Many of us wish to immerse ourselves in a foreign country after graduation but only a few turn it into reality. With a Fulbright scholarship, Rollins students can achieve this while spreading their knowledge to other eager students.
Play your cards right and, unlike all your friends beginning their adult lives in the workforce with a 9 to 5, you could end up with an all-expense-paid trip to the country of your choice after graduation.
It’s one of the many perks of the U.S. government-funded Fulbright scholarship, an academic scholar exchange program which aims to send the brightest students and scholars from each of the participating countries to study, live and teach abroad in order to promote understanding between countries.
“It’s really a goodwill offering between countries,” says Rollins Associate Professor of Anthropology Rachel Newcomb, recipient of a Professional Fulbright in 2011. “We send our scholars to them; they send theirs to us. The goal is to better understand and appreciate each other.”
According to Newcomb, her research on Moroccan women’s changing roles in the public sphere did just that for her.
“I was surprised by how many amazing, spirited, trailblazing women I met in Morocco who defied the stereotypes we have in the west about passive Muslim women…. Of course there were lifestyle changes that were challenging, but I embraced the culture shock and learned so much from trying to adapt to the lifestyles of the people I knew there,” she said.
The Fulbright program seeks to accomplish its goals of better connected and more understanding populations through two primary types of grants: those for research and those for teaching assistantships. Research grants, though they are available to recently graduated undergrads, are primarily awarded to professors and doctoral candidates like Newcomb who live in a country and actively pursue studies there.Graduating seniors like Rollins’ own Ryan Lambert ‘13 normally apply for the Teaching Assistantship program. This a division of the Fulbright program which sends recent college graduates abroad to act as a teaching assistant for their native language in a foreign country to anywhere from elementary to college students. There they act as ambassadors for their own country and serve as a tangible link between their own culture and the communities where they live and teach.
Sometimes, as is the case with American students going to Germany, countries require Fulbrights to pass a proficiency test in their language. Some countries, like Korea, have no such requirements.
I knew that it was a good oppurtunity, but I didn’t want to go through the trouble of the application. I am really glad that I did… It really changed the way I think about my life and about my future. – Ramos – Flores
Wherever Fulbright students choose to go, they can expect a lot of fun, a lot of work and a lot of new experiences and people that can become valuable assets in the future.
“I hang out with friends and travel around the country…. [But] most of my time is devoted to teaching and planning and making connections with the students,” said current Fulbright scholar Nic Ramos-Flores, an English teaching assistant in Korea.
Another current Fulbright scholar, Carina Schubert ‘12 from Austria has a similar opinion.
“It’s kind of a gap year which is not lost time because I can improve my English skills, meet a lot of new people and gain a lot of new experiences,” Schubert said. “I’ve met so many new people already, not only from Rollins but other Fulbrights, as well as those officials that oversee the program. It’s given me a whole new network of connections.”
Suzanne Robertshaw, another member of Rollins faculty to receive the Professional Fulbright Scholarship in the past as well as a big supporter of the program at Rollins, spoke of the advantages offered by the program as well.
“[Because] it’s under the auspices of the federal government, it opens up a lot of doors if you’ve got a Fulbright right after college…. There are many opportunities similar to this, but this one is prestigious…. You have all the resources of the federal government to help you” Robertshaw said.
And it all starts with an application. Not an easy one by any stretch of the imagination as Schubert, Ramos-Flores and Lambert agree, but certainly one they say will be worth your while.
Ramos-Flores almost missed his chance. “I knew that it was a good opportunity, but I didn’t want to go through the trouble of the application. I am glad that I did…. It really changed the way I think about life and about my future.”
“I had put off the foreign service…, but after being here and seeing the possibilities, I feel like it is something I truly want to do. With a degree in Spanish, I felt like I had limited options, and Fulbright has allowed me to see that there is a lot you can do around the world,” said Ramos-Flores.