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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Which Language for Local Food in Wallonie?

I just returned to my dissertation fieldwork site after 38 years thanks to a Fulbright Scholar’s Grant.  Back in the 1980s I examined the use of the regional Gallo-Romance dialect, Walloon, in Liège, Belgium and particularly in the puppet theater.  Over the past couple decades I’ve gotten increasingly interested in how people resist the global industrial food system. Upon arriving at the Liège train station last week, my interest was piqued by the poster announcing a show of local alimentary products called CBon, CWallon (http://www.cbon-cwallon.be). It took a minute to understand that they were not using aberrant initial consonant clusters, but the practice of using a letter (or number) to stand in for the name of that letter, like the francophone usage of K7 for “cassette.” I went to the C’est Bon, C’est Wallon Fair today, wondering whether the Walloon language would appear as well as the products of Wallonie. One of the first booths I saw was a beer […]

How a biochemist in Belgium found community through music

In high school I was definitely a band kid. I played in every musical group available to me, and my world revolved around music.  The sense of belonging and community I felt as a member of a musical ensemble was unparalleled. This was why I kept playing in college, even as I decided to pursue a career in biotechnology research. When I applied for my Fulbright grant, I proposed that I would join a local orchestra to foster the same sense of belonging with my Belgian neighbors. When I arrived in Gent, I began researching different community groups. I found the Gent University Harmonic Orchestra (GUHO), a student-run,100-piece wind-instrument orchestra. I filled out an online questionnaire, and I was invited to audition. When I arrived, I played a short audition piece and was invited to stay for the rehearsal. During this first rehearsal, I was surprised how mentally exhausting it was for me to keep up with the directions and […]

The Kindness of Strangers

Moving abroad takes a lot of faith: faith you will overcome the language barrier and culture shock, faith that you will be welcomed into the community, and a lot of faith that you are doing the right thing, even when things get tough. Luckily, my hop over the pond has been a pretty euphoric experience so far, mostly due to the kindness I have seen and found in Gent. Last night, I decided to make a trip to a sports center on the other side of town. As I sat down on the tram, I glanced at Google maps on my phone for the name of my stop. I had 5% of my battery left, just enough to make it to my destination. I stuck my phone in my coat pocket and read a book while I waited. After I exited the tram, I reached for my phone to check the directions again. Nothing. I rummaged through my purse, but […]

BACK TO TOP