Contrary to many international students that I have met in the previous years, going to study in the U.S. was never something that I was consciously searching for. I have always had often negative perspectives and prejudices regarding the U.S. as a country and culture. Nevertheless, 2 years ago, when I have been presented with the opportunity to enroll in a master’s program with the University of Arkansas as a partner, I have decided that it would be a great chance to enhance my experiences, skills, and knowledge.
We left for New York City in January 2021. The world was in turmoil. The coronavirus was still wreaking havoc across the globe, and a few days before our departure, an angry mob had stormed the US Capitol. Due to a US entry ban for EU citizens, our paperwork had not been approved until the very last minute. Moving across the ocean seemed more daunting than ever. And so, finally being able to set foot on American soil, not as a tourist but as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar, almost felt surreal.
After defending my Ph.D. in Autumn 2019, I departed to Fayetteville, AR, to start my joint Fulbright and BAEF postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Arkansas. In this blog post, I share my experience as a Fulbright fellow in Arkansas, both before and during an unfolding pandemic.
One of the most unexpected and rewarding parts of the last several months has been my work with a newly formed Model United Nations delegation. BelgaMUN, as the fledging delegation has come to be called, is the first delegation to unite bachelor’s and master’s students from Flemish- and French-speaking universities across Belgium, including some from my placement, l’Université Saint-Louis in Brussels. Together we attended the London International Model United Nations Conference in February 2022. The students who participated in BelgaMUN did so as incredibly hard-working volunteers. They participated not for class credit or degree requirements, but for their belief in the work of the UN, for their belief in the value of model UN experiences, and for their belief in the concept of a united Belgian delegation of students, regardless of their mother tongue or university affiliation. I met these students for the first time in September when they arrived from cities and towns all over the country at the […]
I was walking the streets of Deadwood, a town in South Dakota, when a window display stopped me in my tracks. “The only good journalist is a dead one,” a graphic T-shirt for sale read. Accompanying the text was a silhouette of a person, hanging in a noose under a lone tree. Surely, with a history of racial lynching and a present-day mental health crisis, such images (being sold for profit, nonetheless) would appall anyone? I had been in the country for less than 48 hours, as a journalist on a Fulbright scholarship at the University of Missouri, and the provocative messages hit home hard. None of the other passersby batted an eye.
Tigers are everywhere in Columbia, Missouri. All students, called ‘Tigers’, wear caps, shirts, sweaters and bags with the animal logo. Several stores only sell yellow-and-black flags, mugs and toys. And if you want to survive the humid summer heat, you can buy ‘Tiger Stripe Ice Cream’ (with vanilla and chocolate flavor). So the first thing I did when I arrived in my new hometown, was buying a yellow ‘Mizzou’ t-shirt.
Have you noticed, my friend told me over brunch the other day, “that Belgians in D.C. usually intend to move back to their home country at some point?” My friend is from a little Flemish town not too far from Antwerp. I myself grew up in another little town not too far from Antwerp. Yet, we met in Washington D.C. (granted: it was in a Belgian-owned bar during a game of the Belgian Red Devils). We both recently moved to the U.S. capital. She is one of the many wonderful people I would never have met had I decided to remain at home, in my comfortable Belgian bubble.
In August 2020, I packed two suitcases, bought a one-way ticket to New York and moved across the ocean in the middle of the pandemic. The main question preceding this move was: “Should I go or defer?” Some people warned me that due to the pandemic I will not have the ‘real’ Fulbright experience.
After a year like 2020, it felt quite unreal to go to the American Embassy for our visa and to get on a plane in January for the big Fulbright experience. The first weeks were tough: COVID case numbers were rising everywhere, the hospital I was doing my research at was busy planning vaccinations, causing a delay in the onboarding processes, the apartment I booked for the first two weeks wasn’t quite like it was advertised,…
When I stepped into the Plantin-Moretus Museum for the first time, I was struck by the centuries of Antwerp’s history contained within its walls. What is now the museum began as the press and private residence of one of Antwerp’s foremost printmaking dynasties. Established in the sixteenth century, the press rode Antwerp’s rise to fame as one of the most important ports in Renaissance Europe. Today, the family’s legacy is made tangible to visitors not only through the stately portraits and leather wallpaper of their historic residence, but also through their library.