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The Fulbright Adventures

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

Part 1: The Beginning

This may sound naive, but, prior to exactly a week ago today, I didn't think moving to a new country would feel that different from my life in the United States. Maybe it's because the Netherlands didn't feel that foreign or maybe it's because I was just really excited about my research and the prospect of traveling around Europe. I expected the big things to feel different— like of course the language (although everyone here speaks perfect English) or the transportation systems (bicycles > cars). But the small, minute details of everyday life, the facts of life you take for granted in your home country, really hammer home the fact you live in a different world. Like the Dutch, despite their famous tall stature, have very small sinks and very steep stairces. These small differences can feel overwhelming; it is a constant reminder you are existing everyday outside of your comfort zone. And yet, the very existence of these small differences can also be extraordinarily joyful. The small things are all exciting in a new country and hint at adventures to come.

So much has already happened in a week and a half that it is difficult to summarize in one post. By far the best thing about the experience so far has been the people. I truly lucked with some of the nicest colleagues at the Utrecht Ethics Institute who have quickly adopted me as one of the “attic dwellers” (all the PhDs and postdocs work in the attic of the philosophy department which is gorgeous). Even though I am by far the youngest person in my department, my new work friends have treated me as an equal, inviting me to drinks and dinners and concerts. The Ethics Institute is pretty massive for a philosophy institute (I would say 40-50 people) and everyone is both incredibly smart and kind. Being a researcher is strange; it’s completely different than being a student and it requires a lot of self-discipline and motivation. But the people, even though we work on individual projects, make work less lonely than one might think.

And then of course there are my new friends from my dorm. Since I live on the international campus at Utrecht, I’ve been so lucky to meet people on exchange from everywhere in the world. There’s Jamie and Anika from Australia, Panos from Greece, Anna and Lisa from Germany, Tianna from Canada, the list goes on and on. The studio isn’t bad, it isn’t great— I’m struggling with an ant issue and the lack of a freezer/oven/dishwasher is annoying. But housing is a huge issue in Utrecht, in the Netherlands in general, so I feel lucky to have any place to live.

Of course, I’ve also reconnected with old friends and professors. The lovely Manon came last Friday and stayed over and Mom and I had dinner with the Veltmans last Tuesday. It’s crazy how life has come full circle— never in a million years did I think I would end up living in the Netherlands, an hour away from one of closest high school friends. And Brian, my thesis advisor from Penn who I have worked with for the last 2+ years now invited me to a conference in Groningen in the northern part of the country. It’s surreal to think just four months ago I was a student at Penn, and now, I am a colleague (or at least am treated as such) of my former professors. Conferences involve a lot more drinking than one might expect from nerdy philosophers, but, the first night, I ended up at a speakeasy with 8 highly accomplished business ethicists cracking philosophy jokes. Those are the moments that I stop and think, “I genuinely cannot believe this is my life at this moment in time.”

The days are pretty jam packed here. I’ve been here less than two weeks, but it has felt longer. I’ve realized it’s not always an easy adventure— these ants in particular are really bothering me!— but everything is new which, for better or for worse, is always exciting. I feel like I’ve already experienced so much and yet it’s only the beginning! Stay tuned for more updates on my life in Utrecht and in other countries (I’ve already booked Oktoberfest and a Paris trip)!

Articles are written by Fulbright grantees and do not reflect the opinions of the Fulbright Commission, the grantees’ host institutions, or the U.S. Department of State.

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2 comentarios

14 sept 2022

Enjoy your adventure and the people you meet along the way, Kaitlyn. I'm so happy for you.

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Marcy Haydel
Marcy Haydel
13 sept 2022

Kaitlyn, really enjoyed your post. Keep writing! Marcy

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