What’s a Fulbright? Part I

After studying abroad in Barcelona and student teaching in Krakow, I knew I wanted to apply for a Fulbright the second I graduated from college. At that time, it was the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program and I wasn’t eligible. You needed a Master’s degree and years of full-time teaching experience. Rats.

Fast forward five years, I received an email in July notifying me that I was finally eligible to apply. The application opened in July and closed in early November. Like all good teachers, I procrastinated. When I say procrastinated, what I really mean is that I endured through the nine layers of hell while procrastinating this last fall. Coaching, weddings, completing grad school, teaching and then applying for a Fulbright? What the heck was I thinking?  I had anxiety, cried like 5 times and drank some wine.

To avoid epic meltdowns like mine, here are some general reflections on completing the APPLICATION:
*It should be noted that there are some excellent Fulbright blogs out there that give great advice on the application process. I read them regularly. And by regularly, I mean I stalked every Fulbrighter’s blog daily. It became a hobby. You should really check them out.

  1. START EARLY. I didn’t, but you should. I pieced the lengthy application together over various bits of free time I had this fall. You will need to consult your administration and references of your plans so it just makes sense to take care of this earlier rather than later.
  2. HAKUNA MATATA. It means no worries (obviously). Don’t worry if you don’t know what you’re doing. I didn’t know what my project was going to look like when I started the application. I didn’t really know anything about anything other then I knew I wanted to try and I was interested in going to Botswana. It wasn’t until October and I was teaching about colonialism that my project materialized. Take the application in pieces and you will get it all done.
  3. TAKE A RISK. As educators, we are encouraged and encourage others to take risks. I was discussing goal setting with my seventh graders and told them it’s important to verbalize our goals, so that we are held accountable. Then, I told them of my Fulbright plans. Was I worried that I would fail? Duh. Majorly worried. It’s part of the process. I just kept telling myself that I would keep applying until I got it. Even more risky than applying, I asked colleagues and my graduate school facilitator to look over my essays. It’s hard for adults to allow others to assess work that is personal to us. They ripped apart my work and I’ll forever be thankful for it.
  4. KEEP EVERYTHING. I wrote everything in Google Docs before I actually submitted it on the application portal. You will be very thankful to have access to everything when you are done. The entire Fulbright process is lengthy and you will forget everything you said in the fall when you interview in the spring.
  5. THANK YOUR PEOPLE. Sure, I received the Fulbright but I know it’s because of my people. My kids wished me luck, my colleagues and administration helped me with references and interviews, my friends supported me and my family put up with me. No one was more ready for me to be done with the Fulbright application/interview process than my people and no one was more excited for me when I received it. For everything, I thank them.

When all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help, consult the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching homepage for webinars or do some good ol’ fashioned stalking–to find background on anything you need. Good luck!

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