We left for New York City in January 2021. The world was in turmoil. The coronavirus was still wreaking havoc across the globe, and a few days before our departure, an angry mob had stormed the US Capitol. Due to a US entry ban for EU citizens, our paperwork had not been approved until the very last minute. Moving across the ocean seemed more daunting than ever. And so, finally being able to set foot on American soil, not as a tourist but as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar, almost felt surreal.
After defending my Ph.D. in Autumn 2019, I departed to Fayetteville, AR, to start my joint Fulbright and BAEF postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Arkansas. In this blog post, I share my experience as a Fulbright fellow in Arkansas, both before and during an unfolding pandemic.
Have you noticed, my friend told me over brunch the other day, “that Belgians in D.C. usually intend to move back to their home country at some point?” My friend is from a little Flemish town not too far from Antwerp. I myself grew up in another little town not too far from Antwerp. Yet, we met in Washington D.C. (granted: it was in a Belgian-owned bar during a game of the Belgian Red Devils). We both recently moved to the U.S. capital. She is one of the many wonderful people I would never have met had I decided to remain at home, in my comfortable Belgian bubble.
In August 2020, I packed two suitcases, bought a one-way ticket to New York and moved across the ocean in the middle of the pandemic. The main question preceding this move was: “Should I go or defer?” Some people warned me that due to the pandemic I will not have the ‘real’ Fulbright experience.
After a year like 2020, it felt quite unreal to go to the American Embassy for our visa and to get on a plane in January for the big Fulbright experience. The first weeks were tough: COVID case numbers were rising everywhere, the hospital I was doing my research at was busy planning vaccinations, causing a delay in the onboarding processes, the apartment I booked for the first two weeks wasn’t quite like it was advertised,…
When I stepped into the Plantin-Moretus Museum for the first time, I was struck by the centuries of Antwerp’s history contained within its walls. What is now the museum began as the press and private residence of one of Antwerp’s foremost printmaking dynasties. Established in the sixteenth century, the press rode Antwerp’s rise to fame as one of the most important ports in Renaissance Europe. Today, the family’s legacy is made tangible to visitors not only through the stately portraits and leather wallpaper of their historic residence, but also through their library.
How do you have a Fulbright experience during a global pandemic? How do you enjoy what your host country has to offer when there is a lockdown? How do you fulfill the Fulbright program goal of promoting mutual understanding between cultures, when you are not able to come across people every day? What is your Fulbright experience? The year 2020, one of the most unpredictable years of my life, has helped me sit, think, and define the meaning of each journey I encounter. Winning the Fulbright is my highest academic achievement and when preparing formy journey to Belgium, my single goal was to make it meaningful. I did not want to worry about getting everything right the way I did during my undergraduate career. I tend to overstress when faced with high stake opportunities and I wanted to not do so during my Fulbright journey and so far, I am on the right track. Recently, I’ve been contacted by U.S […]
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…