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After Fulbright: Maintaining Relationships Post-Grant

Fulbright Austria alumna Prof. Sylvia Henneberg with Karin Andersson

Receiving a Fulbright grant can open many doors for a person, as we shared in our last newsletter. But being a Fulbrighter isn’t just about the person who receives the grant; often, one’s time as a Fulbright grantee can lead to personal and institutional connections that last long beyond the term of the grant. In this newsletter, we share the story of an Austrian student who traveled to the US at the invitation of a Fulbright Austria alumna who had taught at her school the year before.

A Fulbright Follow-Up

By Karin Andersson

In summer semester of 2018, I attended Professor Sylvia Henneberg’s seminar on African American literature, which she taught as part of her Fulbright grant at the University of Vienna. During this time, I received notice that I had obtained a travel grant to visit the United States, a country whose culture and literature I am researching yet had never visited.

I asked Prof. Henneberg for advice on where I could go and what I could do during my trip. To my surprise, she invited me to come and stay with her and her family in her private home in Morehead, Kentucky.

Once in Morehead, Prof. Henneberg showed me the city center and the university grounds. It was the first time that I had set foot on an American campus, and I enjoyed the atmosphere there. Morehead was an interesting town to spend time in since it is definitely not a touristy community. I felt like I got a look at American society firsthand.

I participated in some of Prof. Henneberg’s classes, which was interesting on various levels. For example, I noticed that the classes were more interactive than the ones I am used to in Austria. Afterwards, we also engaged in several conversations in which we exchanged views on the differences between the Austrian and American academic systems. Prof. Henneberg devoted time to help me develop my research draft. During my trip I worked intensively on some ideas for my PhD proposal, and Prof. Henneberg gave useful advice on how I could formulate my thoughts clearly. She also shared some of her past experiences from her academic journey with me. Our conversations and the feedback I received were very helpful.

I went to the USA to experience the lived culture and everyday life of Americans. One of the most striking aspects of the culture I experienced was the genuine hospitality of both Prof. Henneberg and her colleagues. I was invited to dinner parties, brunch, and a Super Bowl get-together. Her friends were always kind and went out of their way to make me feel at home. For instance, one married couple that Prof. Henneberg frequently associates with has two dogs. Since I am very fond of animals, I was allowed to walk the dogs several times, and they even brought the dogs along on several occasions, simply because they knew I would appreciate it.

When I left Morehead, I continued to Nashville, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Natches, and finally arrived in New Orleans. Along the way I made shorter stops to explore communities and visit museums and plantations. I am very satisfied with how my trip to America turned out, and I am grateful for the transatlantic friendships I have formed. If an opportunity arises, I would go on further exchanges, largely because of the positive experiences I had in Morehead.  

Prof. Sylvia Henneberg was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Vienna during the 2017–18 academic year. Photos courtesy of Sylvia Henneberg and Karin Andersson.