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U.S. Fulbright

Recorded Webinars

September 14, 2012

We’re happy to say that we’ve been recording and posting our webinars this year! You can revisit webinars you attended or see any that you might have missed! There’s a whole page of them here on our website, but here’s a more recent one with Alumni Ambassador (and blog presence) Cris Ramón.


U.S. Fulbright

Interesting Times, By Dustin Gee, 2010-2011, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Montenegro

September 12, 2012


What does it mean to live in interesting times and what sort of qualities do they demand of young professionals?

As I concluded my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Montenegro, I found myself contemplating these two questions in relation to how I had developed as a young professional and how I intended to use my Fulbright experiences upon returning to the United States.

Fulbright showed me exactly what it means to live in interesting times. Most notably, the program helped me to learn what it’s like to live in a post-communist country navigating the rapid demands of globalization. Assistant teaching English at the University of Montenegro allowed me to hone my intercultural communication skills, learn the basics of another language and develop relationships founded on mutual understanding and respect. I consider these skills to be important for thriving in interesting times and for working with others across cultural, racial and geographic boundaries. I also credit Fulbright for having awakened my calling to pursue a career in international education.

Since returning from Montenegro, I have pursued this calling by enrolling in a master’s degree program in higher education at New York University (NYU) and by becoming an administrator at Pace University’s Office of International Programs and Services. Fulbright expanded my search for graduate programs to those that support international experience as essential to any higher education curriculum. For example, this past March, I had an opportunity to participate in a two-week, global perspectives course on higher education in Turkey through NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

For those applying to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, I would offer the following two recommendations:

First, get an early start on your personal statement. The personal statement is one page long, so a common pitfall is to think, “Oh, I can easily crank something out a week or two before the deadline.” Avoid this mindset. As I discovered while developing my application essays, they demand a considerable amount of time and effort because you have to ask yourself critical questions about your background, academic interests, qualifications and future aspirations. Remember, applicants are not interviewed on the national level (only by campus committees for those applying through an institution), so the personal statement must be well-written and constructed strategically. This is your only chance to tell the National Screening Committee about who you are and how you came to this point in your life (i.e., why Fulbright?). To help guide and structure your writing, I encourage you to give your personal statement a purpose. This involves creating a “residual message,” or, what I like to think of as a dynamic sentence in the first paragraph summarizing your intent.

Think of it this way, when the National Screening Committee members have finished reading your application, what is the one thing you want them to remember, know, understand or see in your application? It’s a powerful, concrete sentence (deeply rooted in Aristotle’s ethos, pathos and logos) which will reside with your reader.

Second, you should conduct research on your prospective Fulbright country and region, and identify resources and individuals who can offer guidance. I highly recommend checking your prospective host Fulbright Commission’s or U.S. Embassy’s website. Fulbright Commissions and U.S. Embassies are excellent resources for learning about Fulbright priorities, current public diplomacy initiatives, political issues and other hot topics being addressed by U.S. officials and host country governments. Ask yourself: Does your research topic or Fulbright ETA community engagement project align with Fulbright Commission or U.S. Embassy goals, objectives and programs? How might this information be used in your application to communicate that you are knowledgeable about that particular country or region?  Check to see if they have a Facebook page and join it!

Overall, you must plan ahead, pay attention to details, and manage your time well. The Fulbright application process will not seem as overwhelming if you stay on top of things.

Photo: Dustin Gee, 2010-2011, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Montenegro, in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, near the Stari Most or “old bridge” over the Nerveta River

U.S. Fulbright Unknown

A Whole New World, By Kelley Whitson, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Malaysia, 2011-2012

August 29, 2012















The District of Besut, the State of Terengganu … are you struggling to find those places on a map? I did too.

In 2001, my interest in education led to me to pursue a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Malaysia. Little did I know that for the next ten months I would be working in one of the most ethnically, religiously, linguistically and culturally diverse nations on the planet.

I applied to be an ETA because I had truly enjoyed teaching English in Peru a few years ago. From that experience, I became very interested in education as a component of economic development and wanted to explore this subject further. Although serving as an assistant English teacher in Malaysia was initially challenging because of the cultural differences I encountered such as how men and women are regarded, religion and food, I adapted and grew to love Terengganu because of these differences.

