By Loubna Zohra Aissaoui, 2020 Fulbright DA alumna
With a world that is at no moment identical to itself, a teacher needs to keep learning and improve his/her skills to benefit his/her students. My quest to achieve this goal led me to the Fulbright DAI program. The Fulbright experience was an opportunity for the Moroccan, Muslim mother that I am to achieve self-fulfillment and take her part in sharing about her culture and bringing back what helps her and other teachers to assist Moroccan students in their learning journey. In brief Fulbright is the best way to couple the useful and the joyful. I proudly say that I belong to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. And yes, I use the present because it is going to be part of who I am my entire life. I can never thank the people at IUP enough for what they did for us before and after the break of the pandemic. I couldn’t have asked for better. I will never forget the dean of the college of Education and Communication Lara M. Luetkehans for her humbleness and kindness and Dr. Michele Petrucci, the associate vice president for the IUP office of international education for her dedication and caring. I am thankful to everybody at IUP: professors, people working in the library.They played a major role in our lives after the outbreak of Covid19.
I felt very unlucky when Covid 19 became a global pandemic. I had worked hard to gain the scholarship and I didn’t like the fact that something was going to change my plans. However, I was sure about one thing. I wasn’t going back to my country without completing the program and finishing the inquiry project that took me there in the first place. People cope with panic differently and in the beginning, there was a lot of uncertainty and many downs. It was at that time when stronger bonds were established between Fulbrighters at IUP and the sense of empathy was really stretched. “How are you?” was not enough anymore. How is family back home? How is the situation in your country? How many cases are there? These were frequent questions. We didn’t leave our places for two weeks because we were in New York and we needed quarantine. That time brought us closer and we learned more about each other’s countries and cultures. Thus, there was some blessing within the curse of the pandemic.
It is not fair to mention one best memory in my experience because there were many. I don’t know which one to mention, but if I were to choose one, it would be the way we celebrated each other’s special days and the potlucks we had during celebrations: Eastern, India’s Independence Day, Ramadan, Eid ElFitr, the Superbowl…. It was more than just decorating the communal room together or gathering around a table containing dishes as diversified as our cultures. It was about the discussion and the questions we asked each other to know more about the special celebration. It was a chance for everyone to speak his/her mind while delaying judgement.
My one word to describe my Fulbright experience is “Cathartic”. It purged my mind from stereotypes I hold about USA and other countries in addition to negativity and despair.