Mihaela Precup

Junior Fulbright Researcher, 2006-2007


Such Is Yale
A few years ago, a friend and colleague who had just returned from a year abroad on a Fulbright scholarship told me that it was a mind-blowing experience that placed her forever in a state of limbo. It was one of those statements that you recklessly hope will one day apply to you.

After being at Yale on a Fulbright scholarship for about ten months, and her words started having a very true ring to them. The initial feeling that I must have landed on a movie set never left me, but I soon became a quirky viewer who had already seen the movie dozens of times. It might have had something to do with the collegiate gothic architecture which never stopped giving me visual seizures when students clad in work-out clothes would emerge from a building which looked like an oversize cathedral but which the map said was the gym. It may also have had something to do with finding out that Sterling Library, another gothic revival building, was finished no earlier than 1930, and having to pick up my books from a circulation desk where the librarians looked incongruous because they were not swinging chalices and handing out holy water. It had something to do with entering Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library on a sunny day, and not knowing what was more striking: the translucent walls filtering out scarlet slivers of light or the Guttenberg Bible suddenly staring you in the face from its glass case. And it also had to do with the mind-boggling contrasts within New Haven, a small town around a large rich university, where most of the non-academic part of the population was obviously struggling with poverty and its curses.

But perhaps one of the most wonderful things about my Fulbright experience was the people I met, and who all had their say in what my research project would later become. The very international and diverse graduate student community at Yale probably represented the most intellectually stimulating, warmest, most exciting group of people I had the chance to see in a long time. My time with these incredible people quickly made me quite happy to ask and answer the very simple question "So, what are you working on?"

Because, despite thoughts of Baudrillard and movie set feelings, at Yale I had many breakthroughs. Having a Fulbright limbo experience after years of mostly non-academic toil has the wonderful effect of summoning you to wake up and remember what it was that you used to love reading, looking at, and thinking about. Also, attending a large number of exciting events that you didn't help organize (oh, joy!) gives a certain aura to fatigue.

Yale has more prestigious scholars and visitors than you can possibly keep up with. And I have loved the intellectual buzz in this community. I have loved seeing Art Spiegelman chain-smoking in a pristine event room while going through the whole history of comics in an hour or so of stand-up comedy. And I was a bit staggered to hear Alan Trachtenberg, Susan Gubar, Peggy Phelan, Juliet Mitchell and so many others. I loved watching 35 mm films every Friday at the coquettish Whitney movie theater, and hearing an entire audience roar with laughter during Kiss Me Deadly. I loved hearing people thinking out loud. I loved seeing one of the best music graduate students give a piano recital and put her hand inside the piano to pinch the keys, Tom-and-Jerry fashion. I loved crossing the street diagonally and cutting across Woolsey Hall on my way to Sterling, opening the heavy doors, and waiting to see windowless Beinecke cradling the Gertrude Stein papers, and Sterling behind it, taller, but dwarfed.

Such is Yale. A small sunny place full of students from literally everywhere in the world, where you can find at least one person who shares your exact same interests, no matter how eccentric. Like perhaps any large American university, it offers ample opportunity for many shocks of both recognition and disidentification. Here, auditing an English department seminar followed by an American Studies class can be as disconcerting as moving from Connecticut to California. And taking a walk across campus, from the American Studies department to the Women's Studies program can have a quite baffling effect on the unsuspecting Fulbrighter in search of a home away from home. And it was somewhere between the WGSS program, the American Studies Department, the Photographic Memory Workshop, the Women's Studies Colloquium and several dozens events where I saw the same professors and students, who became my friends, that I made my home. They always said yes with incredible generosity, and went out of their way to help whenever I came up with requests and problems, academic or not. It was these fantastic people that made the Yale movie set my own, and who included me in the picture.

 

My fulbright experience

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Students at the advising center

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Romanian-U.S. Fulbright Commission

Adress: 2 Ing. Nicolae Costinescu Street, sector 1, Bucharest, Romania
Phone: 021.230.77.19
Fax: 021.230.77.38
E-mail: office@fulbright.ro

Fulbright Educational Advising Center

Phone: 021.231.90.15
E-mail: feac@fulbright.ro

 Public hours

Tuesday: 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM
 Wednesday: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
 Thursday: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM