Mar 25, 2021
Building and promoting international cultural exchange is a team effort. There are many people working to help Fulbright Germany make the academic exchange program such an important cornerstone of the transatlantic relationship. One such key player is Meghan Gregonis, US Consul General in Munich. We interviewed Meghan about her role in the transatlantic relationship and how that relationship has shaped her life. Read on to find out what she had to say!
Meghan has been Consul General at the US Consulate in Munich since July 2018 and has been with the US Department of State since 2001. Over her career, she has been stationed all over the world from Riyadh to Jerusalem, Rome, Islamabad, and Baghdad. She speaks German, Italian, French, and Arabic and does a little cycling in her free time. You can read more about her here.
For me, the opportunity to study overseas was a fantasy, not a reality. Thankfully high school exchange students found their way to my high school in Philadelphia. I was inspired by three high school exchange students who came from Germany. Their example, in fact, encouraged me to find a way to pursue a study experience outside of the United States. They honestly changed my life.
I found my exchange opportunity when I enrolled directly in a foreign university here in Europe. And that experience ended up inspiring my career choice: diplomacy. I didn’t know about the Fulbright program at the time, which was too bad. I would have liked to have applied.
Living overseas for me as a foreign student was incredibly challenging. I had never traveled outside of the United States. I was on my own and without a support structure. Honestly, it was very hard. But I became fluent in a foreign language quickly. And I was soon able to use my language skills to engage and answer all kinds of questions – friendly and critical - about the United States. Representing my country in this way turned out to be my biggest reward.
I appreciated the opportunity to counter stereotypes, many of which came from popular culture or films. For example, in those days, there was a certain stereotype of a typical American girl that I didn’t fit. I was able to demonstrate the diversity of the United States with my personal story. And I was able to represent a range of perspectives on topics ranging from U.S. foreign priorities to cultural touchstones that may have been controversial, for example, defense spending, crime, guns, etc.
Yes, absolutely. My experience living in Europe as a student in the 1990s helped me see my country from a completely different perspective. This is a skill that is incredibly important to me today as I work to identify areas of overlapping interests that can help two countries work together on combined security, economic, or cultural interests.
I would definitely want to be a teaching assistant, and in the most remote city possible. There is no substitute for in-person exchange to debunk stereotypes, identify commonalities, and build bridges.
This program is part of the glue that binds our countries together. It builds shared experiences, reinforces a range of shared values, and leads to a shared understanding. This friendship gives us the opportunity for deeper, more meaningful exchanges. Simply put, we are better able to work together on any number of challenges that we have in common. Our world faces a lot of challenges, but the Fulbright perspective can help us find solutions.
My advice is to persist! Follow your dream. If Fulbright doesn’t work out, pursue any of the countless opportunities beyond Fulbright to grow as a person and connect to counterparts in the United States. And for our alumni, you have a special perspective. We want to stay in touch with you. The pandemic has delayed our planned alumni summit, but we will reach out soon. Follow our social media properties for more info.
This interview is part of the Consul Series where we spotlight voices of exchange for the US and German Missions. We hope to highlight how these figures drive the transatlantic relationship and international understanding along with Fulbright Germany and how intercultural experiences can impact lives. Follow our Consul Series through the year to read about the Consul Generals and their impact in their own words.