The University of Chicago, History
I embarked upon my Fulbright year with two research goals: I planned to spend a significant amount of time examining the records of the excavations at the archaeological sites in Athens that comprise the focus of my dissertation, and I hoped to substantially improve my professional and academic connections in Greece and Europe more generally. I also intended to compose a substantial portion of my dissertation while in residence at my host institution, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. I am glad to report that I accomplished all of these tasks as planned, including two full chapters of my dissertation, and I returned to the U.S. with all of the material that I need to complete my doctorate within a year. I received invaluable assistance from the American School to acquire everything I needed to conduct my research, and I was given the rare opportunity to discuss my project in detail with specialists in the field, including the Director of the Excavations in the Athenian Agora. Through my regular attendance at academic events across Athens, I also made numerous contacts with researchers conducting related studies at institutions around the world.
I started the year fully expecting that I would end it with an even stronger sense that I want to continue in my present career trajectory toward teaching and research at the university level. However, my experience has affected not only my plans in this regard but also my entire worldview. Thanks to the support I received from Fulbright to be present for the many lectures, talks, and informal social gatherings constantly taking place at the educational and archaeological institutions in Athens, I have been enlightened as to the rapidly changing state of affairs for young academics seeking jobs, and especially those with connections to the Fulbright Foundation and its work around the world. Moreover, I had various opportunities to converse with Americans who are working in Athens for alternative or entirely non-academic reasons, including most notably those in diplomacy and international relations. Similarly useful in this regard were the series of discussions in which I was privileged to be a part during the 2017 Fulbright Berlin Seminar in March, where I had the honor of speaking on my experiences living and researching in Greece this year. That session facilitated an enlightening discussion of how we as Americans might use our privileges to benefit those who interact with our research subjects in real life—including, in Greece especially, the refugees in the streets surrounding the cultural sites where we tend to focus our vision so intently and myopically.
I have witnessed firsthand the resources that can be mobilized in working to resolve major international issues at the local level, and I have become aware of the enormous responsibility the United States should bear in those efforts. Through my time as a volunteer English tutor, I have become close friends with several immigrant families and individuals from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran, and I believe that this has given me a very wide lens into what it means for an individual to live as a foreigner in a modern western city. The experience and connections that I have secured through my Fulbright year have encouraged me to step outside the ivory tower in the interest of applying my research skills toward more contemporary and impactful issues, thus putting to practical use the knowledge of social history and human identity that I have acquired through my graduate work.
Joshua Ramon Vera is a Fulbright Alumnus of the 2016-2017 Open Study/Research Student Program