NAFSA is now over and my Fulbright-Schuman scholarship is also coming to an end.
This has been an extraordinary year for me as a visiting international educator in the United States. I have had the chance to stay three months in Santa Barbara, CA, kindly hosted by the University of California Education Abroad Program (thank you Karen and Jean-Xavier!) and I am now in Albany, NY, fully integrated in the State University of New York Global Affairs Office (thank you Sally and Jason!).
Although much of my time is spent visiting the campuses and interviewing the faculty and staff involved in collaborative projects with European counterparts, I feel I already belong to the team at UCEAP and SUNY Global. We have come to understand better the way we work and relate with international partners. Alongside, we have also forged personal friendships and professional complicities. These are the foundations for longstanding linkages and prospective projects I will be glad to facilitate as an “ambassador”.
My transition from the West to the East coast was a little bit of a shock. I wisely planned to spend the winter in California and the spring in New York, so the weather had nothing to do about it. It was rather the lifestyle and the culture. Regardless of the vision we might have from the outside because there is a common language and citizenship, states have different personalities, just like the countries in the E.U. What I have found in both places are open doors to conduct my research and the most hospitable people.
Last week, NAFSA was the occasion for me to go back to California, San Diego, and come together with all my colleagues from the international education community. It was a completely different NAFSA for me this year. As SIO at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, I usually go with a packed meeting schedule and have no time left for sessions or workshops. Not this year. This year, I assisted in a workshop on Higher Education and Partnership Opportunities in Europe, participated in the discussion about the benefits of strategic partnerships and consortia, listened to the results for North America of the recent internationalization survey by the IAU (International Association of Universities), got an update on the hottest topics and trends in higher education in the U.S. and advocated for saving the Fulbright program. A new agenda that opened my eyes to the concerns of my U.S. peers and that directly contributes to my research. I saved some time for networking with potential publishers and did not miss the receptions offered by my two host institutions. It was also time for me to catch up with my colleagues back in Europe and Barcelona, for I am going back soon.
The dream is almost over but my new friends and connections are for real and I have worked up an appetite for research in international education.
— Sara Lopez Selga, Fulbright-Schuman 2013-14 Grantee for International Education