Students pursue Fulbright Scholarship

Elliot SteevesStaff Writer

On Tuesday, May 9, at 7:00 p.m., in the Center for Inclusive Excellence, Biology Professor and Fellowships Advisor Pamela Kittelson delivered a presentation informing students of the Fulbright scholarship. The presentation focused on the application process, as well as how to find a good opportunity to pursue the required research.

The US Fulbright Scholarship program is an initiative that sends students to one of 140 countries to teach English abroad, do research, or pursue specific study areas. Applications are due at the end of September of 2023 and require significant reflection and revision before they are submitted. The process is one of the most extensive in the country in terms of academic and research scholarships.

The Fulbright Scholarship was created by the United States Congress to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and other countries using cultural exchange. In addition to the teaching and research opportunities, students can participate in supplementary projects. This involves helping the community they are with understand US culture, as well as bringing an understanding of that community back home.

Kittelson delivered two main sections to the presentation. First, she gave an overview of what the Fellowships office did. She then delivered a specific session on the Fulbright scholarship.

Kittelson first discussed Fellowships, emphasizing that they are not only nationally competitive but are a massive investment in student potential. She also showed several examples of students who had partaken or were partaking in a fellowship.

The session then focused on the origin of the program, in the aftermath of World War II. It went into the differences between the Study and Research award, which grants independent research and projects over an 8 to 10-month period in one of the listed countries, and the English Teaching assistantship, where participants teach English and US Culture abroad in one of 75 different countries.

Eligibility for the award consists of graduating seniors, recent graduates, graduate students, and early professionals. Basic eligibility consists of US citizenship at the time of application, and further country-specific requirements.

While applying at large is possible, Kittelson did not recommend it. Kittelson instead recommended applying through a program advisor at Gustavus-which is her domain at the college- so that they could verify components and upload a letter of support. 

Kittelson also recommended getting an especially early start, given the business of the beginning of the college year. She suggested reading and watching everything one could about Fulbright, and checking the calendar for scheduled webinars. She also recommended finding countries that best fit one’s skillset and interests.

Kittelson sought to use the information session as an overview of all of this information for interested students.

“I want them to understand the program, and the ways in which they might use their skills or experiences to leverage a postgraduate opportunity to live and work abroad for a year,” Kittelson said.

Kittelson not only enjoyed working with students on the scholarship itself; she also enjoyed experiencing other disciplines and how they saw the world outside of her focus in Biology.

“I love understanding the experiences that [other disciplines] have that they are ready to fully develop, and helping these students think about the ways they can contribute their full skills and qualifications to this endeavor,” Kittelson said.

The process of the scholarship application is, on the surface, extremely simple. Students prepare a one-page personal statement, a one-page statement of grant purpose, and two short answer questions on host country engagement and plan to return to the United States. Following an abstract, students then submit three letters of recommendation.

While this all sounds familiar to students who will submit similar files to jobs, internships, and other areas, the process for the Fulbright scholarship requires an especially specific approach.

The process involves writing about which country a prospective scholar will go to, and why. It is a process where the student has to articulate very specifically why they must be a Fulbright scholar, and why they must go to the country they are applying to. 

“The process forces students to articulate what is unique about them, who they are, and what they want to contribute. They learn to speak to that opportunity with their interests, capacities, and goals,” Kittelson said.

Many students even feel frightened and uncomfortable when faced with the novel process that the scholarship application provides.

“Some students have mentioned it is torturous. In the end, the clarity they get about the next steps are rich, and many students will say things like, ‘I always knew I needed to do this, but no one ever forced me,’ and ‘I was given the opportunity to know more about myself and know about the degree to which people believed in me,’” Kittelson said.

The most important piece of feedback? That Fulbright helped students to show, not tell, and make their application personal, instead of general. This piece proved useful for job applications after college.

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