Fulbright Scholarship: How and Why?

    Hello, dear habrovchane. My name is Andrey, I am a chemist from Kiev who won a Fulbright FRDP scholarship. I'm currently in internship in Michigan. In this article I want to tell my experience in applying for documents, interviews and travel.


    I want to

    • Tell about the pros and cons of the program to those who are unfamiliar with it.
    • Create a "directory", which I lacked in the preparation process. I hope he will help future contestants.

    I did not think about participating in the competition and knew little about the Fund and its programs. I took up the application almost at the last moment and did not count on success at all. After the victory, I was surprised how little known these programs were among my colleagues, hence the first goal of writing the article. In the process of preparing the documents, I encountered many surprises, and regretted that I did not find any material to warn them about. The Foundation's staff talk in detail about all the nuances, but they are loaded with projects, so a lot of things have to be done in a hurry. It would be nice to have an idea about the stages of the process in advance - goal number 2.

    I was prompted to describe my experience because for some reason there are no detailed articles on Fulbright research grants on Habré. Several articles by dennis777are devoted to the master program. The remaining articles are collections of grant programs, and there is little detail in them.

    Since I will write mainly about my experience of participation in the FRDP in 2017-2018 in Ukraine, I urge current and former Fulbright members to complement my post. Also, as far as I can, I will try to help those who wish to participate in the program.
    Well, let's get started.

    What is the Fulbright Foundation and what programs exist?

    The Foundation for Intercultural Exchange was established in 1946 at the suggestion of Senator William Fulbright. It exists at the expense of the US government (mainly) and host governments. Provides internships for students, teachers, researchers and other professionals. Every year hundreds of people from different countries participate in the fund's programs.

    The Foundation sponsors programs for students ( Fulbright Graduate Student Program ), young scientists and teachers ( Fulbright Research and Development Program , Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program ), for experienced researchers ( Fulbright Scholar Program ), teachers and humanitarian specialists (The Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program ). There are also programs for inviting specialists from the United States to teach and work in other countries.

    I will mainly write about the Fulbright Research and Development Program (FRDP) , as well as the Fulbright Scholar Program , which I originally applied for.

    Who is this scholarship for?

    You can participate in the FRDP if

    1. you are doing research in almost any field, except for some, such as accounting, clinical medicine, management (see the full list on the official page of the program)
    2. or you are a journalist, a specialist in archival / museum affairs, an employee of public organizations, and a representative of some other professions
    3. you are under 40, or less than 5 years after defending a Ph.D.
    4. ... a few more requirements that I will mention below

    Participate in the program is worth if

    1. You are interested in a short internship in the US

    And finally, you should not participate if

    1. You want to emigrate to the USA.
    2. One of the goals of the trip you see earnings (in more detail below).

    Advantages and disadvantages


    Of unambiguous advantages - the opportunity to visit the US for free . The foundation not only pays a scholarship, but also pays for flights, honey. insurance, and also pays additional funds for the purchase of a computer, books, etc.

    A huge plus I consider freedom to choose a research topic . The Foundation does not limit you and does not require the writing of reports on scientific work.

    Another indisputable advantage is that you are in a win-win relationship with the host professor: you are not dependent on him, and he does not spend money on you from his grants. Both parties can safely “do science” just for fun, since they are not limited to deadlines.

    In addition, with some luck, you can try yourself in a new areathat is problematic to do in other programs. For example, my specialization is chemistry, but the host professor works at the Faculty of Physics. And although our regions are close enough, as a postdoc I couldn’t be in his group.

    And cons ...

    The first minus is when you participate in the program you should not have immigration intentions . Participants in the program are subject to the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement, since you receive funding from the US government. This means that in 99.99% of cases within 2 years after the end of the program you will not be able to come to the United States on any visa other than a tourist visa. Even if during this time you find your love and marry in the USA. An exception may be work on the Min. defense, there are other possibilities. But the likelihood of success in getting “Waiver” is very low. I heard that a certain professor, with the help of $ 5 million lawyers, succeeded in canceling this requirement. True or not I do not know.

