Cecilia Maria Popa

Fulbright Student, 2013-2014

I'm not going to relate about the Fulbright process, which is extremely clear and precise, and about which plenty of other Fulbrighters talked about before me, but about my own experience in regards to what I felt and what it meant to me.


My first interaction with an American on American soil was with an Airport security officer and after the gentleman checked my passport he said "you're the second Romanian I know... and the first one is Nadia Comaneci". That was the beginning of a magical (as I like to call it) journey as a Fulbright Scholar. But I didn't know what being a Fulbright really means until one day at school. While holding the elevator for an elder person and starting chatting with that person, he asked me where I am from. I said Romania and he seemed surprised because he could bet I was British. (But by that time I was already used with people calling me an English woman - after I lived in London for a year) He, then, asked what I was doing there, and I answered that I am a Scholar. "What kind of scholar are you?" he asked. "I'm a Fulbright Scholar", and the next thing you know he was down on his knee telling me how honored he was to have met me. Vainly I kept telling him he shouldn't get fouled by it... it was the time when I realized what Fulbright really is. I knew being a Fulbright is a big deal, but didn't really. I knew that more Nobel laureates are former Fulbright recipients than any other program, but I didn't know what it feels like to be a Fulbright.

My field is within criminal justice. I am not a lawyer or police officers, which many assume, but a criminologist. I study human behavior in regards to crime. I try to understand why people commit crime, while others do not. But also, I'm interested in what we can do to approach crime, being very preoccupied with restorative justice practices. I'm lucky enough to be focused a lot on research and do plenty of field work, which keeps me "in the hood" most of the time. From Ferentari in Bucharest, to Yeni Yasamal in Baku, to Brixton or Hackney in London, to the South Bronx or East New York Brooklyn in NYC, these are the neighborhoods I spend most of the time or I study about.

The noise... the lights... the heights... the yellow... New York, the city that never sleeps. Is the place where I've been a Fulbrighter.

The place where in the '80s was considered the US capital of drugs... in Washington Heights... and were I lived for the entire time of my program. I will be eternally grateful for such an opportunity in my life, where I studied criminal justice at one of the best schools in the field, in the country, and because of which I've been able to live in the greatest city in the world, as they say.

The power these streets give to you is unquestionable, and is indescribable. Here I found out what I really am... I'm a storyteller, telling stories, primarily to myself, defining myself in the most profound detail in order to become great. Is the place where, as a Fulbrighter, I discovered where my path should lead, what I should do within restorative justice... bringing it to the context of a large-scale conflict. I strongly believe that if we can run restorative justice in war situations, we might be able to get to the roots of war crimes, and how we can predict them in the future. I think here I straightened my interest even further for peacekeeping studies. How these are going to look like in the future? We'll see.

Is the place where I faced, for the first time, what the ethnic issue means, and where 'crazy' gets its definition from. Is the place where I let myself lost on the streets, hided by its infinite tall buildings, at 2 am. Is the place where crime has a different meaning, and a different way of approaching it. Is the place where the criminal justice system was created from bottom up and not vice versa, as we know it in Europe. Is the place where, although you fail, you win; you win by being able to fail; because if you failed, means you tried, and you know at least one way that does not work. So you win!

Is the place I stopped on the streets and I start crying because of its immensity, by how much it offers. Is the place where a culture was created, the hip-hop culture, in the Bronx; is the place where to be different is the best thing that could happen to you. And "Oh boy..." it really fitted me!

It's the place I call 'madness'... but a fascinating one... and where I've been a Fulbrighter in.

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