The red and blue of Colorado. A Fulbrighter’s first impressions
It is easy for European Union citizens, used to move to neighbouring countries with no border controls and no need for any document apart from an ID, to forget the importance of having a passport. Things change, of course, when you are a Fulbright grantee and you are travelling to the United States, where having a passport is a sine qua non to enter the country.
My passport was stolen in mid-July, in the middle of my visa application process and only two months before the starting of my Fulbright Schuman fellowship at the university of Denver. No better timing for having a car window broken in the middle of the day on a busy street in Croatia and the rucksack that was in there stolen. With, alas, my passport inside.
While replacing the car glass and having some provisional travel document issued at the Italian consulate in Split were both annoying tasks, it was the delay in my visa application that worried me the most. Italian passport bureaucracy can be quite lengthy, especially during the summer, and I got worried that the visa could not be stamped on my passport in time. I therefore delayed my departure of a couple of weeks, just to be sure that everything would be ready by the time of my departure.
But every cloud has a silver lining. By forcing me to delay my departure, having my passport stolen made me arrive in Colorado in a unique moment, namely the week of the first presidential debate, held at the university of Denver on Wednesday, 3 October. I could not be present at the debate. US presidential debates are first and foremost tv events, and the few seats available had already been assigned to students months before through a lottery system. However, maxi-screens had been installed around the campus, and to try and understand US politics there is nothing better than being there, talking to the people, and get lost among the crowd of a presidential debate festival, in a forest of balloons, banners, flags and kiosks of activists. The stakes were high not only for the two candidates, but also for the city of Denver, eager to shake off itself the gloomy shadow of the movie theatre shooting occurred in September.
Needless to say, my first days in Colorado could not be any more colourful. The colours of the landscape here are the same of democrats and republicans, with the blue of the mountains on the one side and the red of the desert on the other. Very different from the gentle green of the hills of Florence, where the European University Institute – my home institution – is nestled.
The Fulbright Schuman program provides a wonderful opportunity for EUI PhD students and graduates, most of whom research the legal, political and economic implications of EU integration, to broaden their perspective by including the United States into a comparative research design.
Leaving aside its prestige and academic value, a Fulbright Schuman scholarship also provides young academics like me with a unique life experience. Like finding yourself in a deeply divided state on a heated presidential debate autumn day, watching the red and blue of Colorado.
Dr. Eugenio Cusumano received his Ph.D. from European University Institute in Florence, Italy in 2012 and is now a visiting researcher of Political Science at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies (http://www.apsia.org/schools/profile/?ID=35) at the University of Denver on a Fulbright-Schuman grant.”