Fulbright Program Adviser
Applying to Europe and Eurasia
Applying to Europe and Eurasiaby Rachel Holskin, Program Officer for Europe and Eurasia
Western Europe remains the most popular and most competitive region for applicants in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. All participating countries in Western Europe, except Switzerland, Luxembourg and Malta, have binational Fulbright Commissions and are some of the oldest Fulbright programs worldwide. Europe - particularly Central and Eastern Europe - still offers a few hidden gems for applicants with little to no foreign language skills who seek rewarding and challenging intercultural opportunities.
Candidates who do not have to carry out their proposed project in a specific country should consider a variety of countries before settling on one proposed host country. After settling on a country, candidates should still make a strong and compelling case in their applications for why they need to go to the proposed country. In addition, Eastern Europe and Eurasia offer multi-country grants for projects that are regional in scope.
European and Eurasian English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Expansion
For the 2011-12 grants, we witnessed an exciting expansion of Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grants in existing programs and in new ones throughout the region. Up to two ETA awards are available in Belarus, as well as in Kosovo, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia, Cyprus and Ukraine. In these newer programs, ETAs are placed largely in universities working alongside English professors and assisting in advising students; placements vary and could be in either urban or rural areas. For the second year in a row, the ETA program in Turkey experienced a significant increase in the number of grants offered; nearly 60 ETA grants were awarded, placing students in 20 universities throughout the country.
For the 2012-13 competition, we anticipate offering a similar number of grants for each of these countries in addition to the potential opening of ETA programs in Albania and Sweden, while continuing to expand programs throughout Europe and Eurasia. As always, please refer to our website for the most up-to-date information.
The United Kingdom and the Nordic Countries
The most competitive country in Western Europe (and in the world for that matter) is the United Kingdom. Although the UK provided 37 grants for 2011-12, it is often not the best choice for some of the almost 600 students who submit applications annually. For the upcoming 2012-13 competition, the UK intends to offer 45 grants, 34 of which will be exclusively to attend the Partnership Universities. The UK's primary attraction is the outstanding quality of the British educational system. Fulbright Partnership Awards allow candidates to pursue one-year master's programs at nearly 30 different universities throughout the UK with a tuition waiver and stipend. In addition to the UK, there are actually several opportunities throughout Europe where language is not a barrier, and where the quality of postgraduate education is on par with or superior to the resources available in the UK. One year graduate programs in Spain, France and the Netherlands are becoming increasing popular.
The Nordic countries offer opportunities for candidates who speak only English. They provide a wide array of academic, professional and arts programs that are excellent alternatives for those considering conducting projects in the UK. None of the five countries within the Nordic region (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) require a candidate to speak the local language fluently, unless it is required for a student's proposed Fulbright project (or for projects in the humanities to Iceland and Sweden). Nevertheless, applicants should obtain the recommended hospitality level of the host language in the year between applying and starting a grant in order to be able to fulfill the primary purpose of the Fulbright Program - to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries - and should indicate their intention to do so in their applications. This is true worldwide.
What Are the Odds?
The European Union, France, Ireland, Italy and Spain are also very competitive programs receiving many more outstanding applications than can be funded. Many Fulbrighters selected for these countries are proficient in the host country's language and show a strong need for study in that specific country. For these countries, the competitive candidate’s project is so specific to the country’s resources and academic programs that it would not be viable elsewhere. Candidates who can carry out their project goals elsewhere are encouraged to consider opportunities in alternate countries or regions if they are seeking to improve their chances of receiving an award.
Germany offers the most awards annually in the region with 80 research or study grants and 140 ETA awards. It provides the largest and most diverse number of placement opportunities with extremely high quality resources, including a post-grant internship program to enhance the academic component of the award. With so many available grants, the statistical chance of receiving a grant to Germany is actually higher than to most of its Western European neighbors. Because of the many opportunities in Germany, German speakers often overlook Austria and Switzerland, which, consequently receive relatively fewer applications.
