Marija Krivokapic I Fulbright Student and Scholar Program Experiences
As an assistant professor of English language and literature I received my first Fulbright stipend in 2009. I spent the fall semester at Louisiana State University in Alexandria, LA, teaching two courses: Great Authors (D. H. Lawrence and His Travel Writing) and Contemporary Native American Literature. I appreciated very much gaining new teaching experience, working with significantly smaller groups than I had in Montenegro at the time, in a very pro-active atmosphere. I even managed to organise some extra class activities and I am very proud of my students in the LSUA who helped organize a new library on Native American literature in neighbouring Camp Bogarth. I also researched Native American literature and culture, enjoying the rich resources of the LSUA and visiting neighbouring tribes and attending their powwows. The tribal representatives, from Choctow, Kaddo, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Alabama Cushata, Tunica Biloxi nations, were very accommodating, gave me presents and told me numerous stories, which I would write down and retell to my classes. I helped organize an exhibition of the artifacts for the South-Eastern tribes in Baton Rouge, LA. I had an Apache story teller visit my class, and gave a lecture in the city hall in Alexandria. This research resulted in teaching a similar course at the University of Montenegro, publishing several papers, two books, supervising a dozen diploma and master theses, both in Montenegro and in Serbia, co-organization of an international conference on the topic of contemporary indigenous issues (2015), the first to be organized in the region, numerous translations and smaller cultural events. I met many renowned native artists and scholars, some of which visited Montenegro (James Luna, Linda Hogan, Craig Womack…) and stayed my friends. But most of all, I appreciated the warm welcome of my hosts in Louisiana and the dear colleagues who were always around me to help, professionally and privately (because my two daughters were with me and went to school in Alexandria). These wonderful people took care that I don’t miss anything from my experience and invited me to a lot of different events.
In 2015, when I was an associate professor, I received my second Fulbright stipend, exclusively for research. I chose the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, to base the research at. I continued working on contemporary Native American literature, but focused on the issues of their critical theory and how it can get emancipated from the European based theory. In Oklahoma (once Indian Territory) I met with numerous colleagues from the field, agents from cultural affairs of numerous tribes, and partook in a several events. This time I travelled a lot. With my husband, I crossed the whole of Oklahoma, from east to west and from north to south, and visited numerous tribal grounds. I was invited to give a lecture at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond so I can say that we drove all the way from Kentucky to California. We toured Kentucky whiskey distilleries and saw horse races. We went to Beale St. in Memphis, Tennessee. We crossed the Mississippi river and drove through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Next we drove from the central Oklahoma, across Texas and New Mexico, to the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley in Arizona. So we also entered Utah, Colorado, and, back to New Mexico, ended at the Four Corners. On our third big trip we drove across Kansas – the sky was almost black on our southern side and we could understand how it was possible to imagine and create a story about Dorothy and her little dog Toto, whose house was taken off by a huge tornado in “The Wizard of Oz”. Driving on the highway along Nebraska and Iowa border, we came to South Dakota, where we visited the Pine Ridge Reservation which has never stopped fighting against the government. Up in the Black Hills, we stopped at Mt. Rushmore, visited the mausoleum and the huge statue of Crazy Horse, spent the evening in Deadwood and gambled $5 in one of its famous casinos. From here, we went through Wyoming, where we visited Devil’s Tower, and into beautiful Montana to Little Big Horn where the native tribes defeated General Custer. Back through Wyoming, we enjoyed Yellowstone greatly, when many a buffalo crossed our path. Across Idaho we entered Nevada deserts, crossed the Sierra mountains into California, and went straight onto the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco was beautiful. On our way back, we travelled through Yosemite Park, went down to Death Valley, spend the evening in Las Vegas, and back into the breath taking Arizona, its Sedona and White Mountains, the home of Geronimo. We were hit by a tornado exactly in Roswell New Mexico (but we so no aliens this time), and then, through flooded towns and pueblos, we reached interstate 40 and Oklahoma.
But being a Fulbright scholar is a lot more than all of this. For a scholar from Montenegro the horizons enlarge already when we realize that we cannot be doing groceries on daily basis. It means that one will be served juice in a glassful of ice. If you are paying with your card you can take cash from a Walmart cashier. The waiter would be coming every few minutes to ask you if “everything is all right, baby.” It is driving on huge highways and entering extremely complicated loops. It means cruising, too. And you have to actually stop on all the “Stop” signs. And you must not drive below the speed, even in the darkest of the nights. A Fulbright scholar normally stays in the hotel of the “Super 8” kind, which are almost all managed by Indians (from India). In America one sleeps in huge beds. Yes, everything often seems larger than life. And your fridge is huge, and your stove is huge. And you have to think about your garbage disposal. If you are an international scholar in the States, you are treated with care and given all the library resources, printed and online data bases, to use as much as you want. You are given a large office, with shelves for books, with a computer and a phone! Finally, when you are invited to the U.S., your host means it really and welcomes you with a huge hug.