In June of 2010 I was honored to be asked to represent, along with David Banville, the recent set of American Fulbrighters to have spent time here in Romania. I shall try to describe simply what the experience has meant to me.
First, Fulbright Romania was the cause of the last enthusiastic words of approval that I received from my father, Dugald (Mac) McDougall. I was visiting Mac in his Florida home in June of 2007, as at age 91 he was preparing himself for his imminent death. When I mentioned the Fulbright project to my Dad, he said, "Romania! Oh my God, son, isn't that wonderful?"
So for me the Fulbright began as a blessed experience, and so it has remained.
I knew only a little about this country before coming here: only that it had been through great hardships under Communism, and that it was known still as among Europe's poorer nations, economically, but that it had recently entered the European Union. I also knew that my Plymouth State University and Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai had a cooperative agreement, and that a few of my colleagues had been to Cluj, and described it as a beautiful city.
Beyond that, I knew I had a lot to learn. What has since transpired has led to a transformation in my self-image, as much as to an increase in my understanding of Romania.
I discovered in Romania that my style of teaching was appreciated, even though unconventional in its pedagogy of case study and class discussions, rather than theory and lectures. I learned that the UBB Englishline students were well-taught and broadly exposed to classic literature, to ancient history, and more mathematically competent than most of my American students. I relearned the art of walking. I walked and walked, and suffered painfully as a result from arthritis and from plantar faciitis, but endured to walk still more. I toured in my car, Klaus, from the Prut River Valley to Calafat on the Danube, from Satu Mare to Constanţa. and from Oradea to Iaşi. I saw Romania's beauty, its diversity, and observed its rapid modernization.
I contacted my wife and our four grown children, and urged them to come to see Romania before the modernization had gone too far, for the charm of Old Europe is alive and well in this country, and one of Romania's greatest opportunities and challenges will be to grow economically without losing that charm. Shirl spent March, 2009, with me in Cluj, and three of our four children were able to come for a nine-day visit in April of that year.
Fulbright has given me an opportunity to meet many Romanians on both personal and professional levels. I treasure the friendships I have now with my former students and with my colleagues, as well as with the staff here at Fulbright Romania.
The Fulbright experience has given my life new interest, and provided a new purpose that I do not yet fully understand. But, without a Fulbright grant, and in spite of the recent national salary cuts for faculty, I will again be teaching in Cluj in October of 2010. So, the effects of my Fulbright year are ongoing.
How has the Fulbright experience changed my life? In the words of an old Bob Dylan song, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."
Thank you, Dorina, Mihai, Corina, Anca, Loredana, and all the rest of you who, through your embodiment of the Fulbright spirit and loyal support of its mission have made this program possible.