Margarida Vale de Gato, Fulbright Scholar, Georgetown University, 2017/2018
My Fulbright Experience
From August to December 2017 I had the opportunity, thanks to the Fulbright and to the English Department of the University of Georgetown, of finally living part of my adult life and exercising my professional activity abroad, providing an essential intercultural experience for one like me who thrives in the Humanities and Languages. As a professor of American Studies, to live in Washington DC and to be able to breathe the immense cultural heritage of the Smithsonian Museums, while at the same time doing my daily errands on top of a bike, down Mexico Avenue, up the National Mall, or besides the Potomac river, was a bonus in itself.
My Fulbright grant was for Teaching and Researching, and I taught a course on the Short Story in the United States to 27 students who were bright and responsive. As the course implied a change to my Fulbright plans (initially I was going to teach US poetry and its transatlantic forces), I also had to learn a lot, and for that I used the resources of the University which were great (the Lauinger Library delivers books to your office!) and relied on the good will of students. The teaching-learning process was somewhat different (I learned I should be more attentive to sensibilities, to moderate the way I give feedback, and to draw more on the autonomy of students); with some adaptation on both sides, however, the outcome was very positive and I am happy to say I still correspond with some of the students now that I am back. It was also exciting to know my colleagues in the English department, sharing office-threshold conversations, stopping in the corridor to greet, or exchanging class notes over coffee in the kitchen.
My stay was also beneficial for research, not only for being integrated in a great discussion group (the Americas Initiative at Georgetown), where I had the opportunity to present and get feedback, but also because I could access resources easily, not to mention the Library of Congress where I was very welcomed at the Hispanic Division to develop my investigation on Edgar Allan Poe and Latin American Modernisms. I also profited from the Fulbright Outreach Lecturing Fund, visiting and lecturing at Loyola University in New Orleans, and at UMass, Dartmouth, where I combined Translation, Poetry, and American and Portuguese heritages. The pictures illustrate one of these moments, as well as a Fulbright social event (wonderful for networking), and finally the raking of Autumn leaves with my daughter in our home in Chevy Chase, DC, where we were hosted by Donna Deaton in a warm American household.