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Fulbright Program for U.S. Students

Fulbright Program Adviser

Issue 42 | September 2010

Applying to the East Asia/Pacific and South and Central Asia Regions
table of contents

Program Updates

Overview of Trends for Students Interested in Applying to the East Asia/Pacific Region

by Jonathan Akeley, Program Manager, East Asia/Pacific Region

Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Awards

Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Awards for the East Asia/Pacific region are available to candidates who wish to study Mandarin, Bahasa Indonesia or Korean before beginning their Fulbright projects in China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Korea.  Applicants to China (especially graduating seniors) are highly encouraged to apply for the Critical Language Enhancement Award.

No Multi-Country Grants in Asia

No multi-country applications will be accepted from candidates applying to the East Asia/Pacific region.  Also, because there are separate Fulbright Programs in the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, interested applicants may only apply to one of these programs.

Fulbright Opportunities in the South Pacific

There are Fulbright U.S. Student Programs for eight South Pacific Island Nations: Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.  Given the remoteness and lack of supervisory resources in the region, candidates applying to any of these countries must be well-prepared to work independently and demonstrate the requisite maturity to carry out the proposed project. This is a regionally-funded program, so a specific number of awards has not been set and the Fulbright U.S. Student Program will therefore award grants on a case-by-case basis.


One Fulbright-ANU College of Business & Economics Postgraduate Scholarship is now available to Australia. The ANU College of Business & Economics, one of seven colleges which comprise the Australian National University, seeks to advance knowledge through high quality teaching and research in the related fields of accounting, actuarial studies, business information systems, econometrics, finance, international business, management, marketing and statistics.

Applicants for the Fulbright-ANU College of Business & Economics Postgraduate Scholarship should develop applications in economics or business.  Candidates can propose to enroll in a graduate program at ANU or to carry out an independently-designed research or study project.


The Fulbright Program in China received a record 225 applications for the 2010-2011 program year.  The quality of the applications submitted, however, has not kept pace, which is why only 58 Fulbrighters were selected to pursue grants during the 2010-2011 academic year.  Here are several common issues found in proposed projects to China:

1) Language Skills: Candidates MUST have at least two years of college-level Mandarin or its equivalent (i.e., intermediate to a high level of language skills) before the Fulbright grant begins.  Language proficiency must include reading and writing skills, not just speaking and listening abilities.  Candidates with only a minimum of language skills should apply for the Critical Language Enhancement Award in order to improve their competitiveness.

2) Feasibility: Many China applicants, particularly at the graduating senior level, submit proposals that demonstrate a lack of knowledge about the Chinese research environment.  Assuming that one will have unfettered access to all pertinent information sources or that one would be able to easily carry out interviews as part of the proposed research, is not realistic.  This is particularly true in less-developed areas and in Western China.  Candidates need to discuss their project designs with professors or advisers in the U.S. with experience (we recommend visiting the Fulbright Scholar Program's online alumni directory) in China, and to obtain affiliation letters from Chinese universities to demonstrate that there will be a host institution willing to supervise their research.

3) Host Institutions: Candidates with bachelor's degrees at the beginning of the grant period are required to affiliate with Chinese universities and should plan to base their projects outside Beijing and Shanghai unless the project absolutely requires being based in one of those cities (see the Fulbright China Affiliation Guide for Graduating Seniors and Bachelor's-level Candidates).  Master's degree and Ph.D.-level applicants affiliate with either Chinese universities or other Chinese academic institutions, such as the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.  Graduate-level candidates proposing projects outside of Beijing and Shanghai will be given preference.

Applicants should include affiliation letters with their Fulbright applications.  If a candidate is unable to obtain a letter by the October 18 online application deadline, he or she needs to clearly explain the choice of affiliation in the project proposal.  Affiliation letters need to come from Chinese professors, not Americans teaching or carrying out research in China.  Candidates with only a bachelor's degree or equivalent are required to audit classes at their host universities during the first terms of their grants.  The Fulbright U.S. Student Program does not support applicants proposing to enroll in Chinese graduate degree programs.

4) Grant Structure: Fulbright grants to China are designed for candidates who can carry out independent research or study projects.  They are not designed for individuals interested in working for NGOs or for those interested in pursuing graduate degrees in the People's Republic of China.  The Fulbright U.S. Student Program will not fund a candidate proposing a project in China which would have the individual spending a significant amount of time working on pre-existing ventures established by an NGO.  Volunteering somewhere for less than 10 hours a week can be acceptable, so long as it does not detract from the project's requisite independent research or study, but it must be clear that the candidate does not work for or represent any other organization.


