Teaching (with a Dash of Research) at the Institute of Tropical Medicine


Teaching (with a Dash of Research) at the Institute of Tropical Medicine

Maxim Petrovsky was a 2022-2023 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Antwerp, Belgium at the Institute of Tropical Medicine. Maxim graduated from Northeastern University in 2020 with a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. In addition to his work teaching English at the ITM, he enjoyed collaborating with the ITM community on research and preparing for his time in medical school. We sat down with Maxim to ask him about his time in Belgium and how it changed his career plans. Q: “What inspired you to apply to the Fulbright Program?” “I applied to the Fulbright Program for a few key reasons. As a non-native English speaker, I have always been passionate about English teaching and sought to enable others with effective communication tools. The Fulbright Program presented an exceptional opportunity to do exactly that beyond the borders of the United States. The opportunity to teach English while ingraining myself in the unique and multicultural environment of Antwerp, Belgium was especially exciting.” Q: […]

Hidden Secrets

When tourists think of Belgium, the cities that most often come to mind are Brussels and Bruges. Travelers typically arrive at Brussels Airport Zaventem, explore the city of Brussels for a few days, and then hop on a train from there to visit Bruges before returning home. Few people realize that during their journey between Brussels and Bruges, they pass right through the historic city of Ghent (or Gent in Flemish). Ghent, with its vibrant student culture, regular local festivities, and perfect blend of medieval and contemporary architecture, is so much more than just a stop along a train route. This is the city in which I was based throughout my Fulbright year, and I couldn’t imagine another place to call home. Or, another location to explore. One day in the depths of the dark Belgian winter, characterized by its bitter wind chills, I sat in my apartment wondering where was the best place in the city to grab a […]

Comics, Cowboys, and Rats: A Brussels Experience

Brussels is an illustrated city; all around the center and the various neighborhoods, you see murals of famous comic book characters, from Tintin to the Smurfs. So, as a comics scholar, Belgium is the place to be. The allure of studying in an international city drew me in, so I left sunny California for rainy Belgium in hopes of continuing studies I started back home on nationalism in popular culture.  And for the sake of the story, I will now turn transform into how I view myself in my mind’s eye. My research snagged early on when I realized that national identity in Belgium is practically non-existent. This realization forced me to pivot to a new topic and I immersed myself in Ghent University’s Van Passen Comics Collection in search of inspiration. As I flipped through an seemingly endless amount of comic books, I found a surprising pattern: cowboys were everywhere. In periodicals, magazines, the covers of Spirou. The pile […]

Creating a Little Home

On paper, the job requirements of an English Teaching Assistant are to provide a cultural exchange in the classroom and to engage with the community. In practice, you are tasked with creating a home in a completely new place. I worked as an English Teach Assistant at UCLouvain in Louvain-la-Neuve, while living in Brussels. Coming from a big city like Dallas, I chose to live in Brussels as I wanted to experience the center of Europe up close. I had already visited Brussels in the past years and loved it. However, I soon learned that visiting as a tourist and living in a city are two very different experiences. Anxiety and Perfectionism Through my high school and college career, I strived to try to be the best at whatever I do. I approached the Fulbright in the same way. However, I underestimated the time and energy needed for such a huge adjustment from transitioning out of undergraduate to living in […]

Lunching in Luxembourg

The cultural differences I observed between the U.S. and Luxembourg can be summarized by a simple act: lunch. Almost every day, I eat lunch with my colleagues. I received a Fulbright Research Grant to complete a project on the gut microbiome at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH). I was grateful for the opportunity to expand my microbiology skillset, especially in a lab abroad. The bacteria I study help us digest our food, and the composition of our microbiomes is largely influenced by our diet. Therefore, lunch quite literally affects my research, but my lunches in Luxembourg were so much more than that.  When I first came to the LIH, I was overwhelmed. The plethora of languages that my diverse colleagues spoke, not to mention the lab jargon and foreign measurements, made me feel unprepared. I spent the first few weeks learning as much as possible and trying not to ask too many dumb questions. The only time I truly […]

