Dragoș Ivana

Fulbright Senior Researcher 2016-2017


Vandy, the Music City’s University

The Fulbright grant I was awarded in 2016 was a bet with my academic life. Utterly dismayed when I heard that all fields of study (except for forensic medicine) compete with each other as a rule, I could only think of sciences ruling supreme. But it turned out that the humanities did occupy a respectable place among the winners. My project on Cervantes’ influence on the early American novel stands living proof. Crossing the Atlantic, the project found its home in Nashville, at Vanderbilt, a university campus which echoes the idyllic Cambridge in England.   

Knackered upon my arrival in Nashville two hours later than expected because of the intense traffic at JFK airport, my lovely Airbnb host, Evy, welcomed me cheerfully (though I was so ashamed and angry about the delay!) and gave me a ride to her place, a fairytale-like house situated in the fancy West End neighborhood, a totally safe area 30 minutes away from Vanderbilt University on foot. How lucky I was to meet her and to live in such a cozy and hospitable American home!

Vanderbilt, or Vandy, to use a term of endearment preferred by students and faculty alike, lies in the very heart of the Music City, and a stone’s throw away from Centennial Park, where the Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the one in Athens, takes center stage. Though I got familiar with the campus the next day after my arrival, I was still seized with a sort of embarrassment that hampered me to step into Benson Science Hall, the building that is home to the English Department I was affiliated with. Yet the words of my mentor, Prof. Vera Kutzinski, uttered when we first met, enabled me to understand that unaffectedness, modesty, unfeigned sociability and the vivid pleasure to help underlie the American sense of academic and social bonding: “After all, you are my colleague, so call me Vera, as we are not so formal here in the States!”, she said. Vera’s words thus marked the beginning of a wonderful friendship and excellent collaboration intensified by an exchange of ideas and experience with other faculty members and new friends. I gladly remember my lunch conversations with Prof. Dana Nelson, the department head who was fascinated with my research, Jonathan Lamb, a charming professor any student would like to have, and Dr. Rebecca Chapman, who shared with me her deep interest in Shakespeare, gender studies and pedagogy. I am still longing for my dinners with Vera and Anna, her witty friend, my chats with Ben from the Portuguese Department, who is a great speaker of Romanian, and a group of 3rd-year students with different backgrounds and of different nationalities, whose classes was a pleasure to audit. Last but not least, I miss the great time I spent with Bryan and his adorable dog Duncan.

Vanderbilt grew on me in many other ways. The Jean and Alexander Heard 8-floor library proved to be a treasure trove of rare books and microfilms, let alone the wealth of databases and critical studies relevant to my research. The series of compelling seminars and talks hosted by the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities were triggers of cooperation with some of the invited speakers (most notably Prof. Edward Friedman, a reputed Cervantes scholar) and deepened my sense of what true research really means. Vanderbilt’s English Department’s active role in organizing the Southern Literary Festival hosted by the Nashville Public Library in October 2016 showed that the university knows how to make its voice heard in social and cultural events as well.  Also, the impressive number of courses in tune with today’s cultural agenda, as well as the state-of-the-art methodological tools applied and discussed in class cannot but make a Fulbrighter’s intellectual experience complete.

Such a vibrant academic milieu blends perfectly with the Honky Tonk scene of Nashville populated with top-notch singers and songwriters, the Music Row, the hipstery Gulch, the Sony Music studios on the 18th Ave. South, Ryman Auditorium, the splendid Tennessee State Capitol – a 19th-century iconic example of Greek Revival architecture – and clubs and pubs catering to every taste.

This Fulbright experience is hard to forget, especially when you are a first-time visitor to the US like myself. Vandy keeps on bringing back memories of wonderful people and places and makes me think that a short-lived American dream like this is a real keepsake which tells me that I will come back soon.

My fulbright experience

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Students at the advising center

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Romanian-U.S. Fulbright Commission

Adress: 2 Ing. Nicolae Costinescu Street, sector 1, Bucharest, Romania
Phone: 021.230.77.19
Fax: 021.230.77.38
E-mail: office@fulbright.ro

Fulbright Educational Advising Center

Phone: 021.231.90.15
E-mail: feac@fulbright.ro

 Public hours

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 Wednesday: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
 Thursday: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM