It has been twenty-five years since I was a Fulbright Scholar at North Carolina State University – home of the wolf pack! At the time, in what seems like a lifetime ago, my husband and I, both graduate scholars from newly independent Croatia went to Raleigh, NC. We were both at the beginning of our careers, eager and fortunate enough to be there.
Also, it was something to be proud of – an achievement! Coming from a war-torn area, it truly meant a lot that my research ideas were acknowledged. A colleague of mine once said that being exposed to another culture can truly make you feel like you could never have returned home without bringing back something valuable with you. And it was the truth. This truly exacerbates the meaning of a Fulbright scholarship; you always return with a worthy experience back home from which others could learn from you.
Fast forward twenty-five years and after being awarded a Fulbright Schuman grant, I was on my way to NC State for round two. I returned to the same building – Williams Hall, on the same fourth floor to join a weed science group! My research was focused on exploring the pattern and management of plant invasions between the U.S. and the EU. To accomplish this task, I compared observational, theoretical, experimental and modeling studies of selected invasive plants from both continents, visited many infested sites and discuss with professionals (USDA – APHIS), NCSU extension service, faculty and particularly with students.
Coming here was also a tremendous opportunity to get in contact with the people I used to work with before and to catch up with friends that I haven’t seen in years. I am glad to say that even after all these years we have maintained contact and I am thoroughly glad I have had the chance to get to know these good people. Who can brag about having Santa and Ms. Claus as friends? I can! I was even invited to their home to spend the holidays with their family! Moreover, Santa Ron (a retired NCSU professor) and his wife Paulette had welcomed me at the Raleigh airport and arranged accommodation on campus and all necessary things for me! I cannot stress enough how helpful it is knowing someone who can help you with settling in a foreign country. I also made some new friendships in the Department, in the Toastmaster Club, or during regular meetings which were organized for the international community on Campus!
Unfortunately, the last couple of weeks brought to us, and the whole world, an unexpected situation – we have to deal with the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19). The university rapidly changed. Although it remains open with minimal on-campus operations, there are limitations for people on campus, all classes are moving online and the majority of employees are required to make alternative work arrangements. Social distancing is now the recommended practice to protect ourselves and others. It is important to emphasize that a large part of guidance from the university, local, state and federal health offices are distributed among us and I feel safe and informed. I understand that adjusting to these changes can be a challenge to us all, but at the same time, I strongly believe that the whole ordeal will come to a peaceful ending.
What else can I say? Two semesters have gone by way too fast for my liking but I am satisfied that I have accomplished everything I have set before. This has been a great year and a tremendous opportunity for my personal growth and gave me so much during the formative moments of my academic career. I would say to any potential Fulbright grantee that it is worth taking this opportunity because of its benefits and the beauty it brings is truly something special
Dr. Edita Stefanic IS A 2019-2020 FULBRIGHT Research scholar IN agriculture AT North Carolina State University. Edita was born in Osijek, Croatia, where she spent the larger part of her life and subsequently the majority of her formal education. She has attained her Ph.D. at the University of Osijek, College of Agriculture, where she holds now the position of a Full-time Professor. She is a Plant Ecologist. Her research work is mainly focused on invasive weeds, and has published multiple research articles in scientific journals. So far she has been involved with numerous international research groups.
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.