Senator Fulbright, I salute thee.

If you have ever been interested in studying, researching, or teaching abroad, or even just doing something totally extraordinary, do yourself a freakin’ service and apply for a Fulbright grant. The deadline is October 18 this year and you can find information here.

I say this now because I’ve just returned from my Fulbright orientation in Athens and Aegina, and I have truly never been so electrified by a sense of purpose in my entire life as I am now. Meeting the other Fulbright students and scholars, as well as the Fulbright staff, traveling with them and seeing the things we saw and experiencing the things we experienced has filled me with a gratitude, pride, humility and inspiration unlike any I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Here are some highlights from the actual orientation itself:

Meeting the other Fulbrighters was a joy!

  • Four other students:
    • One other ETA
    • A student of law with a project on green energy
    • A student of classics finishing his disseration on Roman baths
    • A pre-med student with a project on nutrition in Crete
  • Two scholars:
    • One professor who works with deaf students and is researching Greek methods of teaching the deaf
    • Another professor with a research project on loss of language in stroke victims

2010-2011 Greece Fulbrighters!

At lunch the first day, we got to meet some officials from the US Embassy in Athens. I will never forget the advice given to me by the Deputy Chief of Mission on teaching with personality in Greece: “The more you can keep them in line, the more you can be yourself.” As a side note, we were all invited to a reception at his home this week, and though I couldn’t attend because I’m back in Thessaloniki, I do have a very fancy-looking piece of paper that says that he and his wife “request the pleasure of the company of Ms. Kathleen Essember Peterson.” Eee!

Our time was largely spent between visits to ancient archaeological sites, touring the city/surrounding area, swimming in the sea and eating wonderful meals together.

Calamari! Notice how large the pieces are and how little breading there is on them.

Whole, fried gopes! They're very typical in Greece and quite tasty when fresh like this.

A plate of meze at a restaurant right by the sea; grilled bread, Greek salad, tiropita (cheese pastry), tarama salata (dip made from roe) and aubergine (eggplant) dip. So fresh & tasty!

On Thursday night, we got to visit the home of internationally famous artist and former Fulbrighter Kostas Varotsos (whose work includes the Runner in Athens–Google it! It’s amazing!) for dinner. His home is beautiful; very modern, sleek and hip. It’s on a hillside overlooking the western side of Aegina, and there’s an outdoor pool and these gorgeous tiny lights studded in the cement of his porch that look like stars. We were all blown away! We also got to see his studio and hear his thoughts on traveling in the States; he loves America because he thinks Americans are very open, and that anything is possible in the USA.

The sun setting over Aegina.

The view from Kostas's porch.

And the last day, we listened to a talk by a historian, who happened to mention that Nikos Kazantzakis (the author on which I’m doing my research project while here, and the author of my favorite book, Zorba the Greek) lived on Aegina for around 20 years and his house is just up the road. (At this, of course, a small squeal-like noise escaped my lips. If you’ve ever wondered what pure literary delight would sound like, it was sort of like a cross between a little girl being given a pony and any given victory cry from “Revenge of the Nerds.”)

So, my new friend and fellow Fulbrighter Alan and I struck out to try and find it! We knew it was somewhere near the coast, but had no idea of the specifics. And after a 45 minute walk (during which we  accidentally trespassed on private land and surprised a sunbathing German lady yelling “Prive! Prive!” as well as getting several wrong directions), we found it!! Kazantzakis lived in this house for 20 years, and it was while he was there on Aegina that he did some of his most profound literary and philosophical work. The sense of connection I felt while standing in front of his house was absolutely extraordinary. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Me in front of Kazantzakis's house!

The view Kazantzakis had from his house in Aegina. I'd want to write too!

Honestly, being around the other Fulbrighters and the Fulbright staff, having such fascinating conversation and hearing about their research projects, and just learning more about Fulbright, the possibilities for me while I’m here, and how hard people worked to get me here… I feel so inspired, grateful, proud, and honestly moved. A Fulbright grant is a truly singular thing; knowing I’m here as a Fulbright scholar creates a fascination in both Americans back in the States and Greeks here, so I really feel like an ambassador–a true link between the two. I now feel so ready to embrace my time here fully; to teach and learn to teach well, to show Americans what Greek life is like and vice versa, and to dig into my research project and add to the collective body of study and knowledge that is out there.