    The second minus - the size of payments. The FRDP scholarship is calculated from the subsistence minimum for the region in which your university is located, and is $ 1,000 ... $ 2,500. With this money you can live quite well, provided that you will rent low-cost housing. With travel, of course, will be difficult.

    As an option - you can earn money, for example, as a Teaching Assistant (something like a laboratory assistant in our way). However, here, unfortunately, everything is not so simple. The position of Teaching Assistant is difficult to get, and among the professors there is a war for this position for their graduate students. But this is not the main thing. In order to officially get a job, you will need to get permission from the Fund. The most fun - your scholarship can be cut to the amount of your earnings! Of course, you can work informally, but I would not risk participating in the program for an extra hundred. It is better to use this time to get results in your main area.

    Remark on the purpose and spirit of the program

    The goal of the program is not only conducting research in the United States. You will be the “cultural ambassador” of your country to the USA, i.e. It is advisable to prepare for the presentation of their culture. Upon your return from the United States, you will represent the culture and people of this country in your homeland. The focus of the program on cultural exchange means a large percentage of specialists in the humanities among the finalists. In addition, the Home Residency Requirement described above was introduced so that you pass on the professional experience and knowledge gained during the internship to the specialists in your country.

    Form an action plan for these items - this will allow you to better understand the requirements for participants and increase the chances of success.

    What is desirable to do before submitting the application

    1. Plan a project plan : choose a research topic, read articles, work out a methodology, etc.
    2. Make contact with the host . First, it will help prepare a stronger bid. Secondly, even if you win the program, the trip is not guaranteed - you must agree to accept a US professor. If you are not lucky and the search is delayed, it is possible to cancel the trip.
    3. Rate knowledge of English . The condition for participation is to score 80+ points in the TOEFL test.

    Filing an application

    Deadline application - end of October. To participate you need to fill out a questionnaire on the website of the Institute of International Education - the organization responsible for conducting the competition and internship. What documents need to be prepared:

    1. Project Statement - description of the planned work, up to 5 pages
    2. Personal Statement - autobiography, up to 2 pages
    3. Resume / Curriculum Vitae - up to 2 pages
    4. diploma scans and higher education and a degree
    5. Letter of Reference / Recommendation, from three people
    6. consent to the processing of personal data (signed papers must be sent or personally brought to the office of the foundation in your country).

    Further details about each document.

    Project Statement

    The document structure is standard for grant applications. The size of the document is small and it does not require much preparation time (yes, I am looking at you, Horizon 2020 grants!). First, in the Background section you need to describe the background question: what has been done in your area, what is missing and what are you going to do.

    Then in the Objectives section briefly describe the objectives of the work.
    Methodology : how exactly the research will be carried out, incl. description of the stages. Significance - the importance of the results for your area, for your country and personally for your professional development.
    Evaluation and Dissemination- what you will do to spread knowledge about your work (including in your country) - publication of scientific articles, conferences, popular science events, etc. This is where the experience of writing applications for European grants came in handy.
    Justification for Residence in the United States for the Proposed Project - probably one of the most important points. Here you need to convincingly describe why your work needs to be done in the United States and why it cannot / is difficult to do in your country.
    Duration - the rationale for the project and the indication of the main stages.
    And, finally, the section English Proficiency - evaluate your knowledge of the language, describe the experience of speaking and writing.

    Personal Statement

    This is by no means a CV or resume, but an essay about your life and work. It is necessary to describe why you are working in your field, what you plan to do in the USA and upon returning to your country. This document is well described in the article dennis777 , and I do not want to repeat.

    Resume / Curriculum Vitae

    Here the requirements do not differ from the usual ones. There is an example on the foundation's website in Ukraine .

    Letter of Reference / Recommendation

    Probably the second most important part after the Project Statement. You need to enlist the support of at least three experienced researchers, preferably from different countries. My experience has shown that the decision of the host professor will also depend on your recommendations.

