbright grantees slowly trickled into the building, newcomer jitters in tow, eagerly awaiting their program orientation. After a steady chorus of casual greetings and public transit mishaps, Fulbright Executive Director Erica Lutes formally opened the presentation by asking each grantee to introduce themselves to the group — and introduce themselves they did. This year’s group of Fulbright grantees boasts a wide array of incredibly accomplished individuals, with eight student researchers, nine English teaching assistants, and five scholars (to arrive in the spring) in Belgium, six English teaching assistants and one researcher in Luxembourg, and three Schuman researchers. With such a diverse range of backgrounds to draw from, there did not appear to be one academic stone left unturned. Polite chuckles laced with pride accompanied the account of many grantees’ interests, and, with projects like “exploring the role of prenylation in plant crop productivity […]

Day at School

One of the things I love most about teaching English at EIDE (École International de Differdange et Esch-sur-Alzette) is how varied each day is. I float through different classrooms throughout the day, which gives me the opportunity to always be interacting with different teachers and students. As an ETA, I work at the first public international school of Luxembourg. The school includes both primary and secondary levels, but as of now the oldest students are about 14, or the equivalent of 7th grade, because the school was created in 2016 and is still growing. I have the pleasure of working with pretty much every single grade, from P1 (1st grade) to S2 (7th grade). Even though I have the same schedule every week, the weeks are never the same and I am always learning more about teaching methods and education within Luxembourg. Let me bring you along on a typical Monday teaching at EIDE in Esch-sur-Alzette! I’ve got three different […]

American Football in Antwerp

What could be more quintessentially American than football on a Sunday afternoon?  Since part of Fulbright’s mission is to share American culture abroad, while experiencing and engaging with local cultures, one of my plans was to find out about any local American football clubs and try to attend some games.  A Belgian housemate told me he knew several members of the Antwerp team and made sure to let me know when the season was beginning. A week before their first game, I found out the team was hosting a viewing party for Super Bowl LIII at a restaurant/bar and everyone was invited.  It turned out to be a great opportunity to meet the players, spend a night out late, and enjoy the game.  Everyone knows soccer is the preferred sport (by far) in much of Europe, and Germany and England are always the countries associated with American football.  Yet Belgium also has some insanely passionate and knowledgeable fans, and they […]

A Fulbrighter at Harvard Law School

Even though I had been looking forward to studying in the United States for such a long time, I was still surprised by how amazing the experience was of pursuing a Master of Laws (LL.M) at Harvard Law School.  In the first place, Harvard Law School is an incredibly stimulating intellectual environment. I mainly took courses in corporate law and finance, but the way the law is taught is very different from what I was used to. I had quite a lot of seminars, where the focus is not on the professor presenting a lot of material, but rather on a debate between fellow students – all of whom are incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable. In addition, many of the courses did not have exams, but required several response papers where you had to comment on the papers on the reading list. As an academic (I was in the middle of my PhD in corporate law before coming to Harvard Law […]

Joining the Congo Research Network

I am a bit of a unique Fulbrighter in Belgium. I have had the unusual privilege to serve as a grantee twice here, thirteen years apart. The first time was to teach English in 2005-6 at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Louvain-la-Neuve. That experience was the beginning of a lifetime connection between me and le plat pays. In the years since then, I returned many times for short visits and to maintain old friendships, including those with my cokotteurs (student dorm roommates) and my original Fulbright contact person in Hasselt, with whose family I have become very close. Meanwhile, after finishing my studies at Berkeley, I established an academic career in African studies. Now, in 2018-19, as an assistant professor at George Mason University, I have had the honor to return to Belgium. This time, the Fulbright Commission welcomed me as a scholar in order to undertake archival research on colonial literature and history at the Africa Museum in […]

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