My Fulbright Experience: Joaquim Braga
«After three seasons, from Winter to Summer, here I am back in Portugal. I arrive full of joy and fulfilment with this enriching experience that will mark my life and career forever. The journey started in February, with heavy bags bursting at the seams and the sadness of leaving behind the ones I love for an experience the pandemic was already turning into something unforeseeable.
Studying abroad in a peak period of a pandemic involved some caution, resilience and constant adaptation. To account for potential problems that could arise from the pandemic situation, I made some strategic options but the support of Fulbright – always answering my concerns and efficiently taking care of everything that would assure me a smooth entrance to the USA – as well as that of my host Prof. Daniel Frey at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – who was always available to meet up and provide me with anything I needed to help me with the process of settling in – was indeed crucial for the success of my stay.
First, I prioritized a good location and nice housemates to live with. I chose to live in the sweet and colourful area of Cambridge port – where I could easily go for walks close to Charles River and with nice green places such as Dana Park where I could play basketball. Under a pandemic that reduces the possibilities of in-person relationships, I knew the people I would be living with would be an important factor to consider and eventually they would become the keystone of new friendships.
My housemates were roughly my age and they turned out to be my companions fighting the loneliness of the pandemic. During our spare time at home, we played board games, watched movies together or simply chatted about anything and everything. I also opted to stay at a nice house, with good sun exposure, a backyard, a porch and my room was big enough to have a desk to work without feeling claustrophobic. This was rather important during the times I had to work from home due to self-quarantine under arrival, some initial delays for having campus access or when I could not go to the office because of the lab shifts. This strategic triad – Location, Friends, House – was crucial for being productive with my research and still make the most of my experience – even if it eventually meant having a more expensive house rent, it was worth it!
Keeping positive and always hoping that things would turn into something better were my convictions. And as the Winter snowstorms gave place to shy blooming flowers in the Spring, also the weekends spent at home were replaced by reopened restaurants, outdoor events or sports with public – and the vaccination process was decisive to this. Gradually, things started to look more like normal and it was possible for me to finally know better the so-called American Culture. A culture that encompasses customs and traditions that link together a huge diversity of people with different origins and gives the sense that within the USA every corner of the world could be represented. I had the opportunity to share ideas with amazing people from all over the world that strengthened my perspective of how connected we are and increased my sense of global responsibility.
(O Fulbrighter diante do MIT)
More than the technical things I learnt, I take with me the hard-working ethic, the historic sites of the Boston Freedom Trail, the Killian Court and my MIT Building 3, the Charles River, the hard basketball pickups on the streets, the basketball and baseball games I watched, the lobster roll, my friends and the people I met. Until I see you again, Boston.»
Muito obrigada, Joaquim, e welcome back!