Snapshot: Peggy Wright-Cleveland (Côte d’Ivoire, 2015/16)
The rule my daughter and I lived by during my Fulbright grant was “say yes.” We did this because we knew we had to actively seek community
Just say yes!
The rule my daughter and I lived by was “say yes.” We did this because we knew we had to actively seek community. We invited people out; we invited people to our home; we attended community events and thanked the hosts; we almost daily put ourselves in positions to meet people. I am by nature an introvert, but I did these things and they made all the difference. These behaviors were my way to say yes. What I would add to that is to be persistent. My daughter did not enroll in school there, though that had been my intention. We could not find an Ivorian school who understood how she could survive with such limited French skills. By the end of our visit, we happened upon a school that would have been perfect for her. She could have done language immersion and had some classes in English, all while being with Ivorian students. I wish we had asked more people and pushed harder for a solution early on. Be persistent.
I am employed as a Director of Faculty Development. I create and oversee programs to ensure career long success for faculty and part of long-term success are career awards such as a Fulbright. That means I get to encourage faculty to apply to Fulbright, help with their applications, and celebrate their experiences after they return. Last year I worked with our International Studies program and our student Fulbright program to host a reception for both visiting and US Fulbrighters at our University President’s house. It was great fun!
Fondest Fulbright memory
I have included a photo of my daughter and several young Ivorian women. This photo was taken when we were being measured for clothes. These young women, so like my daughter, would help sew them. The Ivorian friend who brought us was pleased to both be providing work for his friends and a fair price for us. It represents the welcome we felt everywhere in Côte d’Ivoire, the value placed on service and relationship, and the strength of artisan work found there. Finally, it points to fabric, which we spent hours looking at while window shopping in rich neighborhoods and poor, negotiating over in the markets, and learning the history and social meaning of with scholars and friends.
Peggy Wright-Cleveland is the Director of Faculty Development at Florida State University, U.S.A. Her scholarship focuses on the presentation of race in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American literature and its role in defining American identity. As a Fulbright Scholar Côte d’Ivoire, she began translating the poetry by Ivorian poet Bernard Binlin Dadiė into English as part of a larger project investigating the dialogue between anti-colonialism and anti-racism and its relationship to national identity. She blogs on https://mwcfulbright.tumblr.com and you may look into her project entitled Dadié Project on http://mewright.com which got launched due to her Fulbright journey and experience.