Six Indonesia Science & Technology Initiative Awards are now available for candidates proposing projects in the following fields: agriculture, astronomy/planetary sciences, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, energy, engineering (all fields), environmental science, geology/earth and atmospheric sciences; information sciences, materials science, mathematics, oceanography, physics, public health (research or theoretical focus only).

Fulbright in the East Asia/Pacific Region - Competitiveness

China, Japan, and Australia draw the largest numbers of research/study grant applications in the region.  There are relatively few Southeast Asian Studies Programs at U.S. colleges and universities, even at campuses that have strong Asian Studies programs.  As a result, Fulbright application levels for grants in countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand significantly lag behind those of China and JapanKorea, Macau, and Mongolia also tend to receive very few applications.  New Zealand receives significantly fewer applications than its neighbor, Australia.

One of the most pervasive myths about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program in East Asia is that an applicant must have prior knowledge of the host country language in order to be competitive for a Fulbright grant.  In fact, this is only true for the Fulbright study or research grants in China and Japan.  Because Mandarin Chinese and Japanese are the most commonly taught Asian languages in the United States, it is reasonable to assume that most candidates would have a chance to study these languages through undergraduate coursework or a study abroad experience.  Courses in Bahasa Indonesia, Khmer, Mongolian, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese typically are not readily available to most American students.  Applicants to countries where the local language is not commonly taught in the U.S., while not required to speak the language at the time of application, should plan to study the language in the host country concurrent with their Fulbright research, and should aim to attain a basic, hospitality level of language competence before embarking on their Fulbright grant.

Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Programs in East Asia

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program currently offers eight ETA programs in East Asia: Indonesia, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.  A common feature of these ETA programs is that none of them require any prior experience with the host country or knowledge of the local languages.  In addition, ETA Fulbrighters are typically placed in schools outside of the major cities where there are fewer chances for students to interact with native English speakers.  ETA candidates must convey a strong commitment to intensive cultural immersion inherent in a program that places its grantees in assistant-teaching roles abroad.

Candidates must convey an interest in the local culture, along with the pedagogical strategies that they will bring to their classrooms, in the Fulbright project proposal.  Plans for community involvement and/or small side projects can be helpful, but they cannot be location specific and must be feasible given the time constraints that teaching responsibilities will impose.  ETA applicants to the East Asia/Pacific region should not propose side research projects.

East Asia and the Arts

As with many other programs in the non-Western world, Fulbright Programs in East Asia receive a low proportion of applications in the creative and performing arts (4.9% in 2010), even though all of the region's programs readily welcome projects in the arts and East Asian cultures have innumerable artistic traditions - many of which are virtually unknown in the West.  Candidates in the arts should be encouraged to consider applying for Fulbright opportunities in East Asia since they often design projects that can be very individualized and quite unique.

Final Notes

While the most popular countries in the East Asia/Pacific region continue to receive large numbers of applicants for study/research grants and are usually quite competitive, a number of countries are not attracting significant numbers of candidates.  There are a few countries where more grants could be offered to qualified candidates.  Laos, Macau, Malaysia and Mongolia fall into the latter category, and New Zealand is a country that has seen a steep decline in applications compared to several years ago.


The Fulbright U.S. Student Program in South and Central Asia

by Cara Doble, Program Manager, Germany, South and Central Asia

Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Programs in South and Central Asia

Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grants are available in each of the South Asian countries with active Fulbright U.S. Student Programs: BangladeshIndiaNepal, and Sri Lanka.  Fulbright ETA grants are now also available in the Central Asian Region with two ETA grants each to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

Critical Language Enhancement Awards

Candidates applying to South and Central Asia are also highly encouraged to apply for the Critical Language Enhancement Award to study Bangla/Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Pashto, Punjabi, Persian/Farsi, or Urdu.  This is a particularly important benefit for applicants to this region because relatively few U.S. colleges and universities teach South and Central Asian languages.

Regional Trends

Application numbers to the South and Central Asia region have been increasing considerably over the past few years.  The program in India received the largest number of applications in the region, totaling 307 for 2010-2011, making India one of the top Fulbright application countries worldwide.

Unfortunately, many candidates who consider applying to South Asia overlook excellent possibilities available in BangladeshNepal, and Sri Lanka.  While India alone attracted 307 applications, the rest of the South Asian programs received a total of 102 for 2010-2011.

Application numbers to Central Asia increased as well with Tajikistan receiving 18, Kazakhstan receiving 12 and the Kyrgyz Republic receiving two applications for the 2010-2011 competition.  

