When considering applying to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, I was skeptical of my chances. After all, I did not fit what I thought was the typical Fulbright profile. I was, however, awarded a Study/Research grant to Tanzania for 2012-2013. Through my Fulbright tenure and involvement as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador, I have come to appreciate that there is no prescribed profile that Fulbrighters must fit. Here are five reasons why I was sure Fulbright wasn’t for me, and why I was wrong!
1. I’ve had too much experience abroad.
Before researching the Fulbright, I thought it was a program aimed at providing international experiences to Americans with no previous experience abroad. Prior to my Fulbright tenure, I traveled across Europe and Africa and lived for two-and-a-half years abroad. Successful Fulbright candidates can have a wide range of international experience, from never having left the United States, to having lived and worked extensively abroad.
2. I’ve been to my host country before.
I lived in Tanzania – my host country – for 9 months before my Fulbright. I used my experience to make connections with researchers at the Ifakara Health Institute who would eventually become my Fulbright affiliates. I developed plans for a research exchange program that would bring American researchers to Tanzania to work with local scientists and collaborate on research projects. For applicants who have not traveled outside the United States, there are great resources available from Fulbright online, including a directory of previous Fulbrighters. Feel free to reach out to them, as well as the Alumni Ambassadors, to ask questions about your country of application, prospective host institutions and possible affiliations.
3. I’m a Ph.D. student.
I thought Fulbright grants were for students fresh out of college. I was deep into my Ph.D. studies. But I found that Fulbright was a great mechanism to engage in meaningful cultural exchange and to think about how my research contributed to this process. For those with families, Fulbright also has support for dependents.
4. I applied previously and was unsuccessful.
As the old adage goes, if at first you don’t succeed… I had applied previously to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and was unsuccessful. I thought this meant that I couldn’t apply again. On the contrary, my previous application experience actually helped strengthen my new application.
5. I’m applying to a country with a lot of applicants and few awards.
When choosing my country of study, I looked at the Fulbright statistics page and contemplated moving my project to a country with better odds. However, my Fulbright advisor gave me a great piece of advice; don’t get sucked in to the statistics. Your Fulbright proposal should reflect your passion for an area of research or study, and your choice of country should be motivated by its appropriateness and fit for the project, not your odds of getting a grant.
There is no typical Fulbrighter. Recipients come from diverse backgrounds and do widely varied research/study projects. Fulbright is for everyone; Fulbright is for you!