Loredana Bercuci


Fulbright Student Researcher, 2016-2017

The Value of an Education

A few days after receiving the wonderful news that I had been awarded a Fulbright scholarship, it so happened that I met one of the committee members who had interviewed me at a conference. Knowing that she had also been a Fulbrighter, I did not hesitate to ask her for advice on how to tackle my upcoming stage as a visiting doctoral researcher at SUNY Empire State College. To my surprise, she gave me no advice, but simply offered a warm smile and said: “It will change your life.” Immediately, as series of questions popped into my mind: How? Will the mammoth global city, New York, swallow me whole? Will I learn things of which I had previously never even dreamed? Will the people there surprise and delight me? For fear of betraying my nerves, I kept these questions to myself, smiled back and resolved to find out on my own.

The city was kind to me. At first, it overwhelmed me with its excesses: there were too many people, too many cars, too much noise, too many gigantic buildings. Then I started recognizing it like an old friend: I was Ella Fitzgerald strolling on Broadway at night, Holden Caulfield walking around in Central Park, Louis Lane working in the News Building, James Baldwin in Harlem, Dorothy Parker at The New Yorker, Travis Bickle in a yellow cab, Art Spiegelman looking for shadows of lost towers, Hannah Horvath in Williamsburg. I was in a thousand competing stories while walking daily between my favorite research spots, the CUNY Graduate Center and the beautiful New York Public Library, wondering if New York would ever reveal my own. Then the election came around, and I saw a disoriented New York, swelling up in waves of protests over a result that came as a shock to its denizens.  

This shock was reflected in almost all of my academic experiences, too, as academics across the U.S. and across the world pondered the rise of populist nationalism and wondered if they themselves were in part to blame for it. Thus, when I attended a conference on trauma at George Washington University, Nancy Sherman’s keynote on moral injury turned to the topic. A panel of E.U. officials at Columbia University discussing the future of the union debated the connection between the aforementioned rise and the policies of our union. The discussion in the panel on contemporary American literature of which I was part at the Northeast MLA conference focused on issues of community and political engagement in the face of such upheavals. My own talk on trauma at SUNY prompted questions from the faculty about collective trauma and the possibility of healing a divided nation in the wake of such trauma. What transpired from all this was a looming concern in everyone’s eyes about the direction the world was taking, an ardent desire to identify and solve problems together equitably, all the while exercising self-criticism.

The same attitude was evident in my interactions with my fellow Fulbrighters, no matter where they were from or which field they worked in. It was evident in our interactions during our visits at the United Nations or at the Council for Foreign Relations. It was also evident while volunteering together in marginalized communities and homeless shelters, as well as in our discussions over dim sum in China Town, or on a sidewalk in Times Square after enjoying a Broadway play. This was ultimately the life-changing experience and story that my New York Fulbright experience gave me: I became part of a diverse international community of people who shared the same values and commitments. In spite of our tearful goodbyes in old New York, one thing is certain: no matter where our personal lives and careers may take us, we will never leave that place.          

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

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