I also was able to travel with my new friends I met; one is an artist, and I even got her to draw a city scape of Lisbon for me that I then got tattooed on my arm as a tribute to her and my Fulbright experience
I didn’t realize how much of an impact my presence would have. I was constantly surprised by how visiting the same coffee shops, the same restaurants, would make the employees there so happy because it struck up a regular conversation each time once they realized I was now living in their remote city—a place in which an American probably hadn’t before. It was a great way for them to practice English and for me to practice Portuguese. I initially thought I’d be there teaching English and just traveling around for my project; but I ended up being most surprised and excited by the friendships I made at happenstance throughout the city simply by having a recurring presence. I learned so much about the people there by just doing life day to day in the city; I didn’t realize that would actually be the best takeaway from my Fulbright. I’m still in contact with so many “strangers” I met out and about, and this is what Fulbright is all about. We had a cultural exchange outside of the classroom, and that exchange is still going on to this day. I even met a Portuguese family that helped me during my time in my small city, and since then I’ve come back years later to visit them for the holidays. They gave me a better concept of Portugal, and I’ve given them a better concept of the USA as their “American son” as they call me. I’ll forever cherish them and those that I met during Fulbright.
My favorite memory encapsulating my experience is celebrating the holidays with my new local friends/students. I had a former teacher colleague come visit me for Christmas, and we along with another Fulbrighter hosted a Christmas dinner for my friends and students at a hostel we rented out. It was so lovely being able to share new American foods with them like casseroles, macaroni and cheese, and a proper salad (with a variety of vegetables and dressing as opposed to just lettuce and olive oil). I also was able to travel with my new friends I met in the city for New Years in which they hosted me up in Porto; one is an artist, and I even got her to draw a city scape of Lisbon for me that I then got tattooed on my arm as a tribute to her and my Fulbright experience. I now have two tattoos from my time in Portugal (one before Fulbright and one during) and that’s pretty neat. It all came from simply being willing to become friends with complete strangers and open up our hearts and minds to learning about each other.
I am a globe trotter in my spare time, hoping to hit all of the countries one day. So far I’ve gotten to explore 50 of them and I’m eager to continue as traveling is my biggest passion. If I had a different career, it would be making documentary films about the people and places I venture to. I am an amateur video-editor, but I really like it. If I wasn’t an educator / university counselor, I totally would go back and study documentary film-making and turn that into a career. Who knows: maybe I still will do that one day!
Phillip Wenturine was an English Teaching Assistant in Portugal in 2016/17.
This content is part of our on-going collaboration with Fulbridge, which focuses on current and recent grantees. For a more in depth profile of Phillip, including his project Pessoas of Portugal (Portraits of Portugal), read his Spotlight interview with Fulbridge.