    Unfortunately, using a “standard” letter of recommendation written for all occasions will not work, since the content of the letters has a number of requirements . The referrer will need to evaluate both the contestant and his project. Therefore, it is advisable to provide a copy of your Project Statement.

    The easiest way to add recommendations to the application is to indicate the names and e-mail addresses of your recommenders when filling out the questionnaire. They will receive messages with links to a form where they can download their letters.

    The second stage of the competition

    So, your application has passed the first stage of review, which lasts about a month. Interviews will be held in December. I would say that this is no less important and difficult stage of participation in the competition, therefore I recommend to prepare for it thoroughly. It will not be superfluous to practice answering your questions with someone you know. I will not dwell too much on preparation, since what to expect from the interview is well described in the same article dennis777 , as well as in numerous articles on the Internet, for example: 1 , 2 , 3 .

    The interview will be attended by staff from the Foundation, the US Embassy and several Fulbright Fellows with a specialization in approximately your area. For example, in my interview were a biologist, chemist and physicist (EMNIP).

    The interview takes place in a very benevolent mood. According to my impressions, the purpose of the questions of the Foundation and Embassy staff is to find out your ability to speak English, your readiness to be a “cultural ambassador” and past experience working abroad. Fulbright scholars estimate the scientific level of your project and the need for it in the United States. I emphasize once again the importance of these points - do not let them take you by surprise! Preparation for typical questions and a positive attitude will make a good impression on the interviewers.


    And so, the interview was successfully passed. The next stage is the TOEFL handing over.

    It is probably difficult to find an exam about which more articles are written than about him. Therefore, only briefly describe my experience.

    Since the exam is purely practical, the best preparation will be the passage of tasks in conditions close to the fighting. I used Cracking the TOEFL IBT with Audio CD and the Official Guide to the TOEFL Test, 4th Edition . The questions in these manuals are very close to real ones, and training tasks for a while helps a lot to get used to the pace of the exam.

    Preparation of documents

    When all the stages of the competition have been completed (hurray!), The routine collection of documents remains.

    Education documents

    First you need to prepare certified copies and translation of documents on higher education (and a candidate's degree, if any). The procedure is highly dependent on the country, the university and the year ... The preferred option is to certify copies of the issuing organization. However, this is not always possible, and then the fastest (and the most expensive option) comes to the rescue - a translation agency. They will prepare all the necessary documents.

    Medical uniform

    The Foundation will send you your sample form in English and the language of your country. You can submit either the English form only, or the original in your own language and a certified translation. In my case, it was given a bit for its filling - about two weeks. The form of the form differs from standard medical certificates (such as a certificate for obtaining a driver's license or for going abroad), so organizations that issue these certificates refuse to deal with it. The quest to find a doctor who will fill in the necessary papers has been dragged out. As a result, I found only one such specialist in all of Kiev.

    Attention: you will need a vaccination card - data on measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough vaccination should be entered into the form. If there is no information about any of the necessary ones, you will need to pass the appropriate analysis or make this vaccine. You also need to pass a few more tests.

    Something else

    If you need to formalize an internship at the main place of work (for example, at the university), you will have another quest. Features of the design will vary greatly for different organizations and countries, but be prepared for difficulties. I know about cases when people quit for the duration of the trip, and on arrival they were registered at the same position again - this was the only available option.

    You will have the opportunity to visit the Pre-Departure orientation - a meeting with the foundation staff and other finalists of the competition. Do not ignore it, because they talk about visa and other formalities. In addition, finalists of past years are invited to these meetings, from whom you can learn the dirty details about life in the United States.

    I will not write about the aspects of internship related to travel and life in the United States in general. There are tons of information on visa registration, housing search, entry to the country, etc. In the formal matters, the Foundation helps a lot, its employees also buy tickets, having previously agreed on a date. I recommend to search for housing much beforehand, because in the US, the rental market is very developed and apartments are sometimes booked a year before the expected date of entry.

    In general, I am infinitely glad that I managed to win this competition.

    Dare and wish you victory!

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