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Sunday, January 31, 2010
Education Toolbox

Getting a Fulbright

By Lee Anne Peck

You, too, can be a Fulbright scholar. The Fulbright Scholar Program is not just for educators with Ph.D.s. Journalism practitioners and students can apply to participate, too. One just needs patience, a worthwhile proposal and/or professional skills that other countries want to tap — and now’s the time to begin the application process. Award listings for 2011-12 will be ready in February for perusal of institutions or countries that might be a good fit. The online application will be available March 1; the application deadline is Aug. 3.

The basics

Fulbright appointments for lecturing and/or research can be from two weeks to a year or more, depending on the award. The application process is detailed, however, and waiting to hear about the status of an award can take several weeks or months. Take note: Applicants must be U.S. citizens, not just residents of the United States, and must be willing to act as unofficial U.S. ambassadors while working in their guest countries and be willing to share their experiences once back home.

Professionals and specialists

Paige Ferrari, a journalist who most recently worked for WonderWall.com, applied for a Fulbright for both the international experience and “the challenge of researching and reporting from a cross-cultural perspective,” she said via e-mail. In Tokyo until February, Ferrari is researching scandal in Japanese media, specifically how the tabloid culture in Japan compares to that of the United States.

Daniel Charles, an independent journalist, has worked for National Public Radio and Science magazine, covering science, environment and technology. He and his family — families are often welcome to tag along — are living in Kiev, Ukraine, until this summer. Charles’ main responsibility is teaching a class in radio production at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

“I and my family were interested in the foreign experience, and I have a long-standing interest in post-Soviet Europe,” he said via e-mail. “We were getting to a point where we felt that if we didn’t do it now, we might never do it.”

If serious practitioners do want to teach in the traditional Fulbright program, it helps to have some teaching experience or be able to demonstrate teaching ability. An advanced degree is helpful, but not always necessary. For those outside of academe, one should have “recognized professional standing and substantial professional accomplishments,” according to the Fulbright Web site.

The Fulbright Specialists Program offers short-term grants (two to six weeks). Specialists in 20 different disciplines may register at any time, and applicants are matched with institutions abroad that have special requests. For instance, an eligible field is “Communications and Journalism,” which lists several specific areas, including advertising, photojournalism, public relations and media studies. An approved applicant stays in the specialist pool for five years.

Educators

For those in academe, the application process is the same as for professionals who wish to lecture and/or research. Additional opportunities do exist for educators, though, such as the Fulbright Distinguished Chairs Program and the Fulbright International Education Administrators Program.

Students and “at-large” candidates

The Institute of International Education manages the Fulbright U.S. Students Program. Both undergraduate and graduate students may apply for a Fulbright grant if they have a bachelor’s degree by the beginning date of the grant but do not have a doctorate degree; “at-large” candidates not currently enrolled at a U.S. college or university may also apply.

Most colleges have a Fulbright program administrator on campus, and enrolled students must apply through them; at-large applicants apply directly to the Institute of International Education. Some universities help alumni apply, too, but this varies from school to school. Students should take note that their institution’s internal deadline may be earlier than the institute’s and should plan accordingly. The institute’s deadline for 2011-12 is Oct. 19 for online applications, which will be available May 1.

It’s advised that students, alumni or those “at-large” begin working on their applications much earlier than the fall deadline and also have a clear project proposal/purpose. For example, interested undergraduates who will graduate in May 2011 should begin considering the application process by the end of their junior year.

Also popular for recent graduates in any discipline are English teaching assistantships available in almost 50 countries. Responsibilities vary from country to country, but recent grads looking for an international experience might find this grant suitable to their goals. Information is available via the institute’s Web site, iie.org.

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