Welcome Home! Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Orientation at Indiana University Bloomington 2017

Finally some time to dedicate to the blog! It's been an action packed three weeks here in Bloomington, Indiana, and it all started with yet another Orientation Week - this time, to familiarise us with our programme requirements as well as our new hometown, and to introduce us to many different people.

Day 1 - Saturday, August 12th
The flight from DC to Indianapolis (the closest airport to Bloomington) was short - less than 1,5 hours. We continued to function as a group, so after landing, we went to pick up our luggage together - and while Julcsi was waiting for our suitcases, I had some fun with these benches:

The best thing, though, was when Jacob (our programme director) pointed at the huge sign you can see in the first picture, and said "Welcome home!". This is something that feels remarkably good here in the US - we're told we're welcome, we're included and we're wanted here. We are allowed to consider this home, even if we're only here for four months. Julcsi wrote about this quite beautifully on Instagram so I'm just going to share her post below.

#iuishome - After landing in #indiana , the first words said by our #fulbright programme coordinator were "Welcome home!". I felt weird because prior to the #us ,I had lived in five countries and I had never been told that I was allowed to feel at #home . Some people might say these are just words, but these words define how we feel #included or not in the society we live in. In other countries including my own one, I have encountered this type of #rhetorics : " We, __________ (insert: nationality) people, are like this, prefer doing that, but don't like that one, etc.". Basically, you're warned about what you're supposed to be like and what you're supposed to like to fit in. Here, I'm only told that I'm at home. #iu is really home because this place doesn't question my (and your) #identity , it just tells me through events, speeches and posters that I'm just as equally important as everyone else and I shouldn't accept being treated otherwise. It actually makes me cry...❤#powerofwords #inclusion #expatlife #fulbrightfinland #fulbrightspouse #bloomington #btown #livingintheusa #picoftheday #diversity #acceptance #newhome #usa #alllivesmatter #globetrotter #livingabroad #travel #universitylife #egyetem #fedezdfelamerikát #yliopisto

In general, IU students are welcomed in many, many, many different places here - it's definitely not only the huge banner at the airport that announces it! More about that later.

So yeah, feeling quite happy and welcome, we left the airport and got on our bus to Bloomington. The public transport connections to Bloomington are in general quite bad as everyone's expected to drive here, but there is a $20 shuttle between the airport in Indianapolis and IU Campus in Bloomington, which is at least something. However, the bus we caught was specifically arranged for our group, and it came with a bus driver lady, who called me "honey" with a Forrest Gump-like accent. Lovely! It takes about an hour to get to Bloomington from the airport, which is not too bad.

The first thing we noticed was that Indiana looks quite a lot like Hungary - it's very flat, there's lavender, the grass is burnt from the sun, and the sound of crickets and frogs fills the air. It was extremely hot, too! Julcsi felt quite pleased, and actually so did I - it was easy to feel at home after just having spent our summer in Gyula! Other than that, the scenery made me think of The Simple Life - I spotted a Sonic, a lot of pick-up trucks, as well as a creepy SUPER DISCOUNT GUNS sign. It's definitely very different from the big cities of both coasts here - this is the real thing! Or maybe yet another version of the real thing would be a more accurate thing to say.

Once we got to Bloomington, we were taken to Evermann Apartments, which is where we're living over these four months in Indiana. Our rent is taken care of by CIEDR, and it comes with water, electricity, internet and housekeeping. HOUSEKEEPING!! Yay!

Anyway, we didn't get the keys to our new homes just yet, but instead, we left our stuff in the Evermann conference room and then walked to the School of Education for a Welcome Lunch. The walk is not very long - now that I know the route, it takes me around 15 minutes - but on that specific day it was quite hot, we didn't know where we were going, and Michelle from Taiwan and her husband Michael had Cherry's pace to follow and Jerry to carry, so with that in mind, we were relieved when we finally got there.

