I am writing this blog post from the train from Chicago to Washington D.C., a train ride that takes 23 hours and 30 minutes, and this after I already was on the bus this morning that took 8 hours from Minneapolis to Chicago. I decided to travel by train so I had enough time to sit, relax and contemplate my nine-month long experience in the United States.
My Fulbright adventure began in September 2018 when I arrived in “The Windy City” to start a Master of Law at the University of Chicago. My year as a Fulbright scholar has been a truly amazing experience! I was able to connect with people from all over the world and got a unique inside to the American culture.
Jet-setting off to a new country for a year comes with a certain allure. No one there knows who you are, where you come from, or what you’re interested in. You can be the mysterious new foreigner, and can adapt your persona to easily fit the culture in which you find yourself. Sometimes, however, you move to Luxembourg…
“It was the curse of Leopold,” Siska Genbrugge, an alumna of the Fulbright Program in Belgium and Coordinator of Conservation at Brussels’ Africa Museum, explained to staff members of the Fulbright Commission as she recounted the day before the re-opening of the notorious museum.
Last August the moment was finally here; I was moving to New York City. A dream come true for a Broadway enthusiast like myself. I learned very quickly that the U.S. was full of wonderful opportunities for professional growth and fun events, you just have to share your enthusiasm with other people and ask them directly for help.
On the occasion of 70 years of academic exchange between the U.S. and Belgium, the Fulbright Commission in Brussels and Ghent University celebrated their partnership by hosting a conference in the afternoon of Tuesday, June 18 to highlight the achievements and future of the Fulbright-Ghent University partnership.
It must have been in the 1980s that I met the first Fulbright guest I had the pleasure to welcome. At that time I was a young assistant at KU Leuven, and since then I have lost count of the opportunities to be the host of both Fulbright professors and teaching assistants.
On 11 June 2019, the U.S. Embassy to Belgium hosted the annual Fulbright Pre-Departure Orientation. The annual event is attended by outgoing Belgian, Luxembourgish, and European Fulbright grantees who are preparing to leave for the United States in the coming academic year.
During my time as a Fulbright grantee and European Studies graduate student at KU Leuven in Belgium, I have conducted interviews with Muslim communities from various backgrounds to identify the factors they believe lead to polarization within subsets of their communities while analyzing their perceptions of the Belgian ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ strategies. I have learned some key lessons in conducting such sensitive research in Belgium and I will highlight them in this post.
“Isn’t it super cold in Chicago?” is one of the first questions I get asked when I tell people I’m doing my Fulbright here. The answer is yes, which is why I decided to pack my skiing jacket. That turned out to be a wise decision. In Chicago, it snows and it gets cold – really, really cold. This year the famous polar vortex passed through the Northern Midwest, breaking negative record temperatures. Even eyelashes weren’t safe. Needless to say, this was quite the event. Yet, what was even more remarkable about the whole experience was how unconcerned the locals responded to it. For example, the bus I usually take to the University was still running (see photo). Being a Belgian myself, accustomed to a more modest climate, I have gotten used to the idea that once the first hints of snow trickle down from the sky, it’s safer not to rely on public transportation anymore. But not in Chicago. […]