The Netherlands has consistently increased their number of grants and special opportunities. For 2011-12, approximately 15 grants were offered in conjunction with the Netherlands-America Foundation, including two in Water Management at Delft University and one for study at Maastricht University. For 2012-13, the same grants will be offered in addition to two grants to pursue study at the Duisenberg School of Finance, two grants dedicated to computer science, math, physics or engineering, and one grant to pursue research in childhood cancer. We encourage you to publicize their science and business opportunities in the appropriate schools and departments, as these awards tend to receive very few applications.
Greece, Portugal, Italy, Macedonia and Cyprus offer very diverse and unique environments for a Fulbright project. Many applications submitted to these countries are either in the classics or involve historical research. During 2011-12, grants were also submitted in fields such as biology, medicine and international relations. All of these countries are interested in receiving more projects involving contemporary topics and more diverse fields. Candidates in professional fields and in the social and hard sciences are encouraged to look to these countries for unexpected Fulbright opportunities.
ETA grants to Andorra and Spain are some of the most popular in Western Europe. Competitive candidates for these teaching assistantships will have strong language skills in Spanish or Catalan (or French for Andorra) and compelling but flexible side research, study or community outreach projects that will help them stand out.
Focus on Turkey
Turkey is fast becoming one of the hottest and most exciting countries for a Fulbright project. With 10 research/study and an increase to 60 ETA grants in 2011-12, this rapidly modernizing country in both Europe and Asia can provide an outstanding Fulbright experience. Limited Turkish language skills are not necessarily an obstacle in applying. Many of Turkey's best universities teach entirely in English, providing candidates with an opportunity to design feasible projects with minimal Turkish language skills. Given the multiple options to study in English, Turkey's popularity within the Fulbright U.S. Student Program will only continue to grow. Of course, we encourage all applicants with limited or no Turkish language skills to reach a hospitality language level before the possible grant's start and to mention plans for learning the language before departure in their applications.
Eastern Europe offers some of the most exciting opportunities for Fulbright applicants and especially welcomes candidates who have little prior regional experience or no family ties to the country (or countries) to which they are applying.
Designing projects that can be completed in English is challenging due to the small percentage of Eastern Europeans who speak English. Determined applicants can succeed if they commit more energy to achieving a higher level of language proficiency before the start of a possible grant. There are also a growing number of Eastern European Fulbright programs for candidates who do not speak one of the local languages. For example, the ETA programs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the Slovak Republic offer good alternatives for those with limited host country language ability. Romania and Bulgaria have also teamed up to offer a Romanian-Bulgarian grant allowing a student an opportunity to pursue research or study in both countries. Also, several countries, such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia, require only a working knowledge of the host country language by the beginning of the grant period for those who do not need to take university courses.
Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland tend to be the most competitive countries in Eastern Europe. Romania, Bulgaria and the Slovak Republic statistically are not as competitive and offer a number of excellent opportunities. Slovenia is also very competitive, while Latvia, Albania and Lithuania attract a small number of applications annually.
Focus on Bulgaria
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program to Bulgaria doubled the number of ETA awards for 2011-12 offering a total of 20 ETA placements. For 2012-13, 20 ETA grants and four research or study grants are available. ETA placements can be at public schools and universities throughout the country. Candidates are encouraged to develop thoughtful side projects to complement their teaching duties. Knowledge of Bulgarian is an advantage. Motivated candidates, however, can obtain basic language skills in the year between applying and the grant start date or can pursue further language study once abroad. For 2010-11, the Bulgarian program received 15 applications; this number decreased to four in 2011-12.
The Eurasian countries continue to attract outstanding candidates with innovative project ideas. All of the countries in this region are experiencing exciting changes and developments that attract U.S. students eager to witness societies in transition.
Russia is the most competitive country in Eurasia with the most stringent foreign language proficiency requirements. It offers candidates, however, the possibility of improving their Russian through the Critical Language Enhancement Award. Russia also requires all candidates to affiliate with academic institutions and to begin their projects in September of the year of selection. The Russian program has been growing steadily, with an increase to 34 ETA grants in 2011-12 over the 20 offered in 2010-11.
