Final Post - Thank You, Fulbright
Jul 15, 2022
I’ve been struggling to write this post for a while. Coming back from Fulbright was somehow simultaneously hectic and uneventful; one day I was in Abidjan, and after painfully weighing my luggage and praying, I was magically back in New York. I’ve always been amazed at how the brevity of a plane ride changes your entire life, and this is no exception.
Call me a romantic, but I wanted my return to be this whole spectacle. As a child and still now, I come to anticipate dramatic endings, waiting, hoping for some climax, only to realize (usually disappointingly) that life often churns on without flare. One moment leads into the next, and you find yourself in memories that were once plans scrawled in your journal. I guess I’m thankful for that.
While my flair for the dramatic partially comes from my own personality, I also crave clear-cut endings to different chapters in my life.
So, for the past month and change, I’d been waiting for this climax; a moment that proved that Fulbright was truly over and that I would long for days past, but honestly, it’s been incredible to be back. And that doesn’t come at the expense of missing Fulbright. It’s been amazing to see my friends, but I also wish I could have shared that experience with them. Being back at home has been challenging, but it doesn’t make me forget how lonely Fulbright could be. Perhaps it's the opposing emotions, but I haven’t had the “aha” moment I thought I would.
Sometimes I forget that with every climax comes a crash, and that bumpy rides aren’t always worth it. I've been fortunate enough that my return has been smooth and clear-cut, and my plans for the future simply require me to wait and accept them.
I will say the biggest shocks I experienced were 1: inflation and 2: something my friends and I have been calling interpersonal culture shock. In the time that I’ve been gone, my friends have gotten new jobs, new academic opportunities, moved across the country, and gotten engaged (I write this two days after the wedding of one of my first friends from Brown) and this can all feel overwhelming. The identity and sense of post-college self I built in Abidjan doesn’t quite fit in New York, and it’s been challenging to see people who I last saw at commencement be so incredibly different than when I left them. But, I know in due time, the next version of myself will make an appearance, and this transitory period will be nothing but a memory.
I suppose a simple question should summarize my experience: was it worth it? Did I love it? And I can say, without a doubt, it absolutely was and I absolutely did.
I hesitate to elaborate further on what this truly means. Nine months is a long time to try and capture in a few sentences, and my hope is that this blog helps piece together my time for anyone who is curious.
In my final days, while chatting to a recent embassy hire, I described Fulbright as a 30-hour road trip you take with your friends in your early 20s; there are bound to be unforgettable memories made in the journey, but you’re not likely to hop into your friend's Prius to do it again.
I loved Fulbright, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity, but I’m ready to move forward with my life.
Some experiences are best encapsulated in the memories they leave behind.
And so, if you’ve been following this since Summer’s eve 2021, find this in your Fulbright search, or you’re a nostalgic version of me I don’t know yet, but I’m excited to meet, I hope this blog has given you what you were searching for. Thanks for reading. ❤️