Introduction to the Program
Tips from a Pro
I first knew about the Fulbright as a first year: A senior in my house had just gotten back from a year of JYA in Spain and was longing for a way to go back. When she eventually got the Fulbright, she encouraged me to keep the fellowship in mind when I went on JYA. Fast forward two years. After a few months in Budapest, Hungary, I knew I wanted to go back there after graduation. So in the spring of my junior year, before I returned to the States, I made sure I had in hand a completed foreign language evaluation form, a letter of sponsorship, and a general research proposal idea.
While I had been successful in my Boren application, the Fulbright seemed completely foreign to me. With his no non-sense attitude, Don Andrew really helped the application process much more navigable. Two lessons really stood out from those couple months of labor:
First, Don had invited Greg White from the government department to lead an information session on the mechanics of writing an application. It was at that meeting that I learned the importance of presentation. When reviewers have to read as many applications as they have to, it always helps to have a proposal well-organized into three distinct sections: objective, rationale, and methodology. While such formats may not be the prettiest in prose, it does, however, communicate quickly and efficiently to the reviews (1) what is the objective of your research; (2) why your research is important; and (3) how you expect to do your research. Such formats also force you (as the applicant) to be clear in each sub-section. By no means is this format Fulbright-specific. I have used this template as well for grant applications in both the non-profit sector and in graduate school--and have done relatively well.
Second, Don had gotten several faculty members across different disciplines to work with me on the proposal. While I knew I wanted to do something on the European Union, I wasn't quite sure what exactly. I juggled back and forth between several ideas. From my countless meetings with Don and four faculty members, I came to realize that it wasn't enough just to have a good idea. The good idea had to be pitched well. You have to keep in mind who is your audience and who is your competition. I knew the State Department and the Fulbright Commission in Hungary would be less interested in funding a project that was considered taboo; I also knew my probability of getting the Fulbright would decrease if my application proposal was viewed as "another one on [insert topic]." At the end of the day, I proposed to examine Hungary's agriculture sector vis-a-vis the country's membership in the European Union--and was even able to make an argument why it mattered for American interests!
I know the success of my Fulbright application would not have happened without the tireless efforts of Don Andrew and the various faculty members. I was very touched--and still am--by their faith in my application. While faculty wisdom and guidance matters, an application can only happen with the student's initiative. I was very fortunate that I had an early start. Having said that, I encourage those of you about to depart for lands unknown (or are already in a land unknown) to start your application process early. The proposal and the personal statement will take many, many revisions (I wrote eight drafts at the end). And for those of you who have just come back from JYA and are looking to go back, Fulbright is your ticket! Good luck!
~ Amy Liu 02