Well, my Fellowship is underway, and it is almost surreal. I am writing this post at about 11:30 p.m. fro a hotel in Brussels. The last 72 hours have been a whirlwind, and I have so much to share with you. I have finally started this wonderful adventure for which I have been preparing for many months. Many of you may not know, but I was selected as a Marshall Memorial Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. I am one of a group of 14 young professionals from the U.S. who are selected to travel to Europe to study politics, nonprofits and business. Over the next three weeks, I will travel to Brussels, Amsterdam, Rome, Tirana and Bucharest. There are also European counterparts who will be traveling to the States next week. I was informed that I am the first fellow from the great state of Louisiana. I am able to do this because of the wonderful German Marshall Fund (learn more at gmfus.org), my amazing family and a supportive CEO in Bruce Willson. Thanks to all of you.
My adventure started on Thursday and I'll catch you up briefly. I arrived in D.C. on Thursday (late, because I missed my connecting flight in Atlanta on Delta. What a shocker...). Once I checked into the hotel and made the short walk to the GMF offices, and feeling very Mary Tyler Moore, by the way, I was immediately struck by the warmth and professionalism of the GMF staff. Emily Robichaux (a Baton Rouge girl!) and Sasha Kapadia have called and emailed me many times over the last few months to prepare for the fellowship. They have done a tremendous job in making us feel welcome and in preparing us for this important time. The other thing that struck me was the caliber of the other Fellows. I was so overwhelmed and humbled by the talented people with whom I will be spending the next 3 weeks. Bankers, political leaders, scientists, top-ranking military personnel, foundation professionals... and me. Receiving this fellowship meant a great deal to me before I arrived. Actually getting to meet the other fellows and the extremely professional staff at GMF let me know that this is about to take me to the next level in a number of areas.
We ended Thursday with a dinner and discussion at the residence of the Honorable Joao de Vallera, Portugal's Ambassador to the United States. The ambassador gave us a great framework for Southern Europe's relationship to the European Union. He was also gracious to let me practice my very broken Portuguese on him. He served us the most amazing dinner, including a white port that was exquisite. I MUST find this when I return home. I even tried foie gras and was delighted to find that it was a wonderful new addition to my foodie palate.
On Friday, we had more briefings and then headed to Brussels. We hit the ground running. We had a great presentation over lunch about the European Commission. That was followed by a walking tour of Brussels. This is a truly amazing city. He only thing I ever knew about Belgium was that my CODOFIL teacher was from here and that awful AT&T commercial making fun of the city. It is so diverse and lively. I tried another great food tonight. I am officially in love with mussels. That's right, I had mussels in Brussels. LOL... I also had a Belgian waffle. Unbelievably good.
I am about to drop with exhaustion, but I didn't want to disapoint my public;-) I am posting a few pix, including one with Ambassador de Vallera, our angels at GMF ( Emily, Sasha, Anne Marie and Laura), some of our briefings and our tour of Brussels. We travel to Antwerp tomorrow for the day. I am really looking forward to it.