In the classroom, I learned that as an ETA working with students from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, it’s important to respect their cultures and to recognize that you have a unique opportunity to share your views about the United States. There were instances when students and teachers asked difficult questions. When navigating these kinds of circumstances, the best advice I can give to prospective ETAs is to be open and honest. Doing so will strengthen your relationships and your colleagues and friends will appreciate your candor. While your students may initially be shy and hesitant to approach you, don’t reciprocate with shyness. Sometimes being silly, creative and energetic can help. The more open and relaxed you are, the more your students will gravitate to you and seek you out for academic and social reasons.

In addition to spending time in the classroom, I tutored; participated in school clubs and competitions; organized English camps; and planned community service trips. These events were extremely beneficial because they allowed me to interact with my students, and others, outside of the classroom.

My advice to those applying for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship:

  • Be yourself when you write your Fulbright essays and during your grant.
  • When writing your Fulbright essays, make sure that you demonstrate your flexibility and passion for assisting local English teachers.
  • You never know what might happen during your grant, but you want to reassure reviewers that you’ll be able to adapt.
  • Get outside of your comfort zone and try new things while in your host country because that’s where you’ll receive the highest reward.
  • Mingle with your local community outside of your professional circles.

Photo: Kelley Whitson, 2011-2012, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Malaysia, learning how to fly a traditional Malaysian kite

U.S. Fulbright

The Very Best Part of Conducting Biomedical Engineering Research in Portugal, By Kara Spiller, 2010-2011, Portugal

August 22, 2012












As a Fulbrighter to Portugal, I conducted biomedical engineering research in the 3B’s (Biomaterials, Biodegradables and Biomimetics) Research Group at the University of Minho’s Department of Polymer Engineering. I developed “smart” materials that can control the body’s cell behavior; a technology that might be useful for promoting new blood vessel growth in heart tissue after a heart attack, or for producing functioning tissues like cartilage and bone from stem cells. The Department’s lab is also the headquarters of the European Institute of Excellence on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, which places special emphasis on international collaboration. The 3B’s Research Group attracts students and postdocs from all over the world, and collaborates with partner laboratories in 14 countries. The coolest part of my research experience was working on a team comprised of members from diverse backgrounds conducting experiments in Portugal and abroad. The next coolest part was the food!

During the week, I worked in the lab, which had a distinctly Portuguese flair. Everyone ate lunch together and we often dined together in the evenings as well. We also organized lab trips to other European cities. Every weekend, I traveled to a different town in Portugal, a small country with varied landscapes and lots of festivals. The people I met were very friendly and appeared to love Portuguese spoken with an extremely thick American accent. (My first Portuguese lesson was a sign on the doors: PUXE, pronounced “push,” which means “pull.”)

Having conducted some of my doctoral research in China and my postdoctoral research as a Fulbrighter in Portugal, I believe that international experience should be a requirement for all students, especially those in science and engineering. I loved living in and traveling around Portugal, but what was even more interesting was discovering how one’s science can benefit from learning another language and way of thinking in a different culture. For example, I learned that working on research at a slower, more relaxed pace fosters new ideas, more efficient experiments and an overall more pleasant work experience. In my labs in the United States, I ate lunch while staring at my computer, rushing to finish my work so that I could leave and enjoy the rest of my day elsewhere. In Portugal, I socialized with my colleagues during regular coffee breaks and long lunches. We discussed the bioethics of embryonic stem cell technologies, the philosophy of growing tissues in the lab, the politics of global academic research, the nuances of football (both soccer and American football) and the differences between wines from Northern and Southern Portugal. We often spent 10-12 hours per day at work, but they were fun hours. And, when it was time to leave Portugal, I realized that my ideas and experiments had achieved a level of creativity that I had deemed impossible before I left. My colleagues and I submitted an international patent publication and we continue to collaborate on the same project. These kinds of perspective-broadening experiences can only come from studying overseas and are exactly what the Fulbright Program promotes.

My advice for prospective Fulbright candidates preparing research/study applications is to take time to learn about your selected country. Consult the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website’s country summaries, but also read about your country’s history and culture, and talk to people who have lived or visited there. The more I learned about Portugal, the more I wanted to study there and I conveyed this in my application.

