It’s on the tip of many seniors’ tongues: Fulbright. Although most underclassmen may be unfamiliar with the term, almost all seniors have heard of it, either because they are applying for it themselves or they know someone who is. So what’s the big deal about this scholarship that has everyone so worked up?
The mission of the Fulbright program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is, according to its website, to “provide funding for students, scholars, teachers, and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools.” These research and teaching opportunities are offered in a vast and diverse range of countries, and applicants are able to choose both the country and program they feel is the best fit for them.
This opportunity to travel to virtually anywhere in the world is the most attractive feature of the program for many students, since they are seeking international travel experiences. For Alia El-Assar ‘12, one of the motivating factors for applying for the scholarship was the ability to expand her cultural horizons. “I applied because I don’t want to go straight to grad school — I’d like to take a gap year or two and do something meaningful in my time overseas,” said El-Assar, who is applying to do research in Rabat, Morocco. “I heard about Fulbright, and I thought it might be a good chance to explore the world and my interests.” El-Assar already had an interest in Morocco, which influenced her decision to apply there. “I really wanted to apply to Morocco because I studied abroad there during the spring of my junior year and I really loved it,” said El-Assar. “I made a lot of friends there and a lot of questions arose about Moroccan culture and society that I wanted to explore, so I thought a research Fulbright grant would be perfect for Morocco.”
Another student, Marci Phillips ‘12, had similar reasons for applying to the country of her choice: China. “I was already applying to the Johns Hopkins University in Nanjing, and had done most of the research for going to school out there,” she said. “By doing the research grant for Fulbright, I could combine my efforts.” Like El-Assar, Phillips has previous experience in the country she is applying to. During the fall 2010 semester, she studied abroad in Shanghai, China. “I do want to become fluent in Chinese — as a hard language, it’s going to take me a while, but the best way to practice is to immerse myself in the language,” said Phillips. “Even if I don’t go to school [in China], the Fulbright gives me a chance to go there.”
Indeed, many students are influenced to apply for the scholarship by their study abroad experiences at Rollins. Other students, however, choose to apply to places in which they have no travel experience. Bradleigh Lore ‘12 is one such student. She is applying for the Fulbright teaching scholarship in Nepal, a country which is completely new to her. “Asia is one of the top continents I wanted to travel to and Nepal seemed like an interesting culture,” said Lore. “I’m really interested in the religion.” Lore was also attracted to the country from a social justice angle. “[Nepal] is one of the poorest countries in Asia, and I wanted to go somewhere where I felt like I’d really be making a difference,” she said.
Like Lore, Nic Ramos-Flores ‘12 decided to apply to a country with which he had little familiarity. “As a bicultural individual, I find that I rarely encounter situations where I feel out of place,” he said. “I chose South Korea in order to have a non-Western experience in a culture that I know very little about.” Ramos-Flores had a specific interest in applying for the teaching scholarship in the country. “South Koreans are the seventh largest immigrant population in the U.S. With the constantly changing face of the American classroom, I feel that understanding the fish-out-of-water sensation many immigrants encounter when they come to the U.S. is important to be the best teacher possible.”
Between the opportunity to earn a prestigious award, receive a research or teaching grant, and travel to another country, the Fulbright program is a wonderful option for highly motivated students with an interest in international travel. The application process is long and difficult, but the rewards it can reap certainly make the hard work worth it in the end.
Information! Tough But Worth It
“The application process was nerve-racking and a little long. a personal statement and a research proposal accompany the application and transcript. Then the application goes to the first round, through the US. They decide who to send on to the second round, during which each individual country decides who they will take. The waiting was killer, as applications are due in october and I didn’t find out I received the fulbright until may, two days before graduation! Though arduous, it is completely worth the shot. I didn’t think I would get it, but here I am. My best advice, just be yourself. Most of all, make sure you tell the country why you chose that country specifically. They want to hear why you are interested in them!”
-Meghan Thomas, Class of 2011