My experience as Fulbright visiting professor was an exceptional one for several reasons. First of all, it was not a lonely experience, but a group one as I was a Fulbrighter together with other five Romanians; each of us having a different background and representing a different university, but registered under the same program at the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship from the University of Rochester. The program, specially designed on the request of the Romanian American Foundation, aimed at introducing us to education on entrepreneurship. Step by step, I was convinced that entrepreneurship can be studied while learning some tools to filter ideas, understanding the market mechanism, studying how to transform a business idea into a company, practicing evaluation of startup companies and gaining business understanding from the stories of successful entrepreneurs. Therefore, from this point of view, it was a wonderful educational experience that I will use in the benefit of the Romanian educational system.
As our program involved meeting people from different institutions and organizations in town, I began to feel that I am no longer a visitor to Rochester, but one of its inhabitants. This was special too, as I was a Rochesterian when the town celebrated the bicentennial anniversary of the Erie Canal; prepared its rebirth after the failure of the Kodak Company and relocation of the Xerox Corporation to Norwalk, CT; reconfigured the highway crossing the town; worked hard to preserve the landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmstead in Highland Park; and started the moving process of its technology and business incubator (High Tech Rochester) from Henrietta (outside the town) to the Sibley building (downtown) in an attempt to become the supporter of the new Downtown Innovation Zone.
Secondly, it was an unforgettable cultural experience as well. I have to confess that it was pretty challenging to act in the multicultural U of R’s environment and the first lesson learned was to behave properly in multinational teams. Then, when I met the Romanian community, I was impressed to see how my co-nationals balanced the American customs with the Romanian traditions. Moreover, it was fascinating to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve in America while enjoying the atmosphere and learning some recipes of dishes traditionally made on these occasions. My cultural experience was enriched by the variety of performances I have seen: “The Magic Flute” at MET, “Chicago” on Broadway, “The Nutcracker” with the Boston Ballet, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” with the music performed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra at Eastman Theater, the Songs of Erie Canal interpreted by the Brockport Symphony Orchestra and the Golden Eagle String Band, “When Shakespeare’s Ladies Meet” presented during the Rochester Fringe Festival, the rock of the ’80s in a local brewery, and music of Leonard Bernstein played by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on New Year’s Eve.
Thirdly, it was a travel experience, as the Fulbright scholarship allowed me to go around Rochester and see spectacular places like Niagara Falls, Chimney Bluffs, Letchworth State Park, Watkins Glen and Taughannock Falls. Additionally, I was able to visit other prestigious universities as MIT, Harvard, Cornell and Miami, and to see three of the most beautiful cities in the US: New York, Boston and Washington. Long story short, my Fulbright experience was extraordinary because it was a multi-facet one, extremely rich and complex. Due to it, I am now a “Meliora” person, with nice memories of the people I met and places I have been.
Anca Nicolau was one of six Romanian professors in 2017 to receive a Fulbright-RAF research grant to learn about entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. Nicolau is a Professor of Food Science and Engineering at Dunarea de Jos University of Galati. She currently studies food safety issues, including detection of pathogens in food and food processing environments, as well as the destruction of microorganisms using alternative technologies.