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.
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.
Dark. Gloomy. Rainy. The Emerald City did not fail to live up its reputation when I landed on its ground in early January 2020. What was yet to come, no one could have ever suspected it…
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.
It feels like yesterday: LAX welcomed me on January 8th. It was a lovely warm evening for someone arriving from a Belgian winter. I rented an Airbnb for a week to look for lodging until the end of my 4 months program, late April. A few weeks before my departure from Brussels, I already searched online for an apartment near UCLA Campus and found a very interesting place. I proceeded with the required steps until the payment moment, but there was something strange. The account number showed the name of an individual instead of the leasing company. Google did not provide me with any information regarding that name being related to the leasing company. A friend in the US called the company, checked the place, and confirmed that this was a scam. The Craigslist ad was flagged and I was saved from losing some thousands USD as a “deposit”. During my Airbnb stay, through a Facebook group “UCLA shared room” […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]