Fulbright Exchanges in the Time of the Pandemic

Fulbright Exchanges in the Time of the Pandemic

Academic year 2020-2021 was full of challenges and lessons learned. Sixty-two Greek and U.S. citizens were awarded Fulbright scholarships encompassing a diverse range of academic interests—from aerospace engineering, water resources management and aviation education to holocaust studies, micro-dwellings and biomedical informatics, from satellite altimetry and global development to archaeology, multi- and intermedia, women’s studies, and public administration. You can consult the full listing of 2020-2021 Greek and U.S. scholarship recipients. Here is what our grantees have to say about this unique year:

“The Fulbright scholarship has been a unique opportunity for me that helped me realize my dream; it offered me practical support, financial help, and an environment of certainty. Despite the fact that I am studying in strange times and harsh conditions caused by the pandemic, I am very glad to have many in-person classes, and thus the opportunity to meet people from the U.S. and from many other countries and create relations and strong friendships. “

Dimitrios Lampris, Graduate Student

“The Sousa Archives and Center of American Music staff did everything possible to assist me during my research and my integration into the local academic community. Keeping all health measures, they made sure I was free to use that space, provided me with all the research material I required, and included me in all their social activities. The archive is well preserved, documented, and accessible. Despite the current difficult circumstances caused by the pandemic, the people here made me feel at home.”

May 18 2020 Eleni Ralli Conducting Partch Research 25

Eleni Ralli, Visiting Research Student

“My aspiration as an agronomist is to help smallholder farmers and rural communities to find their voice and to be able to stand on their feet. In my graduate studies thesis, I will focus on how cooperatives could compete with other corporations. In addition, I will conduct a cooperative study between agriculture co-ops in the U.S. and Greece. Long term, my vision is to create a venture that will combine my passion for entrepreneurship and agriculture, educating and assisting farmers. The fact that I am a Fulbright scholar motivates me to embody my institution's missions by enhancing knowledge globally, especially from a bottom-up approach in the field of agriculture.”

Anastasia Stampoulopoulou, Graduate Student

My time as a second-term Fulbright teaching fellow was unique and meaningful in many ways. After leaving my first term due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I was grateful for the opportunity to be granted a second term where I could reunite with the students and teachers with whom I’d connected deeply. As a teaching fellow, I assisted in an elementary school as an assistant to the English teachers. Whether I was working one-on-one with a student or leading a whole class lesson, I sought opportunities to contribute positively to the students at this school. One experience stands out as most meaningful to me, which was a letter-writing project I led with the fifth- and sixth-grade classes. We wrote weekly letters to each other, which proved to be an effective platform to foster community. It was a way for students, and myself, to communicate and share our experiences during this turbulent school year. Whether we were teaching in person or online, cultivating and maintaining positive student relationships through letter writing and other projects was the core of my accomplishments this year. Being a part of the support system for these students was an important and humbling experience. 

No matter the restrictions we faced in Greece, I have loved and still love being in Greece. Teaching and living here has been a dream of mine. My love for this country and for teaching has led me to accept a teaching position at ACS Athens Elementary School where I will be teaching fifth grade starting this fall. I am excited to continue my journey here in Athens and to contribute to the important work of teaching. Furthermore, I am grateful to the Fulbright program for all the opportunities and support I have been given during these last two years as a teaching fellow. 

Athena Stavropoulou

Athena Stavropoulos, English Teaching Assistant

"Despite expectations of an oppressive lockdown, my experience as researcher at the Department of Classics at Ohio State University was simply wonderful, even though the OSU campus—one of the largest in the States—was sparsely populated, well into March. Nevertheless, with some restrictions in place (masks, curfew after 10 p.m. in the capital city of Columbus), life largely went on. I was able to conduct my research and interviews with poets and translators as planned, even travel outside Ohio (taking all necessary precautions, of course). It was an added bonus that, with the vaccination program in this U.S. state so expertly handled, I also returned to Greece fully vaccinated at the end of my stay."

Paschalis NIKOLAOU v

Paschalis Nikolaou, Visiting Scholar

"If paperwork for a trip to the U.S. looks hard to you, triple that and you will have the amount of work you will have to do during Covid. However, the experience far exceeds the Covid problems, especially if you are here during the upcoming end of the pandemic. You will live the beginning of a long awaited post-pandemic era. Masks make interactions with new friends and colleagues more difficult and frustrating, but you know it will soon end; then, communication will be much more valuable than before."

Dimitrios Karagiannis, Visiting Research Student

“I arrived in Lincoln, NE on February 20, just a few days before the coldest temperatures the city had experienced in the last 25 years. Despite the extreme weather and the Covid-19 pandemic, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was open and well organised. After my fourteen days of quarantine, I was able to visit the main campus, prepare all my documents, and begin my daily experiments at the Food Innovation Campus. Wearing masks and social distancing were mandatory and some meetings were through zoom, but that changed very fast. In early March, I received an email about my vaccination appointment, which I was able to arrange during the same week. The vaccination clinics were set up in the biggest stadium of the city, with more than 2,500 people receiving their shots every day. After my first shot, I decided to participate as a volunteer in the clinics, helping people with disabilities. We were more than 150 volunteers during these three days, assisting attendees outside in the parking process, in the garages, and helping mobility-challenged folks transition in and out of the building. I had the chance to embrace the amazing opportunity to meet truly generous people, express my humanity, and fulfil the incredible feeling of sharing and supporting people in need. Being a volunteer in the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department and the Lincoln Community for the Covid-19 vaccination clinics will be always one of my favourite moments during my Fulbright grant, and I will be always grateful to Fulbright Greece for giving me the chance to experience such life-changing opportunities!”

