For the last several months, I’ve been making slow preparations for my time in the UK. We’ve known that the 2nd of January was our departure date since the middle of November, but how do you fully prepare and pack for 6 months abroad as a family of 4? Honestly, I left 100% of the packing and nearly 50% of the other preparations to my wife! The other 50% has involved transition efforts to hand my classroom off to my long-term substitute. My long term substitute is a retired High School Chemistry teacher who has spent recent years teaching at the School of Education and Chemistry Department at Wichita State University. I am extremely grateful to her for taking on a full teaching load for the entirety of 2nd semester allowing me the freedom participate in my Fulbright project while providing a top notch Chemistry experience back at North High.
Anyway, somehow my ingenious wife was able to pack the entirety of our necessary provisions into just 4 suitcases while also organizing our house for some good friends of ours who will be house sitting for us over the next several months.
Our flights took us from Wichita to Newcastle upon Tyne, England with brief layovers in Chicago and London. Travelling with a 3 and a 1 year old brings its own challenges, but thankfully the boys managed the whole experience without any major problems. Micah said that his favorite flight was the short one…apparently the long-haul 8 hour flight was a bit much J Nearly 20 hours of travel without sleep is enough to drain anyone though!
The next morning had me straight into the 2017 Fulbright Forum sponsored by Northumbria University of Newcastle. Fulbright awardees from all over the UK assembled in Newcastle for several days to learn more about the local history, culture, and educational trends in the Northeast of England. The participants were an eclectic mix of undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students, professionals, and academics from all over the US. Of the nearly 60 in attendance only 3 of us were from the DA in Teaching Program.
I’ll be honest in admitting that prior to arrival at the Forum the thought of being around dozens of Fulbright Scholars seemed like a fairly intimidating prospect. Would I understand half of what was being discussed or be capable of carrying on a decent conversation with people who racked up more academic achievements in elementary school than I did in Kindergarten through Graduate School?!
I was pleasantly surprised at how down to earth most of participants were. The Fulbright Commission appears to do an excellent job in selecting participants who are not only superior in academic achievement but also highly effective communicators having the ability to authentically engage with people of other backgrounds. Notable events included a visit to the Newcastle City Council Chamber hosted by the Lord Mayor, private theatre, cinema, and art gallery tours, lectures on history and culture of the Northeast, presentations from Northumbria University faculty, as well as a chance for each Fulbright participant to present our own program activities and objectives. For most Fulbrighters, the week’s events were an enjoyable break before returning to their studies. For me, it was an enjoyable introduction to the region of the country that my family and I will call home for the next 5 months.