“One of the things that I found most intriguing during my first few months in the US was the usage of the expression “community”. People did not say “our city” or “our town,” they said “our community”. They spoke about the “university community”, the “student community”, the “Asian community”, even the “intelligence community” – during a TV program on spies. It took me a while to understand what the reason was. Or, at least, to find my own interpretation for the omnipresence of the word “community”.
The US is a particularly large and diversified country. A “melting pot”, as they say of themselves. Therefore, it seems to me that people strive to find points in common to give meaning to their social interactions. They look for “communities” that we, in Portugal and other countries, take for granted, since we live in much more homogenous contexts.
Well, I found I had several communities of my own. I was part of the “university community” and, of course, of the “student community”.But clearly the most important was the “Fulbright community”.
The importance of being a Fulbright was not really clear to me while I was in Portugal. It was only in the US that, little by little, I started to understand the importance of being part of this community. I realized this importance by the insistence of my professors in mentioning that I was a Fulbright every time I was introduced, especially to people from outside the university. It meant that it was a privilege to them to have a member of the Fulbright community within their own university community.
But, most importantly, it was a privilege to me to belong to this network of people with a legacy from the past a responsibility towards the future. This is a community that exists not only in the US, but in Portugal – where it is particularly strong in large part due to outstanding people we have managing the program locally – and in many other countries. It is, in fact, a global community. And, moreover, now that I am no longer part of the “student community” or even the “university community”, I feel very much a part of the “Fulbright community”, of which I will remain a part forever.”
Fulbright PhD Student at University of Texas, Austin, AY 1995/1996