The campus area reminds me quite a lot of Växjö, Sweden, which is where I lived for 5 months in 2007 when I was on Erasmus exchange at Växjö University (now Linnaeus University). The Rec Center with group exercise classes and an Olympic sized pool (free for us and around $80 for our family members for the duration of our stay! It's a bargain!) is just a five-minute walk from Evermann, and around 10 minutes from us we have a convenience store (Village Pantry) as well as a couple of restaurants. The campus bus line E has a stop right in front of our building, and all the buses here (campus bus and Bloomington Transit) are free for us. The campus lines A, B and E are free for anyone who wants to catch them, and Bloomington Transit buses, which go to places outside campus, cost $1/trip, which is also not too bad.

Anyway, we had our Welcome Lunch with our families and people from CIEDR. We got Emergency Contact Cards, which are cards made and laminated by Jacob, with our names, student numbers, IU email addresses, addresses and some emergency contacts numbers on them. We also got our keys as well as guest access cards for the main doors at Evermann (they're locked at 9 pm until 8 am, so in order to get in, you need to swipe your access card). Normally, the IU student card functions as the access card as well, but we'd be getting them a bit later, so until then, it was good to have the guest card. Our family members got their own keys and access cards as well.

Some very young IU students as well as Jacob explaining something.

My lunch!
At around 5 pm, we returned to Evermann to get our stuff and settle into our housing. We all had signs on our doors, welcoming us! (Obviously, the minute I manage to convince everyone that my name is not Anna, Julcsi is turned into JuliANA. Heh. Well, I guess in this case, it's the thought that counts :)...) It was a really nice gesture!

Our flat smelled quite damp when we first got in, and we were worried about whether we'd be able to stay here or not, but luckily what did the trick was switching the air conditioning off and opening the windows instead. Within one day, it got completely normal and there's no smell here whatsoever anymore. Phew!

We have quite a big flat - it's definitely bigger than what we have at home! We have a small kitchen, a big living room/dining area, a bedroom with two beds that you can easily push together, a bathroom, and some storage space. Furniturewise, we have a kitchen table with four chairs, a sofa, a coffee table, two desks (one in the kitchen for more storage space), two beds, two huge chests of drawers, rugs, curtains, bed linen, blankets, pillows...The flats are basically equipped with everything. The housekeeper, Lisa, comes every Tuesday to give us new sheets and towels and take away the dirty ones, and to clean our kitchen and bathroom. She also brings toilet paper, soap and plastic bags for the rubbish bins. In addition to all this, we had a huge "kitchen in a box" cardboard box waiting for us in the flat - pots, pans, plates, mugs, cutlery, knives, scissors...And all way better than what we have at home (everything we have is inherited from someone so we don't have any matching sets etc. back in Finland - yes, I'm a cheapskate and would rather buy trips than household items) :)! It's quite funny, actually.

CIEDR got us a router for the flat - you have internet with an Ethernet cable instantly (all the necessary cables are in the flat), but you need to set up a time for an IT person to come and install the router. It was extremely nice of CIEDR to arrange these routers for us because student flats here don't come equipped with wifi. However, it might take some time before you can get an appointment with IT - we had to wait for ours for 1,5 weeks.

The view from our bedroom window.

Our "kitchen in a box" (minus the oven dish we bought ourselves).

Our living room.


Yep, very happy with our accommodation! Our flat is also located in a peaceful spot as we only have one neighbour on each side - Sanna and Kimmo on one, and a midnight shower-loving Asian boy on the other. We also have our private entrance/exit outside together with these neighbours, which is quite nice. The rest of the Fulbright grantees are all on the same corridor, which is attached to ours, while Ornit from Israel lives outside campus with her big family.

In the evening, I decided to take a shower, and ended up having to google how to use it! You basically need to be Popey to be able to turn the shower on, plus the screwdriver type thing you need to turn to make the water come out was loose, so it could have fallen down the train any time. Luckily Lisa the housekeeper has fixed it by now. But yes, in the end, I managed to take a shower, so yay to that!

Day 2 - Sunday, August 13th
On Sunday, we were taken to Kroger for grocery shopping, and Target for household items. In addition, we went to AT&T to get ourselves US sim cards. All of these places are located in College Mall, along with many restaurants and other shops. We were really thankful for this trip! We bought a lot of food at Kroger...and accidentally chose a "15 Items or Less" track with our full-to-the-brim shopping cart...A grandpa wasn't pleased, and as a result, neither was I - I mean hello, it was our first time ever there, don't expect everything to go smoothly straight away! He tried to be nice to us after we'd paid for everything and said that Finland looks beautiful in pictures, but frankly, I don't care what he thinks, he was a total jerk. My first meltdown here...Also, Kroger was and probably always is full of signs, welcoming IU students!

