The 2009 Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship winners have been announced on the U.S. Department of State’s Dipnote blog. Click here to read more.
Preparing for Your Fulbright Campus Committee Interview, By Paul Bohlmann, Fulbright Program Adviser, Harvard CollegeJuly 6, 2009
Please note: If you are not currently enrolled in a U.S. institution of higher learning or are unable to apply through your home campus or alma mater, you may apply At-Large. This includes U.S. students studying at institutions outside of the U.S. or students attending institutions where there is not a Fulbright Program Adviser.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program expects every currently enrolled student – graduating seniors as well as graduate and professional school students – to submit their application for a Fulbright grant through their campus Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) and to participate in the on-campus evaluation process.
This submission will always involve a formal review of your application materials by a campus committee and a campus committee interview. These assessments provide invaluable information to national screening committees here in the U.S. in the fall, as well as to overseas screening committees in the spring.
For enrolled students, campus committee interviews are extremely important. Not only does this interview allow you to supplement your written and supporting materials, but the process also allows a committee to assess – in person – the convergence of your project with the Fulbright Program’s goals and standards. In a nutshell, the interview provides an opportunity for a committee to gauge how ready you are for the challenges of prolonged immersion in a new culture, as well as how prepared you are to pursue the project you have proposed.
To understand the importance of your campus committee interview, keep one essential fact in mind: this interview will be the only occasion you have in the entire review process, here in the U.S. and overseas, to make a personal case for your abilities to live abroad and to undertake your project successfully. Knowing what to expect in your interview and taking the time to prepare as well as you can are crucial.
What to Expect
Campus committee interview procedures vary from institution to institution. Generally, you can expect to meet with faculty members or administrators who have read through your application materials carefully and who are familiar with your field, your destination, and the Fulbright process. FPAs recruit committee members from a range of disciplines and with a variety of international experiences, but all of them will have an interest in the Fulbright Program, as well as in your success in applying for a grant.
The Fulbright Program expects that each campus committee interview will result in a campus committee evaluation (form #10 in the application). These evaluations must address six basic questions for each enrolled candidate:
• What are your academic or professional qualifications to pursue your project?
• How valid and feasible is your proposed project?
• What are your language qualifications to pursue your proposed project?
• Do you seem mature, motivated, and able to adapt to new cultural environments?
• What do you know about your host country?
• What sort of ambassadorial potential do you have in representing the U.S. abroad?
Like many interviews, dialogue with your campus committee may be unpredictable, unfolding in several directions. Unlike many interviews, however, you can actually anticipate content – everything you are asked will be designed to address the above questions, usually in the space of about 30 minutes or longer. Because some of this information will be clear in your written and supporting materials, a fair amount of your interview may address questions of personal suitability: Why are you applying? Are you open to new experiences and ideas? How do you meet challenges or difficulties? Do you interact with people easily? Are you eager to go abroad?
You should expect a portion of your campus committee interview to be conducted in the language of your host country, whether or not you will use that language in your everyday work. You should also expect to demonstrate an interest in and knowledge of your host country that goes beyond the specific disciplinary focus of your proposal.
One further note about your interview: you will be evaluated only in comparison with your peers and against set standards. In other words, a graduating senior will not be measured against a more advanced graduate student, nor will a graduate student be measured against a graduating senior with less experience. Neither will be measured against other individuals in the same applicant pool. This commitment keeps the playing field level throughout the evaluation process.
Take Time to Prepare
Because the campus committee interview is an opportunity for you to make your case in person, be sure to invest some time in preparing for it. The degree to which you prepare will speak volumes about your conscientiousness and enthusiasm; it will boost your confidence and help you give articulate answers to committee members’ questions.
A basic starting point in preparing for any interview is self-assessment – think about yourself in a specific setting and reflect on your abilities to be successful in that setting. What experience, knowledge, skills, or special training do you have to make you confident in your ability to pursue your project? What aptitudes, experience, or personal traits do you have to make you confident in your ability to navigate a new cultural environment?
Take some time to review the contents of your application, particularly your statement of proposed study and your curriculum vitae, and be prepared to expand on any of this. If your project gets more refined after you submit your application, be prepared to introduce these developments in your interview. Think about your supporting materials. How do your recommenders know you and what might they say about you? Can you talk about a paper you wrote for a course, a tutoring job, or a performance, even though you may not have written about these experiences yourself? Can you talk about each of the courses on your transcript?
