Our experience as a Fulbright family in State College during a pandemic

Our experience as a Fulbright family in State College during a pandemic

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.

The role of the European judge in combating racial discrimination and what I learned from my stay in Ann Arbor Michigan

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.

Generals for breakfast and presidents for dinner

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.

Teaching as an FLTA at the Jordan Family Language House in Austin College

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.

Navigating Teaching Assistantship

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 […]

Finding a Home in Luxembourg’s University Choir

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 […]

You Study What, Exactly? – Field Notes on Museum Scholarship

When I tell people that I study museums, they’re often…confused: “You mean you’re an art historian? An anthropologist? Does that make you a curator?” In actual fact, my research has more to do with the how of museum than the what. Art historians and anthropologists have expertise in a particular subject area – contemporary photography, perhaps, or Etruscan pottery – and their task in museums is to research and preserve those objects they have devoted themselves to understanding. Museum scholars, by contrast, focus on institutions: what they choose to collect and how, their relationships to visitors, and the ways they employ objects in their care to tell stories (among many other concerns). My research explores how museums’ chosen narratives are communicated: who they include, what they leave out, and the methods employed in the telling. In other words, I study what museums have to say and how they choose to say it. For example, in considering a painting, a museum […]

Tolerance for Adversity and Uncertainty: Applying Wilderness Leadership Skills to Expat Life in Belgium

If you had bet me in September that I’d be rushing to the airport 3 months before the end of my Fulbright grant in the middle of a global pandemic, I likely would have laughed and guaranteed you that you would lose money. As luck (and a wild combination of international events) would have it, you’d be rich! And while it was jarring to leave so suddenly and under such wild circumstances, as a very recent expat, one of the lessons most heavily ingrained in my brain by spring was the fact that more often than not, living abroad requires large amounts of continuous flexibility. Sometimes you ask for a ham sandwich and get a buttered croissant. Other times you apply for a residence permit, wait anxiously at the mailbox, only for it to mysteriously arrive after 6 long months and a slew of emails in Dutch. Perhaps you’re the American who attempts to buy a full cart of groceries […]

Negotiation As a Pathway

I was drawn to Belgium because of the linguistic diversity. A country with two distinct cultures that had their separate systems yet living together as one intrigued me. When I found out that I had been placed at two secondary schools in Brussels, one Flemish and the other French, I was elated. Through my schools, I was able to learn about these two sides of Belgium independently. However, I wanted to find programs that brought both sides together. When I expressed this interest with some of my coworkers, I was told that there were very, very few programs bringing together Flemish and French speaking Belgians. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned about PATHWAYS.  I was introduced to Avi Goldstein at the beginning of my Fulbright grant, at the fall reception in October. He is the founder of PATHWAYS Institute for Negotiation Education. PATHWAYS runs a two-day negotiation workshop in Belgian secondary schools called Game Changers. The participating […]

Boom Cranes and Twinkle Lights: Construction in Antwerp

When I travel, I am not a light packer. So when I arrived in Antwerp ready to spend the next ten months in the city, I had quite a bit of baggage in tow. In fact, I’d packed my bags so efficiently that the airline made the courteous gesture of adding a ‘heavy lift’ tag to my suitcase. Cute. After skidding along a never-ending series of escalators, my ‘heavy lift’ bags and I made it to ground level of Antwerp’s cavernous marble station. With a last surge of energy, I scrambled through the nearest exit to the taxi queue. A line of cabs stretched along the exterior wall, and I puffed my way to the front of it, thinking all the while of the smooth, easy journey in the taxi from the station to my new apartment. Making the most of my extremely limited Flemish, I gave my new address to the first taxi driver in the queue. ‘Italiëlei?’ He […]

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