I had great expectations. I thought I was going to a top laboratory in the National Institutes of Health, to learn a new infection model, and to use it to explore the potential of a new vaccine candidate against leishmaniasis. That was a big deal to me! And indeed I did it! I was received by Jesus Valenzuela and his collaborators as part of their team and took advantage of their expertise to successfully develop my project. But I got so much more than what I was expecting…

More than to be inserted in to an extremely stimulating professional environment, I felt right away welcomed in to a barrier-free, warm/close group of people that were more than co-workers; that I dare to call “a family”. More than knowledge and ideas, we shared life experiences (a perfectly cooked turkey in Thanksgiving, a trip to Shenandoah National Park, a night out to listen to Mariza singing Fado…)!

The other memorable component of my stay in the USA was the constant inter-cultural exchange experience promoted (directly or not) by Fulbright. Firstly, we, 2015/2016 Fulbrighters had the opportunity to look closely and better understand the complex American electoral process. Not only were we there while it was happening, but also Fulbright organized enrichment seminars whose goal was to explain it (but not only).

My Enrichment Seminar took place in Philadelphia, where during a weekend, Fulbrighters from all over around the world (more than 70 different nationalities) spent a weekend sharing experiences and exploring together aspects of both the American democratic processes and the American culture. The name says it all. It was in fact an extremely enrichment experience, with the potential to be continued due to the many people I´ve met and intend to keep in contact with. In this extended Fulbright network I must also include the Washington DC group of Fulbrighters, with whom I shared unforgettable moments (an Easter potluck, some funny nights out…). Still concerning the inter-cultural experience, I have to say that the American sense of community and the “necessity” to contribute to it (in the way of volunteerism or actual service), really impressed me.

Because of all of the above written and so much more, I am deeply grateful to Fulbright, particularly to the Portuguese Commission and to the Institute of International Education. These six months of my life will for sure influence who I am going to be, as an individual and a professional. I definitely advise you to apply to a Fulbright grant and to embark in a life-changing (at least in terms of perspective) journey.