“Getting to represent Fulbright Portugal at the EU-NATO seminar in Luxembourg and Belgium was one of the highlights of my grant so far. We were a group of about 40 grantees placed all over Europe, traveling around to different EU, NATO, and US Embassy and Mission organizations. I was able to learn more about these organizations and the role of the US, and additionally, about the role of English in the Union. I got to do all of this with a group of incredible Fulbrighters and was able to learn from their research and experience.

Our trip started with an EU overview at the Luxembourg Embassy, where I started to get some clarity on the functioning of the EU from the presenters there. One of the most interesting experiences in this seminar was being able to ask questions of the presenters—in order to both understand better, and, in some cases, to challenge their perspectives. Having these types of conversations was a unique opportunity I don’t think I’ll find anywhere else. The next day at the European Court of Justice, I saw how the EU and individual member-states work together regarding the law (in this case, fireworks regulations), and got to see how some of that negotiation works. In Brussels, during further talks on the EU I heard more about how Portugal fits in with and benefits from the EU, which helped give me more perspective about the country that I am in, and gave me the opportunity to share briefly about my students and context in Portugal. I also got to hear more about language use in the EU, ERASMUS (very relevant to me as a teacher), and NATO, solidifying my preconception of English as a main language that students and actors in these institutions need to know. Our talk at NATO was illuminating in various ways, and I was especially interested in NATO as an organization, the role of the US, and some of issues with how NATO can be perceived. An illuminating part of this trip was being able to not only learn about the organizations that we visited, but also learn about how we, the next generation of policy makers, researchers, learners, and educators, can help them improve.

Unsurprisingly, the most fulfilling part of this trip was the people involved. I got to hear from and chat with people (some of them Fulbrighters!) at some of the most powerful institutions in the world, and was able hear firsthand about what the US and Europe are doing regarding some of the most pressing current international issues. I got to learn about all the incredible work that the all the Fulbright grantees are doing, and hear more in depth about the Fulbright Schuman researchers. I was also able to share information about Portugal. I was the only English Teaching Assistant present, and I felt that, because of my experiences at IPLeiria, I was able to contribute to discussions on intercultural competence and ways of representing the US with Fulbrighters who have had different experiences.

Throughout the trip, it was heartening to see how many of the organizations that we visited had peacekeeping as a goal. Fulbright, as we know, has the objective of promoting peace through international study, and I was happy to see that goal reflected in parts of the operations of the EU and NATO; it ultimately has helped reaffirm that part of my grant. Being able to be a part of this seminar enriched my experience as a grantee in Portugal by showing me that the values that Fulbright holds are reflected in some of these greater organizations, and by giving me more context for my grant. Interacting with Fulbrighters all over the continent gave me lifelong connections that I will be able to use, and allowed me to both share my experience in Portugal and learn from others’ experiences.”

Kathryn Carpenter is a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at Instituto Politécnico de Leiria, 2017/2018.

Kathryn represented Fulbright Portugal at the 2018 EU and NATO Seminar, held in Belgium and Luxembourg.