“I am currently a doctoral candidate at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and had the good fortune to spend my first year of overseas research as a Fulbrighter in Portugal. During the 1998-1999 academic year, I lived and studied in Lisbon in the quiet confines of the libraries of the nation’s capital.
Looking back on this experience, I can say that it was with a good bit of chance that I ever came to Portugal. However, thanks to a very fortunate set of coincidences, I was able to have a unique experience that many of my peers envy. During this year, the first of many I have since spent in Lisbon, I worked in the quiet confines of the Biblioteca da Ajuda on my research on the Jesuit missions to China in the seventeenth century. More than simply parachuting into an archive, reading documents, and taking off again like many historians, I devoted this year to analyzing all of the sources in a specific manuscript collection while developing good contacts with Portuguese historians and the library’s helpful staff. Through these encounters, I have founded solid friendships and professional relationships that have resulted in my first publications and various opportunities to exchange ideas with other scholars.
More importantly, though, I had the time to know Portugal better during my Fulbright year. Thanks to a good Portuguese friend and a year’s stay, I was able to see much of the country, from Melgaço to Madeira, and from Castelo Bom to Castelo Melhor. During these trips, I gained a deeper knowledge of Portugal, its people, and especially its wide variety of food and wine. Sharing the same vistas and immersing myself in the same traditions of the men and women that I have researched, I feel somehow closer to them. As a historian, I value the experience of sharing the same spaces with the peoples of the past, something for which Portugal provides ample opportunity.
My experience in Portugal, as I mentioned above, was only the first of many more to come. Perhaps more than others, I have a great debt to the Fulbright commission since it was during this first year of research that I met my future (Portuguese) wife and decided to make a career of the history of the Portuguese Discoveries. Now that, I think, is an excellent example of an educational Luso-American exchange!”
April 19, 2001
Fulbright US student research grantee in AY 1998/1999