Fariha from CIEDR drove us, Sanna and Kimmo back to Evermann with our multiple bags, we had a quick lunch at home, and then headed back to AT&T and Target. It's quite expensive to have a phone here! $40/month with unlimited texts and phone calls WITHIN THE USA (I can't even text anyone in Finland) as well as 6 GB of data!! Daylight robbery! Thank God for Facebook, Messenger, and other ways of communicating. My dad, however, doesn't use any of these, so the only way to reach him from here is through email. I've had a smart phone for only approximately four months, too, but I have to say that here, it is a life saver that makes life so much easier!

As for Target, it was insanity! Here, that's where all the students go to furnish their student flats - it's hell out there, I'm telling you! Teens with mums and dads stocking up on mirrors, lamps, laundry baskets, pots, pans and everything in between. Crazy! I probably have some form of social anxiety these days and can no longer take crowded places like supermarkets, and definitely not Target, so I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. We only bought two lamps as the flats here don't have any lamp in the ceiling in the main rooms ( I don't understand the point of a system like that - it'll be pitch black the closer to the winter we get!), an oven dish, a drying rack for dishes and some fairy lights. We once again didn't understand the queueing system, got told off for accidentally trying to cut the queue, and I had my second meltdown and started crying. Word of advice for people: Never assume that the people you're rude to can take it!!!! Thank you. I can't take it that you're supposed to be perfect on your first day in a new place. It's just not going to happen.

Once we were done, we got a ride from Özlem (our Friday Seminar instructor and inquiry project coordinator) back to Evermann, decorated the flat with the fairy lights, and were relieved about not needing to do anything else on that particular day.

Day 3 - Monday, August 14th
On Monday, we got taken to Chase Bank to open our US bank accounts. Even the bank was decorated with "Welcome IU Students!" signs and other things - it's incredible!

Opening the bank account was a relatively quick thing to do, and we also got online bank stuff so that we can take care of things more easily.

From the bank, we drove straight to Indiana Memorial Union on campus, which is where we got our IU Crimson Cards (the IU student cards). We had to queue up to have our picture taken, after which a machine miraculously produced our cards. Our cards claim we're employees when what they should say is "faculty member", but as long as they function normally, it's okay.

Indiana Memorial Union is a student union building where you'll find offices, a book shop (which mostly sells IU merch), food places, a cinema, Starbucks, a wellness centre...There's also a hotel there, as well as karaoke, bowling and a lot of other events during the academic year.

Anyway, once I had my card, I got taken back home for some time before needing to head back to the School of Education with Julcsi for a Fulbright DAT Programme Overview. Jacob covered areas such as safety and security on campus, health services, American customs, cultural programming, and people could sign up to have a host family through Bloomington Worldwide Friends (we didn't sign up). We also completed some more paperwork, and some documents related to immigration were collected from us. Julcsi also got a laminated Emergency Contact Card of her own.

The School of Education.

These are all over campus in case you need to call the police and you don't have a phone with you.

Welcome Students!
On our way back home, we stopped by at the Main Office at Evermann to activate our Crimson Cards and at the same time give our guest access cards away. Family members got an extension to their guest access cards and will be able to hold on to them until the end of our stay here.

We also took a look inside our mailbox and found a green sheet of paper from the postman, saying "this box is vacant" and that they won't deliver any mail into the box until we have written on the green sheet who the mailbox belongs to. So, it was definitely a good idea to check out the mailbox!

We were planning on catching a bus to the Memorial Union after this, but there was no bus in sight, so after talking to Michelle and her family at the bus stop for some time, we decided to come back home, have some microwaveable food, and watch The Fosters. Netflix here has absolutely everything!!

Day 4 - Tuesday, August 15th
On Tuesday morning, I caught my first E bus to the School of Education together with Sanna. We first had an Academic Orientation at the School of Education where Jacob talked about our audit courses and then told us more about the inquiry project and our faculty advisors. We got good tips on what the inquiry project is supposed to consist of, and told us what previous Fulbrighters have done in their home countries after the actual programme.

