Fulbright Student, 2011-2012
Ich bin ein Fulbrighter
February 23rd. Sacramento airport. I'm waiting for the shuttle to take me to the Sheraton hotel where I'm going to meet another 140 Fulbrighters from around the world. On the bus stop there is another girl waiting. It takes us less than 10 seconds to recognize each other.
-Fulbright enrichment seminar? I ask.
-Of course, she answers. She is Anastasia from Russia. We start talking as if we have known each other for ages. In the bus, we easily spot other tree Fulbrighters. We say our names and the countries where we come from. As we arrive at the hotel, we meet more people. The equation starts to become more and more complicated with every new comer. After spending twenty minutes in the lobby I feel already overloaded with faces, names, countries, fields of studies and names of universities from all over US. I go out to take some fresh air and the first thing I see just across the street is a huge sign reading: Munteanu's – Romanian, Hungarian and Greek food. I cross the street, enter the small restaurant, greet the owners in Romanian. They are happy to see me. They offer me to taste the food. It tastes like home. Five minutes later I am back in the lobby with a serious diplomatic task – to invite as many fellows Fulbrighters to have lunch in the Romanian restaurant. I cannot think of a better way to introduce them to my culture than through the delicious Romanian dishes. As everybody is hungry and the dinner is scheduled a few hours later my success rate is pretty high. Over 15 people join me for lunch. I start attaching stories to the faces around me. The hours pass by and I have more and more the feeling that I am at a family gathering. A worldwide family.
The topic of the seminar is the American electoral system. As I have been trying for a while to understand it, I am glad to be participating on a simulation of the elections. We have already been assigned parties and social groups. I am a democrat business woman. Gathered around the round dinner tables, we get to pick little pieces of paper that are going to assign us our roles in the campaign. I get to be the chief of campaign. My candidate is Tannous Kass Hanna, a young smart Lebanese who studies at Vanderbilt University. He has ambition and charisma – the two most important qualities to make a good president. The team comprises a cocktail of interesting people. We have Judith, a German scholar doing a master in positive psychology, Ismail from Pakistani who studies ocean engineering, Michel a funny mathematician from South Africa, Ana from Spain doing translation studies, Iordania another engineer from Cyprus, Antonio the lawyer from Guatemala and our designated guarding angel for this campaign Antonio, a Fulbright Alumnus also studying law. Together we can conquer the earth and the ocean, I say to myself. I hardly can wait to discover everybody's hidden talents. The campaign starts. Everybody seems to play the elections game with pleasure. It's hard to say what the voters appreciate more - the jokes of the candidates or their strongly build arguments. They all seem to have plenty of both. Tannous wins the primaries. We gather around him to prepare for the final round. Everybody in the team has a point to make. A good point. As a great leader, he attentively listens to all the advices. In the final round of debates he rocks. But the republican and the reformist (a newly formed party) are strong candidates as well. People vote. We will only find out the results during the dinner.
I prepare for the party not being able to control my excitement. I'm still on "chief of campaign mode". My brain cannot refrain from thinking about the presidential discourse. Evrika. I have it. I google something on my phone, I take a piece of paper and I write. "Two thousand years ago the proudest intellectual boast was I am a member of the Greek Akademia. Today, in a world of freedom and mobility, the proudest intellectual boast is Ich bin ein Fulbrighter. Many intelligent women and men, wherever they may live, are Fulbright grantees and therefore, as a free intelligent person, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Fulbrighter". I meet Tannous in the lobby. Full of enthusiasm, I give him the little speech I prepared. He reads it and says: "It's nice, but it's just not my style". I am a little disappointed, but I have to admit he is right. He is not the ready-made discourse kind of guy. If he wins, it's due to his sincerity. This is his superpower.
Later we are all dressed up on a boat restaurant, waiting for the party to start and for the name of the winner to be announced. It's of course Tannous. He just gives some simple words of thanks to the organizers – who have really done an excellent job - and to the participants. No fancy speech. Democrats, republicans or reformists for a weekend – we are all happy with the newly elected president. It is obvious for everybody that Tannous, now just 21 years old, will play a role in the world politics. As many of his counter candidates and today voters will.
People start dancing and once again everybody seems to be in a consensus. All music is good music. We naturally mix Indian, Turkish, Italian, Pakistani, German, Afghani, African, American and Latino rhythms. The music takes us from one country to another, from one continent to another. Our bodies moving together don't have a political consciousness. Just like our brains dancing together seem to have suspended for a few days the idea of nationalities and borders.
My fulbright experience
Students at the advising center
- RomericanJourney - by Damaris Lois Bangean
- A Most Unexpected Year - by Melanie Shoffner
- Eric Fretz
- Polar Bear in the Balkans - by David Jimenez
- Romaniadventure - by Anna Sherod
- Romania plus Hannah equals a blog - by Hannah Wolf
- A Palette for Thought - by Elijah Ferbrache
- A Year in Romania - by Anne Murray
- Lauren Hermele
- Katelyn Arlene Browher