“The Perfect Match

Was it the perfectly made espresso in the little privately run coffee shop on the corner? Was it my pick-up soccer games Sunday morning in front of the Torre de Belem? Was it the seemingly endless and breathtaking coastlines of Portugal? Was it the many great professors from whom I learned so much? Was it the rustic buildings, antique electric cars and age old tradition of Ginja? Or was it the modern and funky scene for young people? Was it the feeling of being in an archive and reading a document written hundreds of years before my country was founded? It was all of this and much more than made Portugal a perfect match for my personality, academically and personally.

The Fulbright experience in Lisbon during the first year of doctorate program in History academically provided me with an incredible opportunity. Having the time and access to all the libraries and archives, sitting in on classes, meeting many professors, and having spoken at two conferences, provided crucial feedback and bibliographical titles for my work at its initial stage. Being able to draft a thesis proposal with five years remaining in my studies, provides me with much time to become thoroughly immersed in my topic. I met several mentors who will be essential to my dissertation and accompany me throughout the entire process. I made many academic colleagues that I will keep for life.

The international experience that the Fulbright awarded me was also a crucial part of the experience. It allowed me the time to really begin to understand another way of life, at times very similar and at times very different from my own. Interacting on an academic and personal level with diplomats from the Embassy helped me to understand the United States’ role in the world more clearly. Getting the opportunity to understand the European Union and the United States from afar helps one to see a different side of America and the European Union, not often talked about in our press.

However, I found that it was on the personal level, outside of the classrooms and conferences, where the most fulfilling conversations happened. It was in the conversations with my close friends and their families that I really began to understand the Portuguese and I would guess, where they in turn, began to understand Americans.

I will not pretend to ignore the obstacles that I encountered from time to time or the challenges that the Portuguese face, yet despite these, I can still say with confidence that for me, Portugal and my Fulbright experience there was perfect. It was the ideal mixture of face-paced city life and long runs along the river and ocean; the ultimate combination of stimulating academic conferences and long, slow-paced coffee breaks with friends. It was the perfect match for me.”

US Fulbright Student in Portugal, AY 2007/2008, conducting research on the Portuguese Colonization and Evagelization of Brazil.