I am writing this blog post to share my Fulbright experience so far, which will give you an idea about the Fulbright experience I have had. If I were you, I’d start researching about Fulbright right after I read this blog!
What is the Fulbright Foreign Student Program?
It is a fully-funded scholarship program for young leaders to pursue their master’s degree in the United States. Fulbright is not just an award, it’s a lifetime experience. It’s not a goal either, but through it, I was able to come closer to my goals every single day. Fulbright is a fun, passionate, and enriching journey.
The first time I heard about Fulbright was through an email from the American University of Beirut, where I completed my bachelor’s degree in Economics. I started researching about it and decided to apply because there was no program in my country that offered a degree in International Economics. I wanted to chase my education goals, boost my self-independence, travel, and meet new people.
The application process starts with filling out an online application and submitting your documents (transcript, scores, and letters). Then, if selected, you are invited to do the GRE. Lastly, you’ll be invited for an interview. Each stage I passed successfully gave me more motivation to do my best at the next one. The interview was my favorite part because it was a discussion with the Fulbright committee who were looking for something special in the candidates. Once I finished, I felt so good because I did my best. I was happy before I knew that I was selected because I felt that the application process itself made me fully aware about my goals and how to communicate them.
Currently, I am pursuing my master’s degree in International Economics and Finance at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington D.C. I am halfway through the program, but what has happened in those 6 months are way beyond the time frame.
What does it take to get the Fulbright?
We all know the basic eligibility criteria, but what about the little tips? To begin with, I would say the basic criteria to make you a strong candidate include: Good grades, good GRE score, strong letters of recommendation, and a unique interview. If you are currently finishing a degree, do you best with your studies and give enough time to work on your Fulbright application. For the letters of recommendations, choose a professor or an employer who knows you well. Make sure your recommenders are individuals who will write letters that will make the reader feel that he or she wants to meet you.
The following tips that I will give you are simple, but sometimes we underestimate their importance. First, be authentic and be specific about your goal: you should know what you want and communicate it well to the committee. Second, think about this win-win scenario: how would Fulbright contribute to you and how would you contribute to Fulbright? How will you impact your community once you return home?
The application process and getting the award are milestones, but the experience itself is the whole journey. When you get the award, your bigger responsibility begins. But, living a full life also begins; a life filled with the best quality of education, a will to maximize self-awareness, making long-term connections, and exploring new places.
Beyond academia, being in the United States gave me the opportunity to travel. My program is just one year but has course work equivalent to two academic years with a thesis. Balancing between excelling academically, working as a research assistant, meeting new people, learning more about myself, keeping a healthy lifestyle, representing my country, and traveling has been very challenging. However, I am glad I managed to do all of this and maximize my experience in the United States.
Being away from your home and family can be emotionally as well as practically challenging, but the self-independence you gain is unbeatable. In the United States, I joined many “families,” including the Lebanese community in D.C. where I volunteered to be the officer of local events at the Lebanese Embassy, other Fulbrighters in D.C. where we enjoy gatherings and share our beautiful experiences, and my friends from my academic program, including Americans who have welcomed me into their homes. You always have the ability to find a home away from home.
Fulbright has opened my eyes to what I wanted and, specifically, how to do it. It helped me learn more about myself by the phenomenal experiences I’m living. Now, I keep setting higher and higher goals for myself. It has also given me the opportunity to pursue my dream in the field of International Economics and meet other young leaders and share our visions with each other. Once a Fulbrighter, always a Fulbrighter.
Why not give it a try? By try, I don’t mean submit a random application. I mean do your best to first know what you want and, second, follow these steps to the best of your knowledge. If not now, when? If not us, who?
Razan is a Lebanese Fulbrighter who is studying International Economics and Finance at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC. To read Razan’s story and other follow other Fulbrighters on their journey, check out our A Year in the Fulbright Life series.
You can find more information about the Fulbright Program, Fulbright Foreign Student Program and the Fulbright Program for the Middle East and North Africa on our websites. For more application tips and to learn more about other Fulbrighters, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and visit our blog.