Living with a Host Family Throughout my Fulbright Grant Term in Belgium

I was initially hesitant to fit my small number of belongings to the cracks and crevices of an already occupied and overflowing Belgian home. Nine months ago, I would have never imagined myself moving in with a host family for my Fulbright year. Growing up as an only child and enjoying the comforts of my own space throughout college, sharing everything except a bedroom with a family of five—or six if we count Yalta, the 15-year-old Schnauzer and Bouvier des Flandres mix—was uncharted territory. But reflecting back on my experiences in Belgium now, I would not change a single thing. Living with a Belgian family throughout the grant period allowed me to immerse deeply into my host country’s culture. The Liénarts and I often shared intimate dinners where my host mother would gossip about the women in her bridge club and I would inquire about the meanings of Belgicisms she placed so effortlessly into her sentences. I once accompanied them […]

Finding Transatlantic Parallels at the EU-NATO Seminar

Upon receiving my acceptance to Belgium’s Fulbright program, there was one thing that remained top of mind when I requested my city placement. I was fascinated by Belgium’s role in hosting numerous EU functions, including plenary sessions of the European Parliament. I hoped to spend my grant period in Brussels – a small yet lively city known for its sprawling green parks and towering Gothic cathedrals – fondly referred to as the heart of Europe. A few weeks later, I was delighted to discover that my Commission had placed me in my city of choice. I was even more excited when grantees were given the opportunity to apply for a spot at Fulbright’s annual EU-NATO seminar. Organized by Belgium’s Fulbright Commission, the seminar included visits to institutions like the European Commission, European Parliament, and NATO Headquarters. Meetings were also arranged with representatives of the U.S. Mission to the European Union, the U.S. Mission to NATO, and the U.S. Embassy to […]

FulBIKERS in Belgium

Part I : FulBIKER in Gent I’m sharing this picture of my first time on my rented bike in Gent because I want you to note that it was raining, cold, and most importantly that I was wearing sandals. Despite the circumstances, I am absolutely thrilled. A bike in Gent unlocks the city. Within 20 minutes you are across the city. The red roads throughout the city are bike roads – bikes have the full priority and cars are not allowed to pass bikes. You have to learn the signs. An especially important word to know as a biker is ‘uitgezonderd’. Not only is it fun to say, but it also means you are allowed down this road although other traffic is not. This saves you a lot of time, especially once you learn that google maps can not always be trusted to make bike routes. You learn to ask the city bikers for bike routes, and to find the […]

The Future is (Ful)Bright – My Experience at the 2023 EU-US Young Leaders Seminar

While reflecting on my time as an ETA here in Belgium, I am overflowing with joyful memories from both in and out of the classroom. My time in Belgium has been filled with meaningful experiences and exchanges, one of my favorites being my time representing Fulbright Belgium in the sixth edition of the EU-US Young Leaders Seminar (YLS). The three-day event, which was organized by the U.S. Department of State, Delegation of the European Union to the United States, the Fulbright Program, and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, brought together 25 American and 25 European Young Leaders to discuss some of the most important issues facing both sides of the Atlantic. This year’s seminar topic was Active Civic Participation, focusing on its prominence and importance in every aspect of modern-day society. Our first day of programming began with a welcome dinner for all of the participants. While I expected this event to be somewhat of a standard […]

Charting My Year in Luxembourg

The best way to capture my Fulbright experience was presented to me on the first day of orientation. On September 15, 2022, 30 Fulbrighters, including me, sat in neatly-lined white chairs at the offices of the Commission for Educational Exchange between the United States, Belgium, and Luxembourg inside the Royal Library of Belgium. The Fulbright Program Officers presented numerous useful tips for living abroad in Belgium and Luxembourg – from how to set up a bank account in Europe to how to navigate public transportation. What I would come to find most useful, though, was a graph. This graph – albeit simplified – depicts the peaks and troughs, the shocks and adjustments, that one may experience while living 5,000 miles away from home. I found that my experience tracked the pattern of this chart. Arrival and Honeymoon On my flight from JFK to Brussels, I buzzed with excitement. I spent the past 1.5 years working on my application to serve […]