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.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
When I first arrived in Brussels as a student researcher in September 2018, I was excited to finally do extended archival research for my dissertation. My project focused on sovereignty and the intersection of private, colonial, and local actors in southeastern Congo and Central Angola during the early 20th century. The project considered a situation in which interests among people from Congo, Belgium, Angola, Britain, Portugal, America, France and elsewhere all seemed to overlap in one region of Central Africa. Within the archives I expected to find consistent struggles among these actors over issues of economic and political authority during the early 20th century, and while I found some of these conflicts, it became clear that these struggles over authority really came to a head around Congo independence in 1960. Part of this was due to the fact that many of the available sources come from colonial officials who had an interest in presenting images of tranquility during the early […]
Absolute silence, the sound of a tranquil morning, was something completely foreign to me. Yet most of my mornings are now like this; filled with a sense of peace and comfort, similar to the feeling one gets from drinking a cup of hot chocolate on a cold night. I may not sleep as often as I would prefer, but I no longer wake up with a sense of immediate urgency, the way I used to in college. It’s hard to imagine that a year ago, my life was consumed by an endless stream of courses, organizational meetings, volunteer activities, and side jobs. I remember free time being scarce with mornings that consisted of repeated rings from my alarm. Starting my day involved checking my emails and trying to set a new record for how fast I could get out the door. So far, it’s 10 minutes. Who needs a lunch break when you can scoff down your sandwich on your […]
While I had high expectations for my Master of Laws (LL.M.) at Harvard Law School (HLS), even those were exceeded. One the one hand, the academic experience at HLS is unparalleled, at least in my experience. On the other hand, Boston (‘the birthplace of the American revolution’) is an excellent starting point to explore the broader United States—an endlessly intriguing place.
I am writing this blog post from the train from Chicago to Washington D.C., a train ride that takes 23 hours and 30 minutes, and this after I already was on the bus this morning that took 8 hours from Minneapolis to Chicago. I decided to travel by train so I had enough time to sit, relax and contemplate my nine-month long experience in the United States.