We were welcomed by Dr. Jerome Sheridan, chairman of the Fulbright commission in Belgium, and were given a brief introduction to the EU and its major institutions. Throughout our visits, we grappled with the threat of Russia and the current issue in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and returning to “normalcy”, the democratic backsliding of Poland and Hungary, the digital transition, and the European Green Deal – hearing from representatives from the European Parliament, European Commission and NATO. On our last day, we had the chance to literally “virtually tour” NATO headquarters through a thirty-minute narrated video that allowed us to see both the exterior and interior of the old and new NATO buildings and offices as well as short clips of significant political moments that had occurred there. After our virtual visit, the seminar concluded with the US Mission to NATO, and we had the opportunity to discuss careers in the United States Foreign Service and how we, as Fulbrighters, might be able to get involved in that world. As I contemplate a future career in policy, I found this discussion as well as the ensuing conversations with other Fulbrighters about possibilities after Fulbright to be the perfect conclusion to the experience. After having delved into all of these various political institutions and having learned so much from all of the speakers, to be able to digest the seminar in its entirety and reflect on how we all envision our potential careers progressing was invaluable.
While we each heard snippets of other Fulbrighters’ research, the virtual aspect did pose a bit of an obstacle with connecting with each other to discuss our projects and getting to know each other. However, hearing the probing questions my peers posed and the interesting discussions that ensued still left me with a renewed excitement for my own research in Vienna, where I’m trying to disentangle the way the Austrian far-right has instrumentalized the issue of the pandemic and how the Austrian case compares to the rest of Europe. And while I feel inspired by my fellow Fulbrighters in Vienna, it was eye-opening to see so many other young researchers and teaching assistants residing all across Europe, pursuing such a wide range of fascinating projects. The Fulbright EU-NATO Seminar definitely left me with a greater understanding of how these significant political institutions actually operate in our present world and helped to reaffirm my career interest in the sphere of global policy.