Navigating Teaching Assistantship

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 […]

A world of cultures hidden in a local community

Just having obtained a master’s degree at Ghent University, I was ready for something else. Something providing me with more than just a passion for my work. A month later, I was on a plane, heading for my first direct contact ever with American culture. Not only for a two-week vacation but an actual full academic year, the longest I would ever have been out of Belgium. Being abroad for such a long time really persuades you to be open and welcoming for a new lifestyle, and consequently rethink and consider your own habits. It is remarkable how much you learn about yourself and your own culture by being so far from home. The first thing that popped into my mind when arriving in Miami for a Fulbright event: “I am totally in a movie!”. A week later, I went through New York City to reach my final destination, Ithaca. While my knowledge about American life was completely based on […]

The universal connections of music and Fulbright

In my never-ending pursuit of becoming the best musician, I can possibly be, Fulbright, aided me in successfully taking my next step. In the last couple of months, I have become friends with people from all over the world, including the U.S., Korea, New-Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Trinidad, and Tobago and Paraguay. People in and out of the music field, searching for knowledge, personal growth, global connection, and fulfillment. As much as I had to fight to get to this point in my life, it is nothing in comparison to the amount of purpose and fulfillment I currently feel. Yet, with the current health crisis, the collapsing economy and the uncertain future that a lot of us – and in particular fellow musicians – face, I want to zoom in on the one thing that has connected us all. The love for doing what we do and the urge to collaborate, in whatever way we can, is something […]

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 […]

Animals of Belgium

Today, I’d like to talk about the animals of Belgium. For all intents and purposes, I am not an animal person. I was never a member of 4H or the FFA, nor did I fly to Australia to save Koalas from fires. I am not a horse girl. However, the fauna of urban Europe does not get enough credit. Animals deserve our respect and admiration. In this blog post, you will hear about several of my favorite creatures in Belgium. CATS Cats were sacred in ancient Egypt and they are sacred in my heart. Nonetheless, this is an affair of passion. Humans often forget that beauty isn’t skin-deep, whereas for cats, the operative term is tin-deep, i.e. cat food cans. Cats transcend culture, and they are excellent conversation starters. Yet in Belgium, I’ve felt a bit of culture shock. For starters, the French word for cat is le chat. In Dutch it is de kat. Belgian cats are round and […]

A frame, a mirror, and a canvas: Thoughts on New York

Every city in the world can be described by one of these three metaphors: a frame, a mirror, or a canvas. Rome, a perfect mirror, is a place where nobody comes as a stranger. Layers and layers of history laid upon each other produce a strange genealogy of time. There is always a piece of you in Rome to be discovered. You have been there already in distant reflections of a mirror-city.

Women and War in Belgium

Gabrielle Petit stares defiantly into the distance, under gray skies in Brussels. Almost every morning, I walk beneath Petit’s stern gaze on my way to the archives, thinking about her last moments and about the long history of women and warfare. Gabrielle Petit was a Belgian woman who became swept up in the chaos of the First World War (1914-1918), after Germans overran Belgium in August 1914 and occupied the country. Petit fled as a refugee but then returned to Belgium as a spy for the British Army, gathering information on German military dispositions across Belgium beginning in August 1915. German soldiers soon became suspicious of Petit’s movements in occupied Belgium and arrested her for spying in February 1916. A German military court tried her for military espionage and condemned her to death. Gabrielle Petit allegedly say: “I will show you how a Belgian woman dies,” before being executed by firing squad on 1 April 1916. The bronze statue commemorating […]

A reflection on racism with Mary Wilson

Throughout my time in Belgium, I have recognized how differently Belgians see and perceive issues of diversity compared to Americans. In the United States, we are confronted with our race more often than Europeans, sometimes subtly with racial identification, such as on a form or survey, or through bolder individual acts where our background is questioned. In Belgium, improving diversity means looking at disparities in class and language, but the issue of race is often overlooked. It has been incredible to be a part of Fulbright’s commitment to inclusion across race, gender, age, religion and identity. The Fulbright Belgium Commission has been very proactive in seeking events to continue conversations about this topic, including the special opportunity to discuss the intersection of the American civil rights movement and Motown with Mary Wilson of the Supremes at European Parliament. After a meeting a week prior with the Fulbright diversity initiative, founded by Sangeetha Ramakrishna and Rianne Delacruz, I was eager to […]

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