Candidates seeking flexible language requirements and grant start dates should consider the programs in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova as possible alternatives to Russia. Ukraine has 10-12 research or study grants available and will offer two ETA grants in 2011-12, but receives only about 20 applications each year. Given that Ukraine’s language guidelines state that the skill level need only be commensurate with the nature of the project, Ukraine should not be overlooked in favor of Russia if the proposed project is flexible.
Georgia, Armenia, and especially Moldova and Azerbaijan, receive relatively few applications but they typically attract well-conceived projects addressing country-specific issues. Additionally, these countries support multi-country projects. In 2010-11, one grantee split his time between Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan studying photography, and another pursued a project in political science in Azerbaijan and Georgia. For 2012-13, all four countries offer fascinating opportunities for U.S. students to pursue independent study and travel in an increasingly important region and will welcome ETAs for the fourth consecutive year.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race: West Virginia University's Formula for Fulbright Successby Lisa DeFrank-Cole, Fulbright Program Adviser, West Virginia University
Thanks to the dedication and engagement of our committee, (two of whom are Fulbright alumni), we were able to bring an outstanding candidate through the application process to a successful outcome. Hayley, the members of our committee and the entire university community are all very happy that she will be traveling to Indonesia as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) for one year beginning this fall.
After three years of learning, my colleagues and I had developed a better understanding of what makes for a successful Fulbright applicant. Having observed reviewers reading and discussing applications at IIE, I had a strong sense of what to look for in a candidate. Hayley came to WVU from Bridgeport, West Virginia, with one of our top academic scholarships. I learned that students who received merit-based scholarships at WVU were a good pool from which to draw potential Fulbright applicants. She obtained a perfect GPA throughout her four years and has been accepted to medical school. I also learned from attending the FPA Development Initiative that, while it's not a requirement, it can be helpful for ETA candidates to have some teaching experience - especially those studying fields other than teaching. As a biology student, she was very interested in how her courses would relate to a career in medicine but also interested in pedagogy. She worked as a tutor and as a teaching assistant for one of her professors and tried new teaching techniques. Also in Hayley’s favor was her love of travel: she studied abroad for a semester in Ireland and participated in several other university-sponsored trips abroad. Her ultimate goal is to work in global healthcare.
While assisting Hayley with her application in fall 2010, I became more interested in the Fulbright opportunities available for faculty members. As Hayley was revising her essays, I remembered the description I had heard of the Fulbright Specialist grant during the FPA Development Initiative. Last December, I applied to the Fulbright Specialist Program and was notified in March that I was selected to be on the roster! 2011 has been a banner year for Fulbright in our ASPIRE office at WVU - not only for our student, but for the FPA as well.
As an advisor for competitive scholarships, I often work with students to revise essays painstakingly for national awards. Now I know, first-hand, the amount of work and emotion that goes into that process and the feeling of success in being offered such an amazing opportunity through the Fulbright Program. I appreciate that IIE hosts informational initiatives for FPAs to attend - especially for those of us at institutions, like WVU, that have not had a Fulbright Student in such a long time. The techniques I learned during the initiative in 2007 and have honed over the past several years have helped to contribute to WVU's Fulbright successes this year.
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
Applicants to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program are encouraged to visit and subscribe to the Fulbright U.S. Student Blog. It can be found on us.fulbrightonline.org under MULTIMEDIA and through the WordPress icon on the left navigation bar. 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 produce two newsletters each month:
Fulbright U.S. Student Grantee Newsletter:
Each issue will cover tips on how to assist Fulbright U.S. Student Program candidates and offers resources and best practices on how to promote the program. Click here to review past issues.Podcasts (available on iTunes)
Four types of podcasts are currently available:
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.
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.
Encourage your students to join the official Facebook Fulbright page to learn more about the Fulbright Program and connect with others. Check the Facebook Fulbright page regularly for news, events, resources and more.
The Fulbright Program is on Twitter! Students and advisers can follow us for updates at: https://twitter.com/FulbrightPrgrm.