I am finally here in the USA! I arrived late on Tuesday at Raleigh Durham airport and was collected by the Dean of the School of Education, Professor Ann Bullock. I’m staying in a University house with 2 others, Kristen, an international officer at the University and Babu, a PhD student from Assam, registered at the University of Tartu in Estonia – he is here until Christmas.
This is the house where I am staying. It’s about a half hour walk from the University campus, but it’s a hot and sweaty walk at the moment as it’s about 34 degrees Celsius and very humid. Apparently we have about 3-4 more weeks of the hot weather before the temperatures will start to dip a little. Being used to the Scottish climate, the slightly cooler version of North Carolina will be welcome! I will face the heat again next year from March onwards, but my Fulbright Scholarship will finish at the end of May so I’ll miss the really sweaty months of July and August!
Elon University have also provided a set of wheels! It does feel a bit as if I’m driving a taxi as I’m more used to driving a small hatchback! It is fantastic to have the car to get around locally, as the US is set up in ways that expect you to have a car. So I can get to supermarkets, meet colleagues and friends (including my first book group meeting next week!), and get to local towns relatively easily. I just need to practise driving on the right hand side of the road.
I visited Elon University for a few days, 10 years ago and since then there has been significant building – the campus has nearly doubled in size! The style of the buildings is all pretty harmonious and the grounds are maintained impeccably. Not surprising then that in the Princeton Review, Elon is #1 in the country for the most beautiful campus.
On Wednesday this week I was given a tour of the campus by Francois Masuka from the Global Education Center (the Center is one of my hosts while I’m at Elon). It was great to find out all the important parts of campus including coffee shops and eating places, a post office on campus, an ATM, the library, gym, theatre, and the Mooney Building, which houses the School of Education, where I will have an office from Monday 30th September.
Meanwhile, I’ve been opening a US bank account, and sorting out lots of official paperwork, sorting out a new Elon email account and staff card etc. Yesterday, I had lunch with Prof Peter Felten, a good friend and colleague who I’ve known for a while and who co-wrote a book with me a few years ago. Then later in the afternoon, Peter’s wife Sara, and I went to a huge convocation on campus where Senator Nikki Haley was speaking. News on the ground is that if Trump is impeached, she plans to run as a republican candidate for President.
She was pretty coy about such plans when asked questions, but she certainly seems pretty ambitious. I was curious to be there to hear what kinds of messages she would give, and I must admit I was pretty angry throughout a lot of what she said. In a nutshell, she spoke of all the evil and bad regimes ‘out there’ that we shouldn’t give in to, and how the USA was pretty much the only country that stands up to these evil regimes.
Unfortunately she seemed unable to see that many of the things she was accusing the evil regimes of having done (e.g. separating children from their families, meddling in other people’s elections etc.), have been, and are being, done by the USA. I wanted to lend her a copy of ‘Why do people hate America?’, which I finished reading before leaving the UK. Interestingly it was an almost entirely white audience at the event. It was fascinating to be there, and it’s the first time I’ve experienced the star spangled banner being sung live at an event so far.
I finished the day by spending the evening with Peter and Sara in downtown Burlington (the main town next to Elon), at a community event run by the local community and Elon University, where there were food stalls and events taking place. The photo shows me with the Elon Phoenix mascot and cheerleaders who cheer on Elon University athletics and sports.
I’ll leave you with some pictures of the amazing Magnolia grandiflora outside our house (thanks John for the plant ID). It’s fruiting just now but I’m expecting great things in the spring!