What’s a Fulbright? Part II

Waiting.

More waiting.

It’s no secret that you’re going to be waiting a long time to hear anything about your Fulbright application. The Fulbright DAT website lists the process as:

In my experience, the process was fairly accurate. I submitted my application on November 3 (ONE WHOLE DAY EARLY!! WOOT WOOT). By January, I assumed I didn’t get it. And then, on Friday, February 26, I went to lunch and was digging into a perfect avocado when I randomly checked my email.* It’s rare that I have my phone in the teacher’s lounge but it was the end of the trimester and I was getting excited for spring break. BOOM. Fulbright Application: Status Update. I scanned the email and saw that I was a finalist for placement in Botswana and that the US Embassy in Gaborone, Botswana would be contacting me in a few weeks to set up an interview.

I started crying. I yelled. My coworkers thought someone died. I WAS SO STINKIN’ EXCITED. Just getting an interview for a Fulbright is a big deal and an experience I was not prepared for. I called my parents. I called Adam who just excitedly said “Both our dreams are coming true!” ** I refreshed my email daily until the following Friday/last day of the trimester/last day before spring break, I received an email from the US Embassy in Botswana asking if it would be OK to conduct the email the following Monday at 6am MN time/2pm Botswana time. I said sure. Only, I was going to be in Las Vegas for spring break so it would be 4am Vegas time/2pm Botswana time. Two days to get my life together before an important phone interview? UFF-DAH.

One of my best friends, Amanda, and I had planned a trip to Las Vegas and surrounding national parks during the first week in March. We were going to fly out on Sunday and fly back to MN on Thursday evening. We had a full list of things to do but prepping for an interview was not one of them. On the entire flight out, I prepped. After walking the strip for awhile, we ate supper and returned to our hotel for more interview prep (my BFF Mani is a great human—a Target Corp pro, she listened, encouraged and prepped me for my early Monday morning). I had decided to go to bed around 9:30 so that I could actually sleep before my 3am wake-up call. Sleep? Ok. YEAH RIGHT. I tossed and turned. I’m pretty sure I experienced hot flashes. I didn’t sleep a wink. Seriously, I was up the whole night. Finally, at 3am, I just got up, showered and started prepping. Mani woke up shortly after. Now, if you know Mani, you know she is the ultimate hype girl. For 45 minutes, she ran through questions, told me I was awesome, and then told me I was still awesome. After 45 minutes of pacing, I had to tell my hype girl to just zip it. My body was consumed with nerves.

The interview ended up starting late and ran exactly thirty minutes. Three women from the US Embassy conducted it, one American and two women from Botswana. It was much more fluid than I imagined and I was thankful for that. Stiff/corporate interviews are just not my cup of tea. Phone interviews are awkward. It’s hard to read people through the phone. Plus, it was hard to hear. After everything, I felt a bit unprepared with the questions they asked. The entire interview heavily focused on my project (duh, Beckie–why wouldn’t it?). At the end of it, one woman told me she hoped to see me next year. Even though that made me almost pee my pants with excitement, I didn’t want to read into it. After all, I’m sure there were many people interviewing. I thanked my interviewers for the opportunity to speak with them and hung up. That was it.

Amanda came out from under her covers (she couldn’t look at me while I was interviewing) and we ran through it. One’s mind is always conflicted after an interview like that. Did I say everything I needed to? Did I sound OK? Would they pick me? After talking to more of my people, I slept for two hours and then Amanda and I got up to go to Zion National Park in Utah where we hiked for hours. ON NO SLEEP. Happy endorphins carried me through some intense hiking and I was floating for the rest of the week.

No Sleep? No worries. Mani and I at Zion.

Given that different agencies (US Embassies, International Organizations, etc.) work in partnership with the Institute of International Education (IIE), interviews may be different for each participating country. I skimmed and scanned everything I could get my hands on regarding interviews for this process but felt I couldn’t get the full scope of what to prepare for. To help others, here are some of the questions I was asked (at least what I can remember).

  1. Tell us about your project.
  2. Anticipate very specific questions related to your specific project.
  3. How do you plan to share your project’s findings?
  4. How will teachers both in Botswana and the US benefit from this?
  5. What potential problems could arise?
  6. Tell us about a time you encountered a problem abroad and how did you handle it?
  7. What experience do you have abroad?
  8. How will you conduct your research?
  9. Who/what are potential resources in your host country?
  10. Anticipate questions related to your specific classroom/school and project.
  11. Why Botswana?

Consulting the Inquiry Project Proposal piece of your application will definitely help in preparation of the interview and had I known, I would have spent much more time reviewing my project proposal. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to run through questions. My school has been very supportive of this entire process and my superintendent helped me with question prepping. Ultimately, Fulbright is just trying to get a feel for the potential person they want to invest in. Be you. Do you.

Almost one month to the day of my interview, I heard that I received the Fulbright. One month later, I’m writing this sweet blog post. Life is an interesting ride.

*I definitely was neurotic in checking my email. Like, eighty times a day until I heard any news. Thanks Fulbright.

** Adam is my boyfriend of nine years. He was my biggest cheerleader during the Fulbright process and is also most excited that our house is turning into a bachelor pad (just him and Jerry) for six months. People always ask what he thinks about this Fulbright business, and I always reply that I think he’s more excited than me. He also told me he’s not cleaning the toilet the entire time I am gone. Sweet.

 

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