As a Fulbright Slavic Award recipient, I taught an introductory course on Polish culture entitled Warsaw: A Window to Contemporary Polish History and Culture at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle in the spring quarter 2020. Since my stay in the US happened to take place during the “stay at home” order due to the coronavirus pandemic, I delivered my course online. I enjoyed designing and teaching my course in the online formula but I regret that I could not see my students in person. I consider as my biggest success the fact that my students participated in the course actively in spite of it being delivered remotely.
Without any doubt, my Fulbright experience would have been different if the pandemic had not happened. I arrived on March 1. I enjoyed Seattle’s normality for two weeks and then suddenly I found myself in the US epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The university and all the libraries were closed, all the conferences were cancelled. Unfortunately, many opportunities normally brought by a Fulbright grant were not available because of this unusual situation. However, I tried to make the most of my Fulbright grant. I attended many workshops and lectures offered online by UW. I am glad that I could contribute to cultural and educational events organized by the Polish community in Seattle by delivering an online public lecture and by giving an online Polish language class.
As far as the tourist aspect of my stay is concerned, I had to come to terms with not being able to visit any of the museums in Seattle or to admire its panoramic view from the top of the Space Needle. However, I enjoyed exploring its original neighborhoods and visiting some of the greatest attractions of the Washington state, such as its scenic national parks or Twin Peaks-related locations. I was really impressed by the beauty of nature in the Evergreen State. And not having seen everything that it has to offer gives me a pretext to come back one day if I have a chance.
Overall, my Fulbright stay in Seattle was a valuable experience in spite of numerous limitations and complications brought by the pandemic. I learned a lot, I gained a precious experience as a lecturer, I discovered American academia and its organizational culture. Inevitably, my social life was quite limited but I did meet some fantastic people thanks to whom my stay was still enjoyable. My Fulbright grant was an enriching experience both personally and professionally.
Dr Justyna Zych jest absolwentką Fulbright Slavic Award. Stypendium realizowała w roku akademickim 2019-20.