Fulbright Impact – an interview series by Filipa Dias, Intern at Fulbright (2024)
I have always been interested in culture and from my point of view, it is something crucial to our society because it can increase our empathy for the world around us and it can also teach us things, whether it is through media like literature, cinema, or television. To better understand how different people became interested in different fields of culture, how it affected their lives and – most importantly – how the Fulbright Scholarships enabled them to pursue and explore these areas, I was given the opportunity to interview Portuguese and American Fulbrighters who had studied or are currently working in these fields.

I had the pleasure to interview Kyle Thomson, who is a PhD Student in Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2021, he received a Fulbright Research Grant to conduct research on the 1998 Lisbon World Expo. His field of study is literature.

Here’s the full interview:

  1. Why were you interested in Portugal for studying literature?

My dissertation project is both interdisciplinary and traverses borders across Southern Europe, from Portugal to Italy. However, when it came time for me to consider applying for Fulbright funding to support my work, I thought about the connections I had made in Portugal during previous research trips and how accessible the national archives had been. Portugal also invests generously in the humanities, which helped persuade me towards pursuing opportunities there. 

  1. How did your experience studying literature in Portugal differ from your academic experience in the United States?

While in Lisbon I connected with several academics who work on topics very close to my interests. These academics were very generous with their time, and offered me their advice and access to resources that I otherwise would not have been privy to. Portuguese studies are not a primary focus at my home university or at most other West Coast universities, so finding a community of scholars deeply invested in these topics in Lisbon was truly a rewarding experience.

  1. How do you think studying abroad in Portugal contributes to cross-cultural understanding and exchange between the United States and Portugal?

I have had nothing but positive things to say about my experience in Portugal. I’ve shared my experience with my colleagues in an academic setting and with friends and family who were curious about my time there. I’ve happily advised friends who were planning trips to Portugal but who knew nothing about the country. I think it is through exchanges like this that new bonds are established and other bonds reinforced, and I’m happy to be a Fulbright Portugal alum.

  1. How do you think your Fulbright experience influenced your academic and professional aspirations?

My favorite experience in Portugal opened me up to a new community of scholars working across national boundaries on issues that are very relevant to today’s society. I think it is important for scholars today to be conversant in public humanities, and all of the scholars I met while in Lisbon were invested in bringing their work to the public sphere. This is something that I aspire to do in the coming years.


Thank you for participating in this series, Kyle! We wish you all the best!