Dana Mihailescu

Fulbright Student, 2008-2009

The Gift of America – A Sojourner's Scattered Thoughts

Three weeks before the termination of my Fulbright grant at Brandeis University I received an unexpected gift – The Prophet, a book of poems by Lebanese-born Kahlil Gibran whose opening lines eerily turned out to speak my own mind. Indeed, similar to my case, as Gibran's alter-ego was on the verge of returning to his place of birth strong feelings for the city to be left behind poured out and cried,

"How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city. (...) Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache. It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands. Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and with thirst." (Gibran, The Prophet)

Like Gibral's Prophet, then, I will begin at the very end of my Fulbright American experience, and will confess that my time at Brandeis has taken up invaluably endearing and unsettling contours. This is because Brandeis turned out to be an extraordinary institution that tirelessly promotes the spirit of community and cooperation across ethnic, national or gender lines; the openness of both the faculty and students and the willingness to permanently assist and encourage productive debates has made me cherish every moment of my stay. Moreover, thanks to its location in the immediate vicinity of Boston, Brandeis offers extraordinary opportunities for students and researchers since it is well-known that the Massachusetts area is the hub of America's academic life with over 120 universities whose libraries are inestimable resource centers and whose cultural institutes offer a wide array of innovative art-related events, from theater shows to opera performances and film festivals. Not to mention that this is the perfect location for attending top notch conferences and events – to give just an example, in 2008-2009, I was fortunate enough to present papers at two wonderfully organized conferences – the North-Eastern Modern Language Association event organized by the University of Boston and the American Comparative Literature Association meeting at Harvard. Thanks to all this came to life the gift of America for me – namely the open-minded, multicultural atmosphere of everyday life out of which responsible humanity has all the chances to sprout and develop. And hence my mixed feelings on departure – my happiness for the privilege to have experienced all this and to be able and carry some of this spirit back with me, my sadness for having to leave behind such wonderful people and sights.

In America on Foot

Finally, one of the most picturesque aspects of my stay in the States had to do with Waltham's public transportation system. From Northern Waltham – where I was staying – to Southern Waltham – where Brandeis University was located, one would need to take a one-per-hour bus and then wait for the university shuttle coming every forty minutes. As a result, getting to Brandeis would take one at least an hour. Oddly enough, I was to discover that it took the same amount of time to walk between the two locations and, since this latter possibility gave me total independence from set departure times, I became a pedestrian. And so I managed to get a feeling of what it must have meant to be a fusgeyer a century ago. [Fusgeyers (Yiddish for pedestrians) had been groups of mainly Romanian Jews who organized themselves and started out for America around 1900, in search of a better life and in the attempt to escape persecution.] How exciting to feel a bit of a fusgeyer, this time in the America of the twenty-first century, and definitely not because of persecution but simply out of a sense of practicality and unfortunate timetables! In 1899-1900, the Jews had started "to America on foot;" in 2008-2009 I was in America on foot, on a Fulbright research grant for writing my PhD thesis on the literature of early twentieth-century Eastern European Jewish immigrants to America. Isn't it strange how past history sometimes resonates with the present in unexpected and fascinating ways? Indeed, I came to envision this sort of encounter as an encouraging, insightful invitation to open and better grasp the gates of the past. And, perhaps, it is this eerie analogy that has made my memory of walking in America such an endearing keepsake that I will not forget any time soon!

My fulbright experience

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17

Students at the advising center

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7

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