One afternoon at a bakery in NYC, one of my professors (now a mentor and friend) encouraged me to apply for a Fulbright research grant. It was not until several years and two application cycles later (the first application cycle I was designated an alternate candidate) that I received the honor of becoming a Fulbright-EDUFI Fellow. In March 2020, when I was awarded my Fulbright research grant, our world was faced with a global pandemic that required the start of my grant in Finland to be delayed.
In the spring of 2021 I began my Fulbright research grant virtually, each day anxiously awaiting a green light for my departure. It took several months and four rescheduled flights before I would arrive in Finland; my first attempt to depart resulted in the decision to remove my luggage from the plane after receiving a call prior to boarding regarding my potential exposure to COVID-19.
While my Fulbright experience was different than I had originally expected, I started my Fulbright Finland grant in the U.S. experiencing the Finnish culture through its people. I received constant support, encouragement, and guidance from my Fulbright host, the Fulbright Finland Foundation, my Fulbright Buddy, and various people I was connected with in Finland that assisted me in navigating my grant remotely.
My new connections in Finland sent me pictures so that I could see the first snow of winter and the beauty of Jyväskylä throughout the winter season. I received text messages and emails sharing words of encouragement and hopeful wishes that my arrival would still be able to happen. I was invited to Zoom calls to ensure I was doing ok, and so that I could see different parts of the country through video streaming. I also received constant communication from the Fulbright Finland Foundation and my Fulbright host, assuring me they were committed to my arrival and would remain as flexible as possible.
"As adversities kept preventing my arrival abroad, a sense of trust had developed through the people I was connected with in Finland that everything possible would be done to make my arrival a reality."
I have heard often in the U.S. that Finland is ranked the happiest country in the world. During our orientation the Fulbright Finland Foundation explained that a sense of trust may be correlated with citizen happiness. As adversities kept preventing my arrival abroad, a sense of trust had developed through the people I was connected with in Finland that everything possible would be done to make my arrival a reality.
My Fulbright Finland research grant has connected me with people in Finland, the U.S., and throughout the entire world. I have made new connections, friendships, and memories that will transcend my grant period. Family, friends, mentors, colleagues, Fulbright alumni, and many people I met through this process have provided endless support; this experience would not be possible without their encouragement and assistance. I also offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for this experience and for all of the people that walked with me along this journey (and continue to do so). While I don’t have space in this blog to adequately thank everyone for all they have done for me, I humbly offer my sincerest kiitos.