The meeting offered the opportunity for me to interact with American students who have been in Austria the past several months, Austrian students who are going to the United States this summer, and other Fulbright scholars. The subject areas were generally well outside my discipline, covering all sorts of topics regarding everything from terrorism and tourism to American culture and LGBTQ issues. The attendees, especially the students, were extremely bright and engaging and it made for stimulating discussion during organized discussion periods, but also meals.
I was asked to give a talk on climate change and its impacts on Austria, which turned out to be a great assignment since I was able to do research on the subject at the European Geophysical Union meeting in Vienna a couple of weeks ago. I could also tap into the tremendous talent that exists in snow and glacier science at the University of Innsbruck, and my experiences and photos from the Alps over the past few months. Below are a few slides, cherry picked from the talk.
A primary goal of the Fulbright program is "to improve intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, and intercultural competence between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills." My visit to Austria not only enabled me to acquire the scientific knowledge needed to give the talk, but also the ability to deliver it with a more personal perspective with understanding of the importance of the Alps and winter sports for Austrian culture and identity. I was very humbled when one of the attendees, a native of the Alpine region, told me he was impressed at how I humanized the talk. I don't think that would have been possible without having had the experiences I have had over the past few months.