I'm auditing two courses here, both of which will be useful for my inquiry project. On Tuesdays, I'll first have Diversity and the Communities of All Learners with Dr. Ben Edmonds (with grad students), and right after it Multicultural and International Children's and Young Adult Literature with Donna Adomat (PhD level). This means that during my time here, I'll have university classes from 1 pm to 6:45 pm every Tuesday, but as far as audit courses are concerned, the rest of my week days are free. We picked our audit courses in July during the online orientation.

Later on in the afternoon, we had an IU Campus Tour with Jacob, which was quite nice as I finally started understanding my immediate surroundings (my map-reading skills are pretty bad, and I have severe spacial orientation issues anyway). It's really beautiful here, and this campus is officially among the prettiest campuses in the country!

Conrad Prebys Amphitheter.

IU Auditorium and Showalter Fountain. 

Indiana Memorial Union = IMU.

The Sample Gates leading to the university.

Kirkwood Avenue, the main street in Bloomington.

Lovely, no? We love it so much! It's easy to feel happy when everything around you is so beautiful!

Once we were done with the tour, Julcsi and I went to IMU for some sushi and shopping at the book shop before heading back to Evermann to celebrate the Indian Independence Day in Etishree's room. Etishree is one of the three Indian educators in our Fulbright cohort, the other two being Rathnakaran and Balakrishnan, who's here with his wife. Anyway, the cultural aspect of this exchange is one of the best things ever as we get to learn so much about each other's countries and cultures! At Etishree's, we got to taste insanely good and spicy Indian tea and sweet biscuits. Loved it! We also danced to Indian music, and basically just had a really nice time. Thanks, Team India!

Oh, and on Tuesday morning, Julcsi had her first encounter with the housekeeper. She was sleeping and didn't have her contact lenses on when the housekeeper started banging on the door and scaring her, poor thing! Eventually she managed to get up and realised it was the housekeeper (we didn't know that she would be coming on Tuesday mornings prior to her actually coming on a Tuesday morning). So, now we know that Lisa will be popping in every Tuesday around 9:30 am and spending around 20 minutes cleaning here. She's really, really lovely and we appreciate her coming in, though we could completely do our own laundry and cleaning, too.

Day 5 - Wednesday, August 16th (Madonna's 59th birthday!)
Wednesday was Moving Day, which is a story of its own, I'm telling you! It's the day when ALL the students move in, all on the same day, all at the same time. The traffic is stuck and guided by campus police, and you can see people with furniture, boxes and the most random things by the side of the road as there's no way to drive closer to the entrance of wherever they're moving. The students are here with their parents and little brothers and sisters, and it's seriously a cultural experience to witness all this! Campus buses don't run on Moving Day, either, which is why we started the day with a Library Tour at Wells Library that is within walking distance from Evermann.

Oh, and I also found out that for an Indiana resident, the fees for a full academic year at IU would be somewhere around $10 000 and for a non-Indiana resident $20 000-25 000!! Yikes! And that doesn't include living costs, food etc. OMG! So happy everything in Finland is free - though that obviously comes with living in Finland, which might not make me equally happy most of the time.

When you're a Fulbright DAT grantee, the library you'll mostly be using is the Education Library at the School of Education. This library tour was more focused on the Wells Library building itself and was a little bit useless in that sense. However, I do have a couple of tips for anyone coming here on exchange: 1) activate your Crimson Card at Wells Library. It takes some time for the card to be properly registered everywhere automatically, and if you want to start borrowing books for your project as soon as possible, your card will work sooner if you have it activated for you at an IU library. 2) If you want to possibly get an earlier appointment for your router installment, talk to the people at the IT desk at Wells Library as there are plenty of cancellations all the time and you can possibly get an appointment for the same day or the day after.

