I’m a Bulgarian Fulbright scholar. I moved to Bulgaria in August 2008 for the 2008-09 Fulbright year. Now a year later, I live and work in Sofia. An American. An alumn of the Fulbright. A teacher. A writer.
So here’s the story:
Two years ago, I decided that it was about time for something new. I’d been living in Washington DC for five years and working at Georgetown University for nearly four years. For three of those years I’d been working at the Associate Director of Fellowships helping and advising students to apply for Fulbright grants. It struck me that summer after reading what felt like my bizillonth personal statement for the fellowship: why am I not applying? So I told my director what I was thinking. He told me of course you should. And I did.
I made the application and tried not to think about it which is clearly an impossible task so I obsessed about it instead. I was accepted to the Fulbright in April and by the end of July I’d sent maybe 15 boxes of things home (books, journals and other mementos I couldn’t live without), I’d sold all of the other stuff (desk, bed, book shelves–you name it) and I gave my roommates the rest. S. got three colored bowls from a four bowl set and some miscellaneous cooking utensils and N. got the food I couldn’t figure out how to eat before I left (now he’s got a kick-ass food blog).
All of this felt very normal to me until the day my roommate’s girl friend drove me to the airport to catch my flight to Sofia. I got out with my suitcases and carry-ons, looked at the airport and promptly thought: what am I doing? This is about the moment my stomach almost dropped out of my body. Somehow I was able to keep it together and after standing in a huge line for check in and making it through the security check that was that.
I landed in Sofia 15 plus hours later and this is where the real adventure and this is where the blog began.
My year as a Fulbright scholar ended in July 2009. I was lucky enough to be able to stay on for a second year–today I am teaching English at the American College of Sofia.
Oh, and if you didn’t catch this. I used to work at Georgetown in the Office of Fellowships and I spent hours obsessing over other people applications. Here’s my take on this whole crazy application thing. I wrote this post about the application process a year ago.
A Note on my Blog visa vie the Fulbright:
I got an email from the Fulbright program in January 2009. The email gives us Fulbrighters who are blogging, using Facebook and/or other internet-based media guidance. It made me laugh. They are offering me three points of guidance for blogging? Okay.
Then I read this “guidance” and I decided what the memo describes as guidance are actually much more like a set of guidelines that we need to follow regarding our blogging and social networking–not guidance at all. I do think it’s absolutely within their rights to ask us to do this I just get a kick out of the language used in the document sent to us. Anyhow here are the three things I need to do and know:
- Avoid confusion by acknowledging that yours is not an official Department of State website, and the views and information presented are your own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.
- While participants in all U.S. State Department-sponsored academic exchange scholarships have full academic and artistic freedom to write, publish and create, they are also expected to maintain a standard of conduct that is in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Fulbright Program – to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
- Any Fulbright grantee who posts inappropriate or offensive material on the Internet in relation to the Fulbright program may be subject to revocation or termination of their grant. Be aware that what is deemed culturally acceptable in the United States (or, more specifically, on the Internet in the United States) may not be received well overseas. Describing the challenges of living in a foreign country is fine, but please refrain from using disparaging language to describe the country you are in and the people you live and work with.
Yes, I am a Fulbrighter in Sofia; however, you should know that my blog is not an official Department of State website, and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State. Also if you happen to stumble across me on any of the multitude of social networking sites I participate in please know that I am just a person who won a Fulbright and not someone who represents the program.
In summary: I am a person. I won a Fulbright. But this does not mean I am a person who represents the Fulbright. I am just a person who worked really hard, applied for a Fulbright and won one. Now this program is paying for me to live and work abroad. (Thank-you. A lot.)
I am also a person who loves coffee. I love coffee here in Sofia (and I loath that the first Starbucks just opened in Bulgaria and a second as well). But, this opinion is my own. I represent only myself when I write: I understand the allure of Starbucks but I don’t understand paying American prices for coffee when you can get a cup that is just as good for much, much less all over Sofia.
Finally, if you find me on ravelry a social networking site for knitters and crocheters please do not think that my work represents either William J. Fulbright or Condoleezza Rice–I am sure that they are both much better knitters than I am. As for Hillary Clinton the new Secretary of State? I’d guess she’s not knitter.