This past week I took a mini-break from classes here at Middlebury to attend the Fulbright pre-departure orientation. I took pictures, but unfortunately don’t have the connector cable to make posting them possible. They’ll come at the end of Middlebury, I promise!
I got to arrive in Washington DC a day early on Tuesday since I flew in from the west coast. The hotel that the Fulbright people put us up in was the Grand Hyatt and it was heaven, especially coming from my dorm room in Oakland. My dear friend Jessica met me at the airport and took me on an evening stroll up to the Washington monument and through the Mall.
Sidenote on Jessica: She is a Fulbright alumna to Yemen where she studied the deaf population. Last summer, she encouraged me to apply and during the application process she was always quick to respond to my questions with great advice.
I had Wednesday morning free, which I spent in the Natural History Museum and took a peek at the Hope Diamond and just glanced through a floor of the American History Museum, where I saw Julia Child’s kitchen and a great exhibit on the First Ladies: including inaugural ball gowns from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama.
I attended meetings and lectures on the Fulbright grant Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon on safety, health insurance, and cultural sensitivity. During country-specific meetings, I met the other Fulbright students, scholars, and English teaching assistants going to Morocco. There are a total of about 25 people going to Morocco, and though five or six will be in Fez, no one will be in Ifrane except for myself.
For the most part, the orientation served to give us basic information and to get all the administrative details about the grant out of the way. I did find out that I received some funding for CLEA language study before the research period begins, but since funding is limited, everyone’s requested amount was cut. I hope I will be able to take a full three months of language, especially colloquial Moroccan, before my funds run out.
There was a lot of idea-exchanging, book-recommending, research-technique-suggesting conversing going on during the coffee breaks and fancy meals. I came out of the orientation session feeling excited and encouraged to work as hard as possible now at Middlebury. I already feel that I will have a great support network while in Morocco, not just with the Fulbright staff but with the fellow Fulbright grantees.
Now back in Oakland, I face making up four days worth of homework as well as preparing for the four-hour midterm on Thursday. The orientation in Washington DC was just what I needed to keep me motivated in this intense environment. The goal is clear: I am glad to be in this intense learning atmosphere now so that in two short months I will be able to interact more effectively and appropriately with Moroccan society!