Anyways, after the library tour, we still had a Professional Development Grant (PDG) Orientation at the School of Education, where Jacob went through the procedure of applying for extra money for conferences or school visits in other areas. Basically the top maximum we can get is $2000 and the conference/school visit/other visit needs to be something that will be useful for our inquiry project. It takes about 4-6 weeks for the IIE to deal with the application, so you're advised to send in your PDG application early (I still haven't done it - no time whatsoever!). You'll get 70% of the funds beforehand and the remaining 30% once you've written a report about your experience and sent all the required documents (itinerary, boarding passes, conference fee receipt). To apply, you need to fill in a paper on the estimated costs of your visit as well as write an application letter of no more than 250 words. When it comes to accommodation and food, you don't just decide how much money you'll need, but instead you'll need to look up the Federal Per Diem Rates for the city in question here. You also need to remember to add your luggage fees - here, you don't pay for your luggage when you book your flight, but instead, for one suitcase, it's $25 paid at the airport when you check in. If you do a school visit instead, the IIE will need to see an invitation letter from the school you visited. Jacob gave us a list of possible conferences on topics having to do with our inquiry projects so you don't need to plan where to go from scratch. There'd be a lot more to say about this topic, but in case you want to know, let's decide you can email me for help instead of me writing everything here.

Yep. I then tried to check out 10 LGBTQ+ themed books out of the Education Library but it didn't work out because the girl working there didn't know how to activate my library card (I didn't do it at Wells Library before). She told me she'd hold my books till Friday, by which point her supervisor could activate my card for me.

Day 6 - Thursday, August 17th
In the morning, we had a Housing Orientation with Sandy Britton, the Area Coordinator of Apartment Housing. She told us more about what kind of things Evermann has to offer and what kind of rules these buildings have. We found out that we have a sink dispenser in the kitchen and that we need to run it frequently. Who wants to throw food scraps into their sink when it's common knowledge that cockroaches love living among us?! There's a switch in the closet under the sink and you just flip it on every once in a while - though we don't throw anything into the sink so the only thing that will possibly be ripped into pieces is the roach on its way up the pipes...Anyway, you can have visitors but they need to be registered at the front desk, and if you have a car, you need a parking permit, though at weekends, parking at Evermann is free.

We then had a School Visit Orientation where we found out that during our time here, we need to do 6 school visits all in all. Four of them need to be in the host teacher's classroom, and you need to go at least once a week (and only 1x/week counts towards the 6). In addition, Jacob will organise 2-3 extra school visits to us all as a group. Most of us will be at Bloomington North High School, and we can get there from Evermann with Bloomington Transit bus #1. Since the school day starts at 8 am, we need to catch the bus that is at our closest bus stop (15 mins away) at 7:15 am. Hooray...:D As for the school visits, we need to write a school visit reflection of each day and send them to our Friday Seminar instructors as well as Jacob.

So yeah, the people we have to help us here in addition to CIEDR are our faculty advisor (mine is Dr. Barry Chung), inquiry project coordinator (mine is Dr. Özlem Erden) and our host teacher (mine is April Hennessey from Bloomington North High School).

In the late afternoon, Julcsi and I went to IU Auditorium for CultureFest, which celebrates diversity on IU Campus and is also a kind of welcome ceremony for new students. Wow! We absolutely loved it! The Auditorium is huge, and yet there was a free T-shirt for everyone there, saying #IUishome! The African American Choral Ensemble performed (amazing!!!), people were taking part actively, clapping their hands, screaming, singing along...whatever they were told! It's so inspiring compared to Finland where people don't react to anything or are embarrassed of standing out in a crowd. This was so amazing - I was constantly in tears! Then the directors of all the different cultural centres on campus were marched on stage to be introduced (African American Arts Institute, Asian Culture Center, Disability Services for Students, First Nations Educational & Cultural Center, La Casa/Latino Cultural Center, LGBTQ+ Culture Center, and Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center). After that, there was an incredibly multitalented inspirational speaker, Justin Jones-Fosu, talking about the importance of diversity. Loved him! The guy can speak, dance and sing, and he's a stand-up comedian as well! What he said really had an impact on me - "Don't be just like anyone; be better for everyone by being the only you."

