To Be a Fulbright…or Not So Bright

I’m sure you all know about the Fulbright. It’s a U.S. Government program that provides funding to teachers and scholars to teach, study and/or conduct research in all other parts of the world, spreading American joy and wisdom along the way. Putting the spreading of joy and wisdom thing aside, I would love to be a Fulbright scholar. Although the program wouldn’t provide the money for tuition (still looking for a benefactor to help me with that), it would provide enough to cover books, living expenses, and travel. Plus, I’d be in a network of smarty pants Fulbright scholars, who I imagine would become life-long friends and supporters. I’ve already got a table reserved for them at my wedding.

The funding is clearly desirable, which is why I, along with thousands of others, have had my eye on it for quite some time. When I first conceived of the idea to move to Amsterdam to study, my second thought was whether or not I could apply for a Fulbright. Could I be competitive enough? Could I come up with a genuinely interesting and compelling project? Could I even stomach the application process? So last year, with the hopes of starting school in Amsterdam right about now (I originally applied and hoped to start at the University of Amsterdam in the fall of 2010), I submitted an application for a Fulbright fellowship.

The first application (obviously) was not successful. To be fair, I had become distracted over the summer by a herniated disk in the lower part of my spine, which caused excrutiating pain and a numb right leg and foot for two months. That, among some other distractions, derailed my plan to spend two months working on my application. And although it would have been best to submit an application through my undergrad, incorporating their feedback and support, the campus deadline came and went while I was in the hospital having part of my spine removed (maybe one day I’ll share the story of the leaking spinal fluid and rush to the emergency room, which followed my surgery – but right now it would only distract you, as it did me at the time). Fortunately for me, I also had the option to apply as an “at-large” student. Sounds kind of menacing. But I was into it.

I became aware of the second deadline maybe two weeks before the date. And I mulled over whether or not it would be worthwhile to pursue at that point. So in my typical style, I left myself about 8 hours to complete my application, gather transcripts, request my recommendations (I had been in touch with professors about applying to school – so I hoped they would have something ready for me that could be copied and pasted), oh yeah and come up with an interesting project out of the ideas that had been stirring in my head for the past six months. Surprisingly, I was able to get everything in by the deadline. But, although I’m not certain, I’m pretty sure I submitted portions of it in crayon.

Now I have another chance. Having been accepted into the UvA Master’s program for 2011, I feel like I’ve been granted a pardon for my distracted ways of 2009. And this is my chance to make a real effort to make this opportunity my own. So I’m doing it right this time.

I’m almost finished with the project proposal. Well, if a jumble of paragraphs covering every thought I’ve ever had counts as almost finished. Regardless, I plan to wrap that up before this weekend ends. At that point, I will send it over to my professor friends for another round of (dreaded) recommendation requests. So I’m still on track for the campus deadline. Plus I’ve already reached out to my future academic advisor at UvA. He sent a delightful response which was very encouraging, indicating his excitement about my proposed research focus. He also referred me to a local Dutch organization, Ninsee, which could also potentially relate to my work. So in an extra bold and productive mood, I sent an email to Ninsee. You know, just trying to make some early friends. No response from them so far (it’s been less than a week). But that’s okay. Maybe they’re just playing hard to get friends. I still feel unusually inspired by this proposed study and the space that appears to be available for me to pursue it in Amsterdam. Something about all of it just feels so right. No matter where things end up with the Fulbright. And if you’re wondering what this research focus will be, please be patient with me as I continue to work through my fears of the jinx. I’ll let you know if and when it matters.

So yeah. The Fulbright. I’m really doing this. For real this time. Hopefully it’s good news. But if it’s not, at least I have practice dealing with the rejection.

2 thoughts on “To Be a Fulbright…or Not So Bright

  1. I’ve got your back 200% when you do reapply. You are in a much better place now to go for it again. You know you have a TON of support behind you for this process!


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