Ria Feidaki, Visiting Research Student

Much of the term of my Fulbright grant coincided with the “hard lockdown” instituted across Greece in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This produced a very different environment than I usually experience while conducting archaeological work in the country. The restrictions on movement, gatherings, and outdoor activity necessitated far fewer interactions with colleagues, limited visits to sites and research at museums, and lacked even the regular enjoyment of Greek tavernas, music, and socializing in plateias! Fortunately, my doctoral research project supported by Fulbright was based in Archaia Korinthos (Ancient Corinth). This small village, located among the ruins of ancient Greek and Roman cities, provided a rural retreat ideal for safely waiting out the pandemic.

More importantly than the idyllic setting, and despite the closure of much of the country and the difficulties of operating during the pandemic, I was able to access the archaeological storerooms and collection of artifacts from the Corinth Excavations throughout the lockdown. In the safe and secluded environment of an otherwise completely uninhabited storage facility and outdoor museum courtyard, I managed to process the majority of artifacts that I am studying as part of my Ph.D. dissertation on the Greek Early Bronze Age. The Covid crisis has caused many difficulties and a strange and ever-changing situation in Greece. But with the support of Fulbright and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, being locked down in Ancient Corinth proved to be a period where there was little to do other than to be academically productive and to focus completely on my dissertation work. My advisors at the University of Cincinnati and my academic future self will be grateful for the time spent during the crisis.

Jeffery Banks

Jeffery Banks,U.S. Student Program

"Even with the challenges the pandemic brought about, nothing stopped us from forging lasting friendships and exploring Washington DC, making the most of our time here. From walking around campus to biking along the National Mall and eating ice cream, we felt thankful to be here with each other."

Marilena I

Maria Eleni Chrysanthakopoulou, Graduate Student

“My experience as an academic in the United States has already been very fruitful, despite the difficulties the Covid-19 pandemic has imposed on doing research and even more on the social activities inside and outside the institution. The research task that will be accomplished at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute will help strengthen and continue collaboration between the visiting and host universities/institutes as well as between laboratories that have common research activities.  I am confident that with my visit here, I will be able to develop strong connections and encourage students and colleagues at my home university to pursue an academic Fulbright grant.”

 Spyridon Gkelis, Visiting Scholar

“Walking around Philadelphia and the Penn campus and interacting with people was not without problems at first, during the COVID era. However, people are made to live together and interact, to communicate and work together. The generous city of Philadelphia quickly made it possible for anyone to get vaccinated—a true gift!—and made it easier for us to conduct research and work, meet new people, build bridges, and shape future endeavours—even travel or attend events! What an experience! It was a pleasure and a privilege being in Philadelphia and at the University of Pennsylvania, thanks to the Fulbright Foundation-Greece.”

Spring Get Together Spring 2021

Apostolos Garyfallopoulos, Visiting Research Student

“Despite the pandemic, my decision to come to the United States has been a joy, giving me the unique opportunity to meet some of my classmates from all over the world, fellow Fulbrighters, and get a sense of university life despite the necessary restrictions. My everyday life is an inter-cultural dialogue, making life-long connections and sharing aspects of my Greek heritage. My experiences so far have surpassed my expectations and have transformed me into a global citizen.”

Georgia Eleni Exarchou, Graduate Student

The lockdown in Greece put limits on activities, but it had its advantages. On the down side, there were fewer in-person meetings and the classes I taught at the Athens School of Fine Arts were online. My public lectures were virtual. This was partly because of the rules, and partly because colleagues were anxious, and rightly so. I lived downtown, and it was eerily deserted: streets that usually throw forth traffic and crowds of revelers went mute. Most shops were closed. On the other hand, Athens is warm in winter and seeing a few people for a coffee outdoors was always possible—a needed break from the solitude of writing. As spring arrived, one could even work outside. As measures were relaxed, I could meet with colleagues and pick their brains more readily. And, of course, the demonstrations picked up to remind me where I was. What is Athens without a demo? Since my main purpose was writing, my stay was extremely successful: we need peace and quiet to write, and so I did, more than I ever expected. I call my tenure on the Fulbright grant a big success.

Yanni Kotsonis, U.S. Scholar Program

“During the process of acclimatization in the U.S., one becomes more open-minded exactly because he needs to acknowledge his own cultural status quo, reevaluate what is regarded in daily life as normal, and challenge his own perceptions and actions. Despite the difficulties and the frustration faced due to the pandemic, my Fulbright grant experience was a unique, life changing experience. I learned to evaluate only what is essential in life and leave the rest behind, a priceless trait for the rest of my life!”

KONTOS quote

Gerasimos Kontos, Visiting Scholar