On the occasion of 70 years of academic exchange between the U.S. and Belgium, the Fulbright Commission in Brussels and Ghent University celebrated their partnership by hosting a conference in the afternoon of Tuesday, June 18 to highlight the achievements and future of the Fulbright-Ghent University partnership.
Earlier this month, the Fulbright Commission welcomed representatives from the seven Belgian universities and university colleges that will be hosting a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to its first ever ETA Host Institution Workshop.
This spring, the Fulbright Commission in Brussels welcomed two sets of visitors from the Institute of International Education.
It must have been in the 1980s that I met the first Fulbright guest I had the pleasure to welcome. At that time I was a young assistant at KU Leuven, and since then I have lost count of the opportunities to be the host of both Fulbright professors and teaching assistants.
The University of Luxembourg is fascinating. It is the country’s only public university but it was only founded in 2004! Although the University is quite young, it feels very established. It has numerous undergraduate, masters, and PhD students, and it hosts many seminars and conferences. I was also impressed by the Law School’s roster of adjunct and guest speakers. The University is also multilingual, offering numerous courses in French, German, and English. Some programs are entirely in English, while many require two languages.
On 11 June 2019, the U.S. Embassy to Belgium hosted the annual Fulbright Pre-Departure Orientation. The annual event is attended by outgoing Belgian, Luxembourgish, and European Fulbright grantees who are preparing to leave for the United States in the coming academic year.
During my time as a Fulbright grantee and European Studies graduate student at KU Leuven in Belgium, I have conducted interviews with Muslim communities from various backgrounds to identify the factors they believe lead to polarization within subsets of their communities while analyzing their perceptions of the Belgian ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ strategies. I have learned some key lessons in conducting such sensitive research in Belgium and I will highlight them in this post.
“Isn’t it super cold in Chicago?” is one of the first questions I get asked when I tell people I’m doing my Fulbright here. The answer is yes, which is why I decided to pack my skiing jacket. That turned out to be a wise decision. In Chicago, it snows and it gets cold – really, really cold. This year the famous polar vortex passed through the Northern Midwest, breaking negative record temperatures. Even eyelashes weren’t safe. Needless to say, this was quite the event. Yet, what was even more remarkable about the whole experience was how unconcerned the locals responded to it. For example, the bus I usually take to the University was still running (see photo). Being a Belgian myself, accustomed to a more modest climate, I have gotten used to the idea that once the first hints of snow trickle down from the sky, it’s safer not to rely on public transportation anymore. But not in Chicago. […]
As the students file in for their first seminar of the semester, I cannot help but notice how homogenous they appear. They quietly take their seats and proceed to converse with their friends in hushed whispers. Among these mostly white students, I hear mostly Flemish. This is understandable since, as soon as I begin the seminar, we will all be committed to the English language for the next two hours.
Excited to go to Europe, but worried about leaving your best (dog) friend home? I brought my 70-pound golden retriever, Bear, with me on my three-month Fulbright to Brugge. Absolutely no regrets!