Fulbright Scholars Offer Tips to Win the Prize
July 8, 2015
By Michele McDonald
We’re proud of our Fulbright scholars and asked the winners to tell a little about themselves, discuss why they pursued the grant and offer tips to future Fulbright awardees to help them navigate the lengthy application process.
Here’s what they had to say:
Anjana Radhakrishnan, who graduated in May with a bachelor of science degree in economics, won a Fulbright Research/Study Grant to India.
My parents were born and raised in Kerala, India—a southern state on the peninsula. Kerala is a beautiful state, prominent in its high social and economic development. I have lived most of my life here in the United States but did spend a year and went to school in India when I was 10. I am in fact going to be spending my Fulbright in the very city that my father was born and raised.
My best advice to students who want to become a Fulbright scholar is to make sure that you attend all the writing workshops, and that you have a mentor in your field of study, if it’s a research grant, to guide you, and outside eyes looking at your essays and project as much as possible. It’s so easy to become blind to the holes in your project/essay because you work on it for such a long time that it becomes critical to have outside perspective.
As an economist, my greatest interests are in developing countries and the problems that arise where economics and social issues intersect. My parents, my time at Mason, the people I have come in contact with have all inspired me to find economic solutions to these problems. However, I hold myself strictly to the policy that you cannot preach what you do not know. If I am going to work in economic development, I need to know for myself, through firsthand experience, the problems facing people in these countries and the solutions they think are best. I found the Fulbright research grant the best way for me to gain this firsthand, on-the-ground experience—an experience I need before I can continue with further studies.
Matthew Robinson, who graduated in May with a bachelor of arts degree in history, won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant to the Czech Republic. He’s from Herndon, Va.
My best advice for applicants is to listen to those voices around you giving encouragement. Self-doubt can be a great hindrance if you let it. Give your attention to those messages that offer positive reinforcement, and remember to encourage yourself too.
I applied for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant because working in education and building competence in the Czech language are goals of mine. The Fulbright Program provides an uncommon opportunity for me to pursue both objectives.
I hope to apply enhanced teaching and language skills in both graduate study and public service.
Sarah Rose-Jensen is a doctoral student in the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. She won a Fulbright Research/Study Grant to Cambodia. She’s originally from Southeastern Virginia, but has lived in the Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia area for about 10 years.
Fulbrights, and similar grants, are really competitive. Even if you have a good application, that is sometimes not enough. I recommend having as many people as possible who are familiar with the application read it, and apply for other funding streams as well.
Take advantage of the Office of Graduate Fellowships. Kay Agoston (graduate fellowship director) read my application, and helped out in a hundred other ways.
I wanted to pursue a Fulbright because it’s one of the most prestigious research grants in the world, and receiving a Fulbright validates my research. It also allows me to do 10 months of fieldwork in Cambodia, which is just amazing.
I want to publish my research as a book eventually, and to continue my research on social mobilization and social conflict in Southeast Asia.
Mariam Waqar graduated in May with a bachelor of science degree in biology. She won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant to Indonesia. She is from Gujranwala, Pakistan.
It’s important to decide whether you want to pursue research or teaching prior to your application. While you shouldn’t rely on statistics alone, look at the Fulbright stats for the previous years to get an idea of how competitive a grant may be. This was especially helpful to me when I was trying to decide between three countries. It’s important to cultivate essays that aren’t just centered on you and your accomplishments. Explain how different people in your life have helped make you who you are. From there, explain how you think you would benefit from a Fulbright grant, and immersing yourself in that culture you’ve chosen. And definitely have your essays reviewed by the fellowships office and professors you are close to––this revision process is important.
I chose to pursue a Fulbright because I want to spend time away from the States. Eventually, I would like to base a significant portion of my career abroad, engaging in charitable work, so learning how to traverse a different culture is important. Additionally, having come from a third-world country, and thus being interested in international development, I was very intrigued by Indonesia’s growing middle class, a marker for successful economic growth. I want to learn more about both the health care system there, as well as the Indonesian culture that is promoting such success, so that I might be able to apply these practices within communities I might aid in the future.
Other Mason students and new graduates who won Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Grants include:
Electra Bolotas, MEd Curriculum and Instruction ’15, received a teaching grant to Brazil
Colby Fleming, undergraduate student in philosophy and sociology, Bulgaria
Maya Gueron, graduate student in the College of Education and Human Development, Mexico
Joanna Newcome, undergraduate student in global affairs, Germany
Jeffrey Wood, BA Foreign Languages ’15, received an offer of a Fulbright ETA Grant to Taiwan, but has declined the offer in favor of a Pickering Graduate Fellowship, a major award that will fully fund his graduate study at Johns Hopkins. Pickering Fellows are offered positions in the U.S. Foreign Service upon successful completion of their graduate study.