The Fulbright Program…Am I fully bright?

You can probably tell by now that I like to ask lots of questions in my blog posts. I think it encourages reader participation, even if the question is rhetorical.

This semester as of the 18th of October, I am a Fulbright applicant. Save your “ohs” and “awes.” It’s pretty dang competitive so I’m mostly expecting not to be chosen. What is this Fulbright program, you ask? I will tell you.

According to the Fulbright website, it’s “the largest U.S. international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars, and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide.”

*insert trumpet sounds here*

*unroll Fulbright banner here*

I think that’s a large enough image to demonstrate how huge this program is. I first heard about it when my best friend’s older sister was selected as a Fulbright scholar. For a year, she taught English in Innsbruck, Austria. And traveled–a lot. Her experience as a Fulbright scholar was amazing. Since I am more inclined to be persuaded by another individual’s personal experience than lofty ideals such as international exchange, global communities, blah blah blah, Faith (the Austria Fulbrighter) was the person who convinced me to apply for this thing.

This thing was a truly comprehensive application. Though it was not as intense as the Peace Corps application (I’m told they want to know every shot, doctors visit, band-aid you’ve ever applied), it was time consuming. I found out that some schools actually offer courses that are entirely focused on preparing you for the Fulbright application process. I know–whoa.

The first information session was the 31st of August. I went with my friend Kelsey (who would have been a dead ringer for the scholarship had she gone through with the application) and was immediately inspired by Professor Al-Tikriti, the UMW Fulbright adviser, to apply for an English Teaching Assistantship to Turkey. Turkey has been my number one place I want to visit outside the U.S. for quite some time; ever since I watched a Rick Steve’s video on that amazingly diverse and ancient country. In Google images, Turkey looks like this…

Completing the application was a consistently stressful process: It required two essays, three recommendations, my transcript, a lot of other information like my employment history, an interview, etc.  The process inspired a sense of community between myself and four of the other UMW Fulbright applicants. We could connect because we were each in a similarly stressful situation. When we encountered problems or had questions, we could talk to each other about it. For instance, when the system absolutely wouldn’t let me upload my transcript, my fellow applicant, Katie Matusik, was able to let me use the fancy art department scanner.

But, I am happy to report that I was successful in submitting my application on time and complete! I will find out if I can move forward in the process in February of 2011. I’m really at a point right now where I’m trusting that if God wants me to teach English in Turkey, then it will happen. If not, I trust that He has some plan in mind for me that’s even better than that.


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