As far as obtaining an affiliation, I met my research adviser at an academic conference (where he was giving a lecture about the importance of international education for scientists), so that part of the application process was easier for me than anticipated. If you don’t have similar opportunities to identify your host affiliation, then try emailing the organization or person with whom you might work. Explain what you’re interested in, why you’d like to do a Fulbright with that person or organization and what your plans are during and after your grant.  Your potential affiliation will not only appreciate that you want to work together, but that you also want to learn more about your host country. Then, once you’ve arrived, make sure to work hard and take advantage of every opportunity to learn something new.  Lastly, keep a journal, because the details of your Fulbright experience (that you might forget) are the very best part.

Top Photo: Kara Spiller, 2010-2011, Portugal, visiting the Douro River Valley

Middle Photo: Kara Spiller, 2010-2011, Portugal (center), with members of the University of Minho’s 3B Research Group

U.S. Fulbright

Expanding My Context of Art, By Antonio McAfee, 2009-2010, South Africa

August 13, 2012

South African contemporary art and my experience with facilitating arts programming were the basis of my Fulbright project in Johannesburg.  These interests started while I was an undergraduate at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC.  The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art held two exhibitions that surveyed contemporary African Art.  The diversity of materials and the directness to social issues resonated with me.  During that time, I was working for artists, galleries and museums, helping to maintain and organize studios, exhibitions and collections.

The Fulbright Program became an option while I was in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania.  Faculty members were helpful by referring me to readings about African cultures and art, which led me to develop my proposal’s context.  The texts unexpectedly planted a seed that resulted in African cultural objects and ideas becoming incorporated into my artwork.  After a conversation with a fellow student, I decided to apply for a Fulbright grant.  Shortly after, I met Cheryl Shipman, the university’s Coordinator of Research and Fellowships (and Penn’s campus Fulbright Program Adviser), who was instrumental in explaining the application process and demystifying the program.  The bulk of my proposal’s development came from research I conducted at the library, online and through writing numerous drafts.  My hope was to engage with the contemporary South African art sector and to see how certain organizations had evolved from their origins as rebellious entities during the ‘80s and ‘90s to the present.  The chair of University of Witwatersrand’s Postgraduate Arts, Culture and Heritage Management Program wrote my letter of affiliation.  I introduced myself by emailing her out of the blue and sent her a draft of my proposal.  After a positive response, I asked if she would write the letter.

In South Africa, I was a graduate student in the University’s management program.  The management courses I took included leadership and policy, arts marketing and fundraising, and operational skills.  Additionally, I conducted interviews with local artists and administrators regarding their relationships with local, provincial and national government art agencies.

Outside of school, I became very familiar with the local art scene by befriending artists and attending exhibitions and events.  Collaborating with a local artist, I worked on a group exhibition.  I juried images from a U.S. Embassy class “Photographing Your Environment,” for kids from Pretoria’s Mamelodi Township.  I also had a radio show on the University of Witwatersrand’s VOW (Voice of Wits) 90.5 FM.

Since my time in South Africa, the Fulbright Program continues to be an important part of my life.  As a 2012 Fulbright Alumni Ambassador, my responsibility is to promote the program, educate others about the application process and share my overseas experiences.  Currently, I am adjunct faculty at the Corcoran College of Art and Design and Northern Virginia Community College, work full-time at a photography lab in Maryland, and continue to expand my artistic practice.

For those interested in applying for a research/study Fulbright grant, specificity is essential in developing your project.  Pursuing a research topic that is important to you and that will allow you to be of service to others in a pertinent location is crucial.  The “to be of service” component is about reciprocal relationships.  How can a place and community assist you and your goals?  How can you assist them?  For artists, the Fulbright Program is perfect.  It encourages autonomous projects requiring individuals from around the world to inform and engage with each other and, consequently, long-lasting relationships and experiences.

Photo: Antonio McAfee (right), 2009-2010, South Africa, with a few of his Arts and Culture Management Classmates from the University of Witwatersrand

U.S. Fulbright

Are you attending an upcoming webinar or do you need to get up to speed on the basics of applying for a Fulbright grant? If so, check out our new tutorials.

August 6, 2012

New for the 2013-2014 application cycle, Fulbright U.S. Student Program tutorials are up-to-date, online slideshow videos designed for applicants and Fulbright Program Advisers (FPAs) to learn program and application basics.  Since some tutorials may be prerequisite for attending webinars, we recommend applicants and FPAs take time to review them before registering.

Tutorial 1: Intro to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program


Tutorial 2: The Research/Study Award (Including Arts)


Tutorial 3: The English Teaching Assistantship (ETA)