In January 2020, the U.S. Grantees Diversity Roundtables were launched. Two alumni of the Fulbright Belgium Program, Sangeetha Ramakrishna, a former ETA, and Rae Delacruz, a former Fulbright student researcher, led the initiative. The main goal of this initiative is to create a safe environment through which racial, ethnic, and sexual Fulbright minorities can learn, network, and converse about topics affecting themselves and others. In this interview, Sangeetha and Rae discuss the genesis of the U.S. Diversity Roundtables. Q: Where did the idea for a Diversity Initiative come from? Sangeetha: The idea of starting the Diversity Initiative came from my conversations with the other grantees in Belgium. It was not something I planned to do, even though the topics of diversity and inclusion are a large part of my background and career path. I am the daughter of South Asian immigrants, something that led to a lot of bullying at a time when inclusion was not really talked about. Now, […]
As a Fulbright Visiting Scholar I, together with my husband and two children (one and three years) went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We arrived on a cold Sunday, December 30th in an empty house in a suburban area. During our first month, we had snow, 0° Fahrenheit and snow days (schools, universities, certain institutions are closed due to the cold).
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 […]
Moving to Ann Arbor made me feel all kinds of feelings a human will experience in a lifetime. The first days you feel excited, tired, hungry and unsure. If you are lucky enough, like me, you’ll have a colleague who helps you fill your refrigerator and a program director from IHAA who knows everything about taxes.
My parents have lived next to the same three families for thirty years. They have never fought over property lines, noisy parties or the shade provided by various trees. Relations between “them” and “us” have almost always been friendly. We wave hello, feed each other animals during times of vacation and redeliver errant mail. Yet, I can honestly say that I don’t really know them at all. Outside of the family unit, the first collective that most humans belong to is their neighborhood. And yet, “neighbors” in both my personal experience and in the historical past remain under-known quantities. More specifically, we might ask, what does it mean to have a relationship with a “neighbor” and how does it become possible to feel “rooted” on a street, in a neighborhood, in a city or in the broader nation? Ask we did. And after two days of discussing these questions and the larger issues of “neighbors,” a dozen experts assembled in Brussels began […]
This past Monday was Armistice Day, which commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of WWI and Germany on November 11th 1918. In Belgium, Armistice Day is a national holiday, which meant that schools and many businesses were closed. Since I didn’t have to teach, I decided to take a train to Ypres (also spelled Ieper, in Dutch), which was the center of the Battle of Ieper during World War One. Today, it is known as “the city of peace.” I’d never been to Ypres before, so I woke up early, packed my backpack with warm-weather gear, tea, a knitting project, and an umbrella, and went to Gare du Nord (the nearest train station) to take the 7:37 train. I transferred trains in Kortrijk, and in total, the trip took about two hours. Upon my arrival, I basically just followed the crowd out of the train station, since I assumed that nearly everyone was also in Ypres for Armistice Day […]
New Yorkers pride themselves having a PhD for minding their own business, even treasuring their reputation for being rude. Is this true? As a Fulbrighter in New York, I say: “fake news!” New Yorkers ask me countless times how they can help me. In shops, employees are ready to point me to the needed row; at university, colleagues help me to settle in; and in the street, complete strangers guide me in the right direction the moment I seem lost. “How can I help you?” seems like a mantra I hear all the time.
Enthusiastic – and highly caffeinated – smiles greeted the Royal Library of Belgium as the newest cohort of Fulbright grantees slowly trickled into the building, newcomer jitters in tow, eagerly awaiting their program orientation. After a steady chorus of casual greetings and public transit mishaps, Fulbright Executive Director Erica Lutes formally opened the presentation by asking each grantee to introduce themselves to the group — and introduce themselves they did. This year’s group of Fulbright grantees boasts a wide array of incredibly accomplished individuals, with eight student researchers, nine English teaching assistants, and five scholars (to arrive in the spring) in Belgium, six English teaching assistants and one researcher in Luxembourg, and three Schuman researchers. With such a diverse range of backgrounds to draw from, there did not appear to be one academic stone left unturned. Polite chuckles laced with pride accompanied the account of many grantees’ interests, and, with projects like “exploring the role of prenylation in plant crop productivity […]
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.