Giving Fulbright a Try (The DL on my experience and the application process)

After studying in Spain in 2014, I knew that Spain was not done with me. The culture had just begun to sink it’s teeth into my heart before I sadly had to come back to the states after four months away. When I came back and started classes at my university again, I knew I had to do everything I could to find a way back…the idea of Fulbright was something I didn’t even know existed at the time.

My first semester back was supposed to be the fall semester of my senior year, but by making the decision to study in Spain for a semester, rather than the typical summer, I was forced to complete my degree in five years instead of four. In the college of education at Mizzou, it is very difficult to study abroad while working for an elementary education degree due to scheduling (even if you take education classes abroad like I did!) Anyway, I had a year of classes and field work which distanced me from my Spain experience. By the end of spring term, I had no idea how I was going to get back to Spain.

Side note: If I had known about Fulbright at the end of that spring term, it would have made my life a lot easier. If you are looking to apply to Fulbright, start your application the spring semester before the application is due! 

The summer between my senior year and my AHEM…victory lap, I began looking at different teaching abroad programs. A close friend that I met during my program in Spain in 2014, had accepted a job in Madrid through the Spanish Ministry of Education. I decided that this was probably my best bet for a teaching opportunity in Spain. I also looked into CIEE Teaching Abroad since my study abroad program during my undergrad was through that company as well. Each had their pluses and minuses, but I wanted so desperately to get to Spain!

Flash forward to October 2015. I was completing my rotations through Parkade Elementary in Columbia, Missouri, trying to decide what grade I wanted to complete my student teaching and what districts I was going to apply for teaching positions. One day while I was talking with one of best friends, she mentioned that she was applying for Fulbright and that I would probably be interested in it as well. I had no clue what it was, but I emailed the Fellowship Office at MU asking about the application process. Not even 24-hours later, I received an email from the office asking to call the next day to chat.

During the phone call, I learned all about Fulbright. I learned about the ETA program and with my previous experience in Spain, I had the potential to be a good candidate. The only problem? The application that people began working on six months prior, was due to the university in four days! I couldn’t even comprehend the enormity of that deadline because I hadn’t even seen the application yet, but I knew I had to try to apply! Needless to say, I finished the application…with a team of phenomenal and dedicated people editing and pushing deadlines for me of course!

This is where we get to the nitty gritty of the application information. The application is all online through Fulbright Student Programs through a specific portal program that they set you up with. The application consists of background information about the applicant, a statement of grant purpose, personal statement, foreign language forms signed by an advisor or professor, references, and transcripts. It’s a ton of work, I do not recommend doing it with a week deadline! However, one positive is that the deadline that I was working with, was that of my university. In order to continue on in the process of the Fulbright application, I had to gain my university’s backing. This consisted of an interview and the use of the Fulbright application that I submitted through the portal. What the Fellowship Office does when you submit this application is un-submit it and evaluate it with a panel of people through the university. Therefore, my application didn’t have to be 100% perfect, but it did have to show enough potential to gain me support through the university. This panel was my saving grace!

A few weeks after I submitted my application, I had an interview with this panel at my university. This was intimidating at first! There were five people in my interview all looking over and questioning my application. This was scary and uncomfortable at first, but once I began discussing my application, I realized that they were all there to help me, not criticize. They all wanted to support me and my application. They ended up giving me feedback on what to change or add. I took notes, I listened and I added my own input…not scary at all! I walked away from the experience enthusiastic and excited about the application. I found out that the university was going to support me a short time after that interview. That is when it got real.

I edited and revised my two large essays (these will be the most time consuming parts of the entire process) about six to seven times with an advisor at the Fellowship Office. I am forever grateful to the individuals at the Fellowship Office for all the help they gave me during that very chaotic time of the year! Finally, I was content with my application and submitted.

Some pointers about the essays:

  1. Write about something that you feel passionate about, but eliminate all fluff! Don’t include things that are unnecessary and make it too fluffy to read…(hard to explain, but as an elementary school teacher this was my HARDEST endeavor! I like to talk…obviously.)
  2. Talk about real issues. I talked about the Spanish economy and it’s affect on family. I was able to relate a personal story in regard to when I was abroad the first time, but you don’t have to. The point is, make your reasoning for going over to this country valid.
  3. Condense. This was EXTREMELY hard for me. I had so much that I wanted to say. For the statement of grant purpose, you have to include reasoning, lesson ideas, what you can bring to the country and what you hope to bring back to your home country…all in a one-page page limit. WOOF! So be purposeful in everything you say.
  4. Give yourself time to edit…and let tons of others read your work. I had four people read my essays. The more eyes on those essays the better.

That pretty much sums up the application process. The only other part I had difficulty on was making sure I had all the correct paperwork and that I met with the correct people. I had to talk with my Spanish advisor, get paperwork and such for that, as well as, sending the correct transcripts in with my application. After that….it’s a waiting game.

In my next blog post, I’ll talk about this awful waiting game and the process of finding out the information in bits and pieces. I hope this was somewhat helpful to anyone wanting to apply to Fulbright, let me know if you have any questions, I would be happy to help in anyway that I can! 🙂

Besitos,

Makenna

 

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