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 region and most competitive 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. However, there are still a few hidden gems offering opportunities for applicants with little to no foreign language skills who seek rewarding and challenging intercultural opportunities - particularly in Central and Eastern Europe.
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. Candidates should still make a strong and compelling case in their applications for why they need to go to the proposed country. Eastern Europe and Eurasia also offer multi-country grants.
European and Eurasian English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Expansion
In 2010-11, we have witnessed an exciting expansion of Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETAs) grants within existing programs as well as in new venues throughout the region. Up to two ETAs are available in Kosovo, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia. Cyprus and Ukraine have also created new programs, each welcoming two ETAs. In these new 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 2011-12 competition, we anticipate offering a similar number of grants for each of these countries in addition to potentially opening 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 20 grants for 2010-11, it is often not the best choice for some of the almost 600 students who submit applications annually. In the upcoming 2011-12 competition, the UK intends to offer 35 grants of which 20 will be exclusively for the Partnership Universities. The UK's primary attraction is the outstanding quality of the British education system. Fulbright Partnership Awards allow candidates to pursue one-year master's programs at nearly 15 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.
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 and should indicate their intention to do so in their applications.
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 with 80 research or study grants and 140 ETAs. 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. Attracted by the many opportunities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland are often overlooked by German speakers; these countries consequently receive fewer applications than one would expect.
The Netherlands has consistently increased their number of grants and special opportunities. For 2010-11, approximately 20 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 2011-12, 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.
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 2010-11, grants were also submitted in fields such as engineering, medicine and political science. All of these countries are interested in receiving more projects involving contemporary topics and more diverse fields. Candidates in professional fields and 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 50 ETA grants in 2010-11, 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. For those applicants whose projects may benefit from increased Turkish language skills, Critical Language Enhancement Awards (CLEAs) are also available for Turkish language study in Turkey either before or concurrently with the Fulbright grant.
Eastern Europe offers some of the most exciting opportunities for Fulbright applicants and 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 not needing 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 more than tripled the number of ETA awards for 2010-2011, offering a total of eleven ETA placements. For 2011-12, 10 ETA grants and four research or study grants are available. ETA placements can be at public schools as well as universities throughout the country, and candidates are encouraged to develop thoughtful complementary side projects to 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 2009-10, the Bulgarian program received four applications; this number increased to 15 in 2010-11.
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 30 ETA grants in 2010-11 over the 20 offered in 2009-10.
Candidates seeking flexibility in terms of 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 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 2009-10, one grantee split his time between Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan studying photography, and another pursued a project in political science in Azerbaijan and Georgia. 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 third consecutive year for 2011-12.
A Pedagogical Approach to English Teaching Assistantshipsby A. Scott Henderson, Director of National and International Scholarships at Furman University
This situation is frustrating because we as FPAs often feel that our implementation of general recruitment strategies should obviate the circumstances that prompt such questions. If, however, we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that emails, posters, and information sessions - while necessary - are not highly effective recruitment mechanisms. This is because students have to see how scholarship opportunities, particularly a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA), are connected to their intellectual interests and overall development.
FPAs can help potential ETA applicants identify and foster these connections by taking a more pedagogical approach to mentoring. One way to accomplish this is to concentrate on three parts of the curriculum. First, and perhaps most obvious, FPAs should focus on foreign language courses. Typically, faculty in those departments target introductory students as possible majors. If students choose a different major, faculty pay a diminished amount of attention to them. This is unfortunate. A significant number of non-majors are frequently excited by learning a language and its cultural context. This interest might be sustained if they were made aware of how it could culminate in a Fulbright ETA grant.
Another area is education. Most colleges and universities offer at least a few education courses open to all students. These courses review the foundations of teaching and learning and usually require students to participate in field experiences at local schools. Some students discover that they have an interest (maybe even an aptitude) for teaching that they would like to explore further, short of pursuing actual certification. Again, this is where the FPA can help point out the links between a student’s unfolding academic interests and an ETA.
Finally, at many institutions, physical and cultural geography courses go unnoticed because they are located in environmental science departments. Nevertheless, these courses can spark students’ curiosity about a particular world area which might also be connected to the foreign language(s) a student has studied. Thus, FPAs should develop close relationships with relevant faculty who can identify students interested in a specific country or region.
Of course the strongest Fulbright ETA applicants will demonstrate a variety of qualities, but most of these attributes cannot be cultivated overnight. FPAs can increase the number of candidates with these characteristics by taking a pedagogical approach similar to the one outlined above that seeks to connect students’ evolving intellectual growth with the goals of the Fulbright Program.
Fulbright Program Advisers in the News
The St. Petersburg Times recently published an article about how Glenn Cuomo, Suzanne Janney and Jeanne Viviani from New College of Florida advise students applying to the the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Click here to read about their formula for success.
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 currently 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:
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.
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 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.