This is seriously a striking difference compared to Finland. In Finland, you're not supposed to be more than anyone or even different from anyone because someone might get jealous. In addition, in Finland, many people have a problem with minorities being talked about because "why is one group more important than the other?!?" and "why would it be important to make a big deal out of ___________(insert minority group)". It is a big deal - the point is to get the message across to these groups that they are welcome, wanted and needed! It's not about someone's rights being more important than someone else's - it's about making everyone feel included, welcome and safe, simple as that. So, that said, I left the Auditorium feeling extremely inspired and happy about being here. This is the right place for me! Here, it's possible to feel GOOD, which is not what I can say about my feelings in Finland most of the time. I'm so grateful I was given this opportunity, and I am also so grateful of equal marriage so that my wife can be here with me! This is inclusion if anything, and it means EVERYTHING. Thanks IU for announcing that everyone is just as important, and that there is no need to divide people based on where they're from and what cultural group they belong to. There is absolutely no need to ask people questions like "How do you feel about OUR country?", thus excluding you from the get-go if you're not from that country to begin with. This is what I'm all about and what I want to dedicate my life to. So, IU is home!

So yes, after the Auditorium ceremony, we all got free food vouchers and then went outside to sample foods from different countries and to watch performances from different countries and have a good time.

There was also a photo booth, where we obviously went to have some cool pictures taken!

A perfect event, so happy we could go!! We also took part in something called Tunnel of Oppression, which teaches students to not be the silent by-stander if and when they encounter oppression of marginalised groups. It was a very useful experience.

On our way home, we stopped by at Village Pantry for some drinks and snacks, and Julcsi got ID'd :D! At the age of 31, this can only be taken as a compliment!

Aaaand, in the evening, we had our first encounter with a cockroach that was casually walking from the general direction of the bathroom towards the bedroom. Let's just say neither one of us is particularly good with cockroaches, but after some screaming and panicking, I managed to capture it under a plastic cup and then ran outside to release it. We highly recommend using repellent and spraying it everywhere you possibly can!

Day 7 - Friday, August 18th
Finally, the last day of Orientation!12 days without any days off in between was beginning to take its toll! I was so tired by this point that I couldn't wait to be done with the day. However, it was a very long one with many different activities.

The morning started with a session on cross-cultural communication organised by the IU Office of International Services, which was quite pointless as by that point, we'd covered many of those topics during other sessions. I also just completed my basic studies in Intercultural Communication at the Open University of Jyväskylä and was well aware of everything that was talked about. Oh well...

Then we had a Friday Seminar Orientation. Every Friday from 9 am to noon throughout this programme, we'll have a seminar on various topics related to education, and this was our first chance to meet the instructors of the seminar and hear more about what we're supposed to do there.

In the afternoon, there were several things happening on campus, so we quickly stopped by at RecFest to see what kind of sports options there are, and then went to the LGBTQ+ Culture Center Open House to see if they could help me with my inquiry project in any way.

Some books and DVDs at the LGBTQ+ Culture Center.

We had a good talk with Doug Bauder, the director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center, and then left to get ready for our Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program Welcome Dinner. More dresses and mingling...The faculty advisors and the host teachers were both invited, so the purpose of the dinner was to create connections and get to know the people we'd be working with during our time here. And once again, well done CIEDR - Julcsi got two name tags, one for Finland and one for Hungary, and she could herself decide which country she wanted to say she was from. It was such a nice gesture that it almost made us cry!

We first had a session for group pictures, and then started anxiously waiting for the guests to arrive.

My host teacher couldn't make it, but my faculty advisor Dr. Barry Chung was there, and we chatted very casually throughout the evening between him, Julcsi and me. We also had to introduce ourselves in front of all the guests, after which we had a lovely meal and more chatting.

What a hardcore 12 days! Very useful, but also extremely tiring. I was so, so relieved when the dinner was finally over and we could go home to just relax for a couple of days!

Here, the general instruction is "Say 'yes' to everything!": However, my advice would be "Be yourself!". If you're not a sociable person, then definitely don't say "yes" to everything, because there will be A LOT of suggestions, and if you know you won't be able to take that much, then don't take it. Saying "no" when it feels right is perfectly okay - you'll still have a good experience!

Wow, this was such a long post that I don't actually believe it that I've finally reached the end of it! Not everything I'll be posting from here will be this long, just so you know, but it was very important for me to have both of the orientation weeks in one post each.

Stay tuned for more on our day trip to Louisville, Kentucky!


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