The Fulbright-Schuman program affords grantees the incredible opportunity to live and work in (up to) three different countries within the European Union during our 9-month grant. While this presents unique logistical challenges and the need to become an expert packer, those difficulties are more than balanced out by the benefits. After spending the first three months of my grant in Brussels, where I had the opportunity to learn some French, to visit the Christmas markets, and to sample a lot of waffles, I moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland at the beginning of 2020 for my second leg.
Luckily for me, and luck is crucial for a Fulbright Schumaner, this move coincided with the US-UK Fulbright Commission’s Mid-year Forum in Cardiff, Wales, which the Commission was kind enough to invite me to. So a mere three days after arriving in Belfast, I got right back on a plane for a week-long conference with 60 other American grantees. Over the course of the week, we immersed ourselves in Welsh culture. We learned about the Welsh language, toured the national rugby stadium, attended a panel with members of the Senedd (the National Assembly for Wales), and rounded out the week with a Twmpath, a Welsh barn dance.
The other purpose of the Mid-year Forum is to provide an opportunity for everyone to present their research to fellow grantees. In my session, we learned about everything from funerary archeology to art history. I was able to present my research on Northern Ireland and explain how it threads through all three countries I will spend time in. Additionally, I was able to give some context about my specific grant, which many of the UK grantees are unfamiliar with, and to talk a little bit about my cultural experience in Brussels. Though many of the other US-UK Fulbrighters have not yet visited Brussels, they certainly could identify with the rainy weather there.
Given my limited living time in each location, I have quickly come to appreciate the chance to experience new places, no matter how brief the time, as well as the importance of supportive Commissions. I am not sure I would have visited Wales without the Forum and my week in Cardiff facilitated my learning first-hand about this fascinating country. The Fulbright Schuman program has provided invaluable support to become familiar with multiple European regions and I still have one more location to go. And, have no fear, I will not be gone from Belgium for too long. The EU-NATO conference, based in Brussels and Luxembourg City, is less than a month away!
Susannah Dibble is the recipient of a Fulbright-Schuman research grant to the European Union and will spend the 2019-2020 academic year in Brussels, Belgium; Belfast, Northern Ireland; and Bilbao, Spain. Her research looks at how the European Union responds to peace processes within its own borders. In particular, she is interested in comparing the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland to Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) in Basque Country, Spain. Susannah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in International Politics from Georgetown University.
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.