Well, not quite yet; I shall have to wait until the end of August to get on a plane and fly over the Atlantic. I am going to spend four months as a Fulbright Schuman scholar at the City University of New York. I can’t wait. In fact, I am all the more excited about my forthcoming stint in the US after having attended the pre-departure orientation organized by the Fulbright Center in Helsinki last week. Being a Fulbright Schuman scholar and therefore under the jurisdiction of the Fulbright Commission in Brussels, I wasn’t quite sure if I was supposed to participate in this Finnish event, but to my great delight I was invited as well, and, as it turned out, I couldn’t have felt more welcome and part of the group than I did. It was so nice to meet the other Finnish grantees (there were 37 of us altogether), talk to them, hear where they were going, and realize what a resourceful and talented group of people they were. I felt proud of them – and honoured to be among them.
The Fulbright Center people took such good care of us. The day started in the morning with coffee and sandwiches, and after that it was a constant flow of information about important matters such as taxation, insurance, visa application etc., interrupted only by short breaks for lunch and refreshments. We also got to meet Fulbright grantees from earlier years who told us about their experiences and gave us useful advice about various practical issues. And throughout the day, knowing that we were in the very capable hands of the Fulbright Center team, we were able to enjoy each other’s company, make new acquaintances and exchange ideas about the research period that was waiting for us in various parts of the US.
In the afternoon we were all transported to the House of the Estates, a beautiful building in the center of Helsinki, for the grant award ceremony. It was a festive event; we were handed our grant certificates individually in front of a big audience. Fortunately, we had had time to rehearse, so we knew what we were supposed to do! The day ended with a cocktail party hosted by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. It was really a day to remember and it made me feel good to be a member of the Fulbright community!
– Dr. Päivi Pietilä