In preparing your application, you will already have done some research on your host country and host institution, if appropriate, with an eye to the specifics of your project and to current events. But it won’t hurt to refresh your memory before your interview, especially knowing that the Fulbright Program hopes that you will establish connections in your host country beyond the scope of your project. The Internet, your local or campus library, and newsstands are valuable resources.
Basic Interview Advice
The best advice for your interview is simple: be yourself. Interviewers expect to meet in person the individual they already have “met” on paper, and you can flounder if you try to be someone you’re not. Therefore, concentrating on being your best self is important. Dress appropriately, arrive on time, be courteous to those you meet, and be honest in your interview. Your impression on the interviewers really does matter.
Without rehearsing or scripting answers, keep the six basic questions mentioned above in mind as you go into your interview. This preparation will help you focus on the sort of information you share and the points you’ll want to make with your interviewers. Feel free to take a moment to think before you answer a question or to ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question. If you can’t answer a question, say so, but try to connect it to something you do know. If you feel you’ve said something you wish you hadn’t, you can address this issue directly later in the interview. Be sure to address each of your answers to everyone in the room.
It’s natural to feel nervous before an interview. Taking care of yourself beforehand by preparing, getting a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy meal, and giving yourself time to arrive promptly will help calm your nerves. If you can be comfortable with the interview as it unfolds, you’ll communicate confidence and self-reliance, qualities that will inevitably serve you well during a year overseas.
The campus committee interview is a formal part of your Fulbright application, and it is an important component in the evaluation of your candidacy, here in the U.S. and abroad. Treat it accordingly. But also try to enjoy the experience as much as you can; this is a singular opportunity for you to share your thoughts and aspirations with people who genuinely care about them.
Preparing an Application in the Creative, Performing or Visual Arts, By Walter Jackson, Program Manager, Fulbright U.S. Student ProgramJune 30, 2009
The Fulbright Program encourages applications for study or training in the creative, performing and visual arts. Applications in all fields in over 140 Fulbright countries are welcome. Candidates should be thoroughly familiar with the Individual Country Summary and requirements for the country they wish to apply to.
Proposals in the arts should focus on formal training and/or independent study in specific disciplines. Applicants should indicate the following in their project statements: the reasons for choosing a particular country, the nature of their study, the form their work will take and whether it involves formal study at an institution, with an individual, or independent study. In their project statements, applicants should relate their current training to the study they plan to undertake abroad, the expected results of the study or training, and the contribution the foreign experience will have on their professional development.
Applicants must indicate host country affiliations and, where possible, provide letters of support from the individual or institution with whom or where they plan to carry out their study. While sources of support/affiliation are country specific, they may also include organizations such as museums, music groups, galleries, etc.
Candidates in the arts should be aware that their applications and supplementary materials will be reviewed by a discipline-specific committee of experts. Special care should be taken when identifying the appropriate field of study in the application; it should be germane to the focus of the proposed project. The discipline-specific committees in the creative, performing and visual arts include: Architecture; Creative Writing; Dance & Performance Art; Design; Filmmaking; Music Composition & Conducting; Photography; Piano; Organ & Harpsichord; Theater, including Acting, Directing and Costume/Set Design; Ethnomusicology, Sculpture & Installation Art, Painting & Printmaking, String Instruments, including Cello, Double Bass, Guitar, Harp, Lute, Viola, and Violin; Voice; Wind Instruments, including Bassoon, Clarinet, Euphonium, Flute, French Horn, Oboe, Percussion, Piccolo, Recorder, Saxophone, Trombone, Trumpet and Tuba.
The members of the discipline-specific screening committees in the arts can be working professionals, working/teaching professionals or full-time arts faculty at academic institutions or teachers at art and music conservatories in the U.S. They will be reviewing applications and supplementary materials in their respective fields for all Fulbright countries.
The supplementary materials should support the proposed study. In submitting supplementary materials in support of the application, please refer to your discipline in the Instructions for Submitting Materials in the Creative and Performing Arts for specifications on the materials required. Materials not specifically requested will not be reviewed.
While the quality of the supplementary material submitted in support of the written application is extremely important, candidates in the arts should be aware that members of the screening committees will also be extremely interested in the applicant’s training and preparation to carry out the proposed project. Therefore, previous formal study, training or experience is important.