So today, my message to you is this: apply. Whether it’s for a Fulbright grant, a job you’ve always been curious about or a passport to travel abroad, the time is now because there won’t be any other time. It’s so easy today to blame the economy, the job market, or what have you. But it’s certainly possible to keep your feet on the ground and look at the stars at the same time. You’ll never know if you don’t put yourself out there; and the hard knocks are well worth the eventual success. Good luck. Cheers.


About wrap me in phyllo dough

travel addict. greece-obsessed. grad student. bottomless pit.
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13 Responses to Senator Fulbright, I salute thee.

  1. Wonderful post. I do kind of wish I had applied for a fulbright, but I don’t think my grades would have cut it. Oh well. I’m loving what I’m doing and it’s helping me realize more what I want to do in the future too.

    • k8peterson says:

      You’re on JET, aren’t you? I’ve heard the best things about it. It’s certainly right up there with Fulbright in the realm of Extraordinary Things Young People Can Do–not everyone our age decides to move to Japan and teach! 🙂

  2. Mindy says:

    Hey Kate!

    I saw your site posted on the Fulbright Facebook page and what a start to your journey this is! I’m actually in the process of applying for an ETA right now and your stories made me even more excited.

    Good luck to you and enjoy this wonderful opportunity.

    • k8peterson says:

      Thanks Mindy! To which country’s program are you applying? I couldn’t possibly feel more positive about my choice to apply for an ETA; the opportunity to teach and do a side research project at the same time really allows for in-depth study of whatever country you’re in. Please do let me know if you have any questions about applying or the ETAship in general; you can reach me at Best of luck!!

  3. Amazing! I’m in the process of applying and moving to the Netherlands next year regardless of whether or not I get it (though I hope I do!). Thanks for this post. It’s truly inspirational and makes me even more excited. And orientation in Athens and Aegina? Amazing! Everything you described…amazing!

  4. Lena says:

    Dear Kate,
    I am a Fulbrighter from Germany who just found your blog. I am in the U.S. right now, studying at Rutgers in New Jersey. The way you described your Fulbright orientation very much reminded me of my own one: It was incredibly fascinating to meet so many inspiring students and scholars, and it left me feeling proud and grateful for being a Fulbrighter.

    • k8peterson says:

      Hi Lena! I hope you are enjoying your time in the US. I’ve heard great things about Rutgers. I’m so glad you enjoyed your orientation as much as I did; it’s such a joy and privilege to be in the company of such dynamic people, doing such fascinating things! Please do share stories from your Fulbright experience–as an American Fulbrighter in Europe, I’d be interested to hear what it’s like for a European Fulbrighter in America!

  5. Sabuj Bhattacharyya says:

    I am Sabuj Bhattacharyya, Indian Fulbright Visiting researcher ( Doctoral and professional category) at University of Colorado, boulder,USA. It is really true that Fulbright is extraordinary experience. It will not only help to know about different culture but probably help you most to know your own country and people. Because when you will reach USA, you will meet several people who are interested about your country and culture. Sometime being in India i never think of certain subjects/ topic , their social/ cultural significance. But when people ask me about those things I realized that I know most of them but as they are very common it never strike my mind.
    Which university you will join in US?Congratulation for Your Fulbright Fellowship
    Sabuj Bhattacharyya

    • k8peterson says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. I do hope you’re enjoying Boulder; it’s a wonderful town and a great university (my father got his PhD from CU Boulder). I’m looking forward to discovering more and more about Greece and, as you said, more about my own home as well. The students here have so many questions about my home in the US, and it’s true that answering them makes me think about commonplace American cultural norms in a way I never would have otherwise.
      When I get back to the States, I’ll be attending Boise State University for my Master’s degree in English.
      I hope you enjoy your time in the US and congratulations to you, too, on your Fulbright!

  6. Carol Fortin says:

    You inspire me. I have just (finally, sorry) read your blog. What an amazing young woman you are, and an amazing journey you are on. I used to love to write or just make up bedtime stories for the boys, funny books for friends, and of course my journals to keep me sane (or at least just this side of insanity). Life – children and career, happiness and turmoil – interrupted my love of writing. I think you have just inspired me to begin again. Thank you for that gift.
    Love, your Aunt,

    • k8peterson says:

      I’m so glad!! I’ve really been enjoying getting back into the swing of writing, too; I sometimes have a tough time finding good subject matter, but great stories definitely abound when you’re abroad! Thanks for your kind words. There is a postcard currently en route to you and the boys. Hugs all around & let me know how the writing goes!

  7. Pingback: The Wrap Me in Phyllo Dough 100th Post Spectacular! | wrap me in phyllo dough

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