It is incredible how your life can change in just an instant. For me, it was when I received my acceptance email into my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Program. I was sitting in a small cafe in Bloomington, Indiana with a friend as I labored over my senior thesis on the Holocaust and dark tourism (light stuff). It was a bleak day and the impending deadline of my thesis had me feeling stressed and small. It was on that day, April 2nd, 2013, that the emailed dinged in my inbox and my life changed forever. I was immediately overcome with incredible joy and what started as an ordinary, stressful day turned into a day I’ll never forget. The sun came through the clouds and I skipped home through the streets practically floating on air thinking of what this meant for my future and what it meant to my family.
My grandfather, who I had lost to dementia 7 years prior, was a 2 time Fulbright scholar. With his awards, he taught in Paris and in London and was a renowned scholar in the field of biological anthropology. Due to his early onset dementia, I never really knew my grandfather. I was fortunate enough to learn about his life through stories my mother and grandmother would tell. He led a life of adventure and exploration. I knew that my Fulbright program was going to lead me on a similar path.
What I couldn’t have anticipated with the ding of that email is the incredible friendships I would make along the way. It is amazing to to think that at one point in your life, the friends you hold near and dear to your heart were once strangers. But now, I could not imagine my life without the friends and my second family I met in Germany.
It was in the train station in Düsseldorf, preparing for my first day of orientation, where I met my dopplegänger and future best friend, Kersey. As two Fulbrighters embarking on a year into the unknown, Kersey and I were kindred spirits from the moment we met. Both from Big 10 schools and a passion for travel and the German language, we soon became inseparable.
I met Joscha through my mentor’s neighbors. A German native and barely out of high school at the time, he had already begun to study medicine. He was full of energy and radiated positivity everywhere he went. He was the little brother and friend I always wanted.
Fast-forward almost 8 years and a shared apartment later, Kersey, Joscha, and I have remained great friends. Despite being an ocean away, the three of us have managed to visit one another every year since my departure. We have celebrated Christmas with my family, met up on the beaches of Barcelona, and were it not for Covid-19, we would have spent last summer on the island of Malta. I thank the universe every day that Fulbright brought me these two wonderful friendships.
Allison LeClere – Fulbright ETA to Germany 2013