Projects should focus on practical training or performance studies. Candidates should outline a study for which their previous study background compliments and supports the proposed project and will add to their professional training and development.
Applicants whose projects emphasize academic research over practical training should apply in the academic field appropriate to the nature of the project (e.g. Architectural History, Art History, Film Studies, Theater Studies, etc.) and not submit supplementary material.
An Alumna’s Perspective: Applying for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Grant, By Amber Rydberg, 2007-2008, South Korea ETAJune 17, 2009
Pictured: Amber Rydberg, 2007-2008 South Korea ETA (left) with Mrs. Shim, the KAEC/Fulbright Korea Executive Director on a Fulbright Korea ETA weekend retreat at Songnisan National Park
At the beginning of my senior year, I was aware of the Fulbright Program and what grants were available. Or so I thought. I knew there were research grants for those who had serious passions for very specific topics, of which I felt I had none. There was also a Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program for seasoned teachers, but I was just about to graduate from my undergraduate institution and not yet a teacher. And, there were grants for scholars, but I was also not one of those. Thus, in my mind, Fulbright, along with so many other fellowships available to soon-to-be graduates, sat on an out-of-reach pedestal.
Fulbright was removed from that unreachable pedestal when I was gearing up for a half-marathon with a friend. We touched upon every topic including the ominous, “So, what are you thinking of doing after graduation?” question. I wanted to go back to South Korea for the first time since my adoption and teach English for a year. That is when I heard about the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grant for the first time. My friend told me she was applying for a Fulbright ETA grant to Taiwan. At her urging (and I will be forever indebted to her), she suggested I visit www.us.fulbrightonline.org and look into the ETA grants to South Korea.
I knew what I was looking for in my abroad experience from a previous stay in China. I worked in Beijing during the summer of 2006, and while there, I lived with a home-stay family: a mom, dad, and 9-year old daughter. I tutored my home-stay family’s daughter weekly and learned so much from her about life in China. Inspired by that experience, it became apparent that if I went to South Korea, I would want to teach English at the elementary school level. I would also want an opportunity to live with a home-stay family and to be immersed in the culture to learn as much as possible.
I spent hours on the Internet over the next few days researching ETA grants to South Korea and stumbled upon many useful resources. The most useful to me were the country summaries on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website, the South Korea page and the South Korean Commission’s website. Some countries have Fulbright Commissions, and, South Korea is one of them. The South Korean Fulbright Commission’s website had answers to questions I hadn’t yet thought of. From orientation and home-stay information, to organized workshops and gatherings for grantees, the role the Commission plays, and ETA handbooks from previous years, the Korean Fulbright Commission’s website had a wealth of information waiting to be discovered by applicants like myself. It was a great way for me to decide if the Fulbright ETA grant was the right Fulbright grant for me.
My advice to prospective applicants: Start researching and thinking about the grant(s) you’re interested in early. There are ample resources available to you online: webinars and guidance sessions, videos, podcasts, Commission websites and the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website can help you to decide which grant you’re most interested in. It is important to understand the grant you’re applying for and what it entails before you start preparing your application. If you’re applying for an ETA grant, think about how you can be a cultural ambassador inside and outside the classroom while pursuing your own interests. If you’re interested in arts, maybe you’ll volunteer at an arts center. Do you like games? If so, maybe you’ll volunteer at an orphanage. Are sports your thing? Maybe you’ll join or coach a local soccer team, or begin learning a local, traditional sport. Like music? Learn to play a traditional instrument or join a chorus. There are many options. The project proposal is where you’ll want to clearly describe the passion you’re pursuing, what fuels that passion, as well as how your interests can guide you in your free time. Once you’ve written your proposal, have your peers, professors, and/or family members give you feedback. You don’t want to submit your application with any careless typos or spelling mistakes.
Establishing a Host Country Affiliation, By Jermaine Jones, Senior Program Officer for Africa and the Middle EastJune 1, 2009
Applicants must carefully read the criteria for affiliation requirements in the summary of the country to which they are applying. Countries differ in the kinds of acceptable affiliations. Depending upon the country, the affiliation can be an academic institution, a research institute, a non-profit organization and/or individuals at any one of these or other types of relevant agencies. In some cases, particularly in the arts, the affiliation may be a writer, musician, artist or an arts organization or foundation. Applicants should pay special attention to the requirement in some countries to attend/affiliate with an academic institution.
