Seven Countries in Six Months

 

In my immediate family, I was the first and still the only one who obtained a Bachelor’s degree, moved outside our hometown, and stepped foot outside North America. For the latter, that did not occur until I was 29. I have become a fervent traveler since then, in some ways making up for lost time over the last 8 years. I became a bit obsessed with looking for opportunities for international travel that also provided professional opportunities, since I love my job. Thus, I started attending lots of international conferences. Even now, I have only once traveled outside North America where I picked the destination – I have let professional opportunities determine where I go. I quite love this because it takes all the pressure out of deciding where to go, and now I have been to some amazing places that I otherwise would probably not even have thought to choose. Of course, this travel has also nurtured an international perspective in my research. For this reason, I started eyeing a Fulbright as an opportunity for both professional and personal fulfillment.

I was vaguely aware that Fulbright provided such opportunities, and thus started to look at research Fulbrights on the website. In retrospect, it all seems a bit happenstance, but I stumbled on the Fulbright-Schuman. The grant is designed for multi-country research in the EU, and I immediately thought to target it. The funny part is that in my doctoral dissertation, I used data from the EU and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) prior to that point where I finally visited outside North America. The Fulbright-Schuman seemed to fit so perfectly with my research on drug use, and come at a time when the US could learn all it can regarding approaches to drug use, that it felt like it was written specifically for me. Thanks to attending many international conferences, I was able to connect with the EMCDDA at a conference and propose the Fulbright, and they were enthusiastic. Finally, I would be able to come to the EU and learn from the experts who collect and harmonize the data. The experience has more than exceeded my expectations.

While those professional opportunities were the driving factor, I was also eager to see new places. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit seven different countries in just a little over five months. Three were my host countries: Croatia (Zagreb), France (Paris), and Portugal (Lisbon, home of the EMCDDA). These were intentionally chosen, representing the newest EU member state, one of the original, and then the centralized drug agency of the EU. I feel like I really got to know these cities and countries, and made some great friends. It was my first time feeling like I actually lived in another country, as opposed to just feeling like a visitor. But I also got to visit Belgium, Luxembourg (those two thanks to the summit hosted by their Fulbright Commission, which administers the Schuman), Netherlands (for the same conference that the original connection with the EMCDDA for the Fulbright occurred at), and Slovenia (okay, so I finally picked one myself, just a very short ride from Croatia).

I got to see so much of my host countries that it is hard to pick pictures that summarize them, plus to add pictures from the four other countries! All I can say is that, for me personally and professionally, this was the experience of a lifetime for which pictures do not do justice. But let’s try anyway: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmGvytNE .

Michael Vuolo is a 2018-2019 Fulbright Schuman Scholar,  Associate Professor of Sociology at The Ohio State University, he conducted research in Croatia, France, and Portugal on how drug policies can improve public health and public safety.

Articles are written by Fulbright grantees and do not reflect the opinions of the Fulbright Commission, the grantees’ host institutions, or the U.S. Department of State.