Every year, U.S. recipients of a Fulbright grant who are studying across Europe are eligible to attend a four-day seminar on the EU and NATO in Luxembourg and Belgium, hosted by the Fulbright Commission in Belgium and Luxembourg. During this seminar—which this year took place from February 16-20, 2016—the 43 American participants learned more about the structure and functioning of European institutions and how these institutions affect their respective academic, professional, and personal daily lives. The 2015-2016 group was composed of students, teachers, lecturers, and researchers, who are currently conducting research or studying at universities all over Europe in diverse fields such as journalism, biology, theater studies, and linguistics.
The American researchers and students who are participating in this seminar have all received a Fulbright grant, which is the flagship educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Eight of the participants are recipients of a Fulbright-Schuman grant, which is co-funded by the U.S. State Department and the European Commission. This grant supports graduate students, pre- and post-doctoral researchers, as well as teachers who research topics related to U.S.-EU relations. One of the participants, Letitia Zwichert (Naperville, IL) is the first high school teacher to receive a Fulbright Schuman grant. She is studying minority education and the existing achievement gap in Brussels, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg.
While in Brussels, the seminar participants spent Thursday afternoon (February 18) at the United States Mission to the European Union (USEU) after having visited the European Commission in the morning. At USEU, Cultural Affairs Officer Elizabeth Martin of the Public Affairs section introduced the participants to the structure and workings of the Mission and its public diplomacy activities. She also described what it is like to work in the U.S. Foreign Service.
“Fulbright-Schuman is an amazing opportunity as it lets me have this year after finishing my Ph.D. to really dedicate myself to my research, which is very rare in that most people move right into a teaching position…It has been a real luxury to have this time.” Muriam Davis (Boston, MA), post doctoral researcher in History at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy.
Subsequently, Economic Counselor Tom Reott and Political Counselor Michael DeTar briefed the participants on their respective portfolios. Mr. Reott focused on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the free trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the U.S. and the EU, and energy security. He underlined USEU’s coordinating role. The Mission is not responsible for negotiating treaties itself, but instead briefs them on the political situation in the institutions and the member states and presents the U.S. position to the key European audiences.
Mr. DeTar stated that some of the key political issues the mission deals with is following the negotiations to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union (Brexit), the coordination between the U.S. and EU on sanctions against Russia because of its actions in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and the threat to the Schengen zone posed by the immigration crisis. The two senior officers also left plenty of time for questions from the Fulbrighters. The participants ended their visit to USEU with a reception, hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Anthony Gardner.
Fulbright-Schuman has opened a lot of doors for me in terms of my research. It has provided me with an extensive network and very high levels of opportunities for interviews and participant observation.” – Joel Colony (Harrisville, NH), MA Global Politics at the London School of Economics.
USEU wishes all Fulbright grantees great success with their current research projects.
The USEU Press Team