Identifying a Potential Affiliate
Some countries will obtain affiliation for the Fulbrighters, while others leave the responsibility for securing host affiliation entirely up to the grantee. Others will work somewhere in between, expecting the grantee to identify a host affiliation and make initial contact, but will then help to formalize the affiliation after the grant is awarded. Make sure you know what is expected of you as an applicant by carefully reviewing the country summary.
In countries where the grantee must find and secure affiliations, IIE cannot provide a list of institutions that hosted previous Fulbrighters. Past Fulbrighters have used a number of methods to contact hosts and solicit support for their projects. One way is to use the contacts and advisers that you already have. Ask if one of your current professors can help to put you in contact with a professor at a university overseas. You may also ask international students on your campus, contact Visiting Fulbright Professors in the U.S. (through the directory at https://www.cies.org/vs_scholars/vs_dir.htm), or conduct an Internet search to help you find professors with your interests. Do not hesitate to contact professors from other universities, both in the U.S. and in your prospective host country, especially if your planned Fulbright research matches the professor’s expertise. Some committed research and perseverance will also aid you in finding a host affiliation. Once you find a possible host, make contact by sending an introductory letter or email. Keep in mind that many schools are closed during the summer months, so you may want to begin early, or plan an intensified search in the early fall. Remember, however, that IIE does not accept any supporting materials or letters via email or fax, and sufficient lead time must be allowed to receive hard copy responses with original signatures by regular or express mail services.
Letters of Affiliation
The most competitive candidates will include contact documentation with potential host affiliations in their applications. This could be a letter of invitation from the host institution/organization/individual indicating research support or allowing applicants to have access to facilities; or, it could be a letter indicating that the admitting institution provides courses in the applicant's areas of study. IIE refers to these letters interchangeably as: letters of support, letters of affiliation, letters of invitation and/or letters of admission.
There are no specific requirements for the letter of support from the host institution. Every affiliation relationship will be different depending upon the candidate’s project. In general, signed letters of support on institutional letterhead sent with the application are preferred. The letters should state how the supervisor/host institution will help the applicant to facilitate the project (e.g., what resources will be offered, what kind of supervision will be given, etc.). Some applicants propose to do independent research, so these letters of support are more crucial to establishing the feasibility of a project. Other applicants propose study projects, so letters of support are really a complement to the overall application. Therefore, you should try to get a letter of affiliation that is as detailed as possible. Ultimately, it is up to your host affiliation as to the level/kind of support that they are willing to offer you.
Please be aware that many people in foreign countries do not enjoy the reliable connectivity or easy access to the Internet that we have in the United States, and therefore, you may not receive a response to your inquiries as quickly as you might hope. Again, applicants are advised to begin their search for an affiliation as early as possible.
Although it is strongly preferred that affiliation letters be included as part of the hard copy application, they may also be submitted to IIE via regular mail after the deadline. However, we cannot guarantee that letters of support submitted separate from the full application will be successfully married with the application in time for committee review. Also, IIE cannot confirm receipt of any documents. Please do not call or email to ask if your letter of support was received. We recommend that you send your materials using a method that will provide return receipt.
It is worth re-stating that IIE will not accept letters of support or affiliation, recommendations, or foreign language reports (these are written evaluations of the applicant’s skills in the relevant foreign language completed by a language instructor) sent via email or fax. Letters of support or affiliation should be in English. However, if they were originally written in another language, the candidate can either ask the author to provide an English translation, or, have a professor or other third party provide a translation. Candidates can also translate letters of support or affiliation themselves since they are allowed to see them – unlike recommendations and foreign language reports.
Considerations for Degree Program Candidates
If your plan is to complete a Master's or other degree or to attend a structured degree program, make sure you apply for admission to the host university by their deadline. Do not wait for the Fulbright decision to come through, or you may be too late in gaining admission into your chosen university.
If you are applying for admission to a study/Master's program, you do not need to submit the letter of admission with the application; you can submit the letter once you've received it. However, an offer for a Fulbright grant would be contingent upon receipt of placement at a university. If you are applying to undertake a structured degree program, obtaining a letter of support from a faculty member at the host university will undoubtedly strengthen your application.