With the increase in applications to the region, the number of grants to South and Central Asia, particularly to India, has also been increasing: 22 in 2008, 48 in 2009 and 60 in 2010.  This trend is expected to continue and further increases in the number of grants to the region are anticipated.

Given the unrest in some parts of South and Central Asia, applicants and advisers often ask if Fulbright Programs in the region are still operating.  The answer at the moment is that programs in Bangladesh, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Tajikistan are active.  In spite of recent political events, the program in Uzbekistan will continue to accept applications for 2011-2012, which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for any sensitive topics.  We highly recommend that applicants visit the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website regularly for any announcements regarding program changes.  Prospective students are also highly encouraged to write to regional Fulbright Commissions and to Fulbright U.S. Student Program staff for non-Commission countries with their security-related questions and concerns. 

There are currently no active Fulbright U.S. Student Programs in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, the Maldives or Turkmenistan.


Fulbright Program Advisers in the News

Read how Marcella McCoy Deh, Ph.D., assisted Malcolm Ingram to become Philadelphia University's first Fulbrighter!  Click here to learn more.  Congratulations to Philadelphia University!


Meet the Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors

The Fulbright U.S. Student Alumni Ambassador Program was established in 2008 to identify, train and engage a select group of approximately 15 Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni to serve as representatives, recruiters, and spokespersons for the Fulbright Program.  They are selected annually through recommendations from Fulbright Commissions and U.S. Embassy staff, area managers, the Fulbright Student Program Outreach Division, and approved by the sponsor of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors come from an array of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, states, fields of study, institutions and have participated in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program in all world areas.   

Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors represent the program’s rich diversity and play a key role in increasing knowledge about Fulbright opportunities. They provide testimonials about their Fulbright experiences at conferences and campus presentations and offer application tips in written articles, video and podcast interviews, Webinars, and at special events throughout the United States.  The Fulbright U.S. Student Program relies on the Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors to mentor potential applicants, sharing what a Fulbright grant is really like, along with how to successfully address the challenges of living abroad, and how to best meet the Fulbright Program’s ultimate goal – to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries.

We encourage all Fulbright Program Advisers to contact the Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors to provide assistance in promoting the program on their campuses.  To learn more about this year's group, please click here.


Resources for Promoting the Fulbright U.S. Student Program

Below are several resources you can use to let your students know about the Fulbright Program:

Fulbright U.S. Student Program Applicant Blog

We encourage applicants to regularly visit and subscribe to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program Applicant Blog.  It can be found on us.fulbrightonline.org under MULTIMEDIA.  The blog features tips and advice on applying to Fulbright, student testimonials, a calendar with upcoming Webinars, campus visits, a link for enrolled students to find their Fulbright campus adviser and links to resources such as podcasts and YouTube videos. 



We are currently producing two newsletters each month:

Fulbright U.S. Student Grantee Newsletter:


FPA Newsletter:

Each issue will cover tips on how to assist U.S. Student Fulbright Program candidates and offers resources and best practices on how to promote the program.


Podcasts (available on iTunes)

Six types of podcasts are available:

Fulbright 101: Interviews with Fulbright U.S. Student Program staff offering the basics on how to apply.

My Fulbright Life: Interviews with current Fulbrighters talking about their projects and experiences overseas.

Applicant Podcast: Interviews with IIE Program Managers and others on how to complete a successful Fulbright application.

Webinars: Recorded Webinars featuring interviews with Fulbright U.S. Student Program and Mobility International USA (MIUSA) staff, and Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors offering information on applying and alumni testimonals.

Fulbright Alumni Roundtables: Interviews with Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni grouped by world region or type of grant discussing their experiences in applying and being overseas.

Fulbright Guidance Sessions: Presentations with Q&A sessions on applying to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.


The webinars provide an online forum for Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni to discuss their experiences with applicants.  IIE Program Managers moderate the discussions followed by question and answer sessions.  Study or research and ETA applicants are encouraged to attend the session related to their proposed country of application.  Check the us.fulbrightonline.org home page for dates and times.


The Fulbright Program has a YouTube page where you can view videos of students and Fulbright staff members talking about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.  These are an excellent resource to get an individual alumni's perspectives.


Encourage your students to join the official Fulbright page on Facebook to learn more about the Fulbright Program and connect with others - including alumni, current grantees and other prospective applicants from around the world.  Check the Fulbright Facebook page regularly for news, events, resources and more.


The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is now on Twitter!  Students can follow the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and receive updates at: https://twitter.com/FulbrightPrgrm.


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