I’m finally entering the “get ready” stage I most identify with as preparing for a year abroad — I’m figuring out which suitcase to take, buying extra vitamins, copying useful phone numbers or addresses, and saying good byes. I’ve already scanned my passport and visa, arranged transitions with neighbors and the house sitter, and confirmed logistics with my African hosts and the Embassy. (I’m relieved to have backed up the computer; it crashed last week, just to make sure getting ready was a full stage in leaving!)
In practice though, getting “ready” began more than 18 months ago when I had already decided to apply for a Fulbright and already identified Ashesi as a place I wanted to teach and learn. In the spring ’11, I was more formally introduced to the school’s leaders and secured a letter of invitation to join them. By late spring, colleagues here in the U.S. were writing letters of recommendation and reviewing my research proposal and application pieces. My full application was due to the Fulbright Commission on August 1, 2011 (a full year ago!).
Then I waited for months.
By January, 2012, I had to begin planning course offerings for my home institution’s fall 2012 schedule but would not know until April whether or not I would be on Southwestern’s or Ashesi’s campus to teach. By February, I had agreed with my Dean to take a leave of absence regardless of whether or not I was awarded a Fulbright fellowship, all in order to move the hiring process along for a visiting faculty member who would replace me on Southwestern’s campus. We’re lucky that a colleague from Cleveland was interested in a visiting position (as well as interested in house sitting for me — I live near Southwestern’s campus). For her, of course, that was all contingent on me getting the Fulbright fellowship.
I visited Ashesi in March ’12, and received confirmation from Fulbright in April that I had been selected. That cleared the “getting ready” path to hire the visiting faculty member to replace me at home and to identify complimentary adjunct faculty to teach other courses which students want and need.
But the “fun” part began with my efforts to get medical clearance for the fellowship, something the Department of Education required. My physician is thorough. That’s good, and that’s frustrating. I have now been vaccinated for yellow fever, hepatitis A and B (requiring multiple injections at prescribed months intervals), typhoid, meningitis, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, prutussus, tuberculosis, tetanus, and malaria…along with other things I would need to look up. I had chest x-rays to confirm no TB, an eye exam to prove I could see, an ear-nose-throat exam (though I can’t even remember why), and a hearing test to prove I could hear. (Ironically, no one tested my language abilities in Twi or my cultural sensitivity to any non-American practices).
With medical clearance, I could sign the papers officially getting ready to go.
Then, I got a visa. (Had I started this blog by June, I might have an entire episode on getting a visa.)
Now I have a plane ticket, have had an orientation, have welcoming notes from people at Ashesi telling me about classes they have listed me to teach and a college guest house in which I’ll stay.
For a year’s worth of getting ready, packing feels almost anti-climactic!
I arrive in country on August 7.