Within Reach: How I Applied to the Fulbright Program

I remember people mentioning Fulbright to me years ago and how it seemed so far away and unattainable. But that was a long time ago. Today, I’m a Fulbright grantee living in Boston. My first piece of advice to anyone who is applying is: everything is within reach.

As soon as I started visualizing this scholarship as a goal I really wanted to reach, things began to fall into place. Sometimes, the first step is the biggest and having the right mindset and being ready for what comes next can take you places. Embrace opportunities like this and be prepared to learn from them, whether they come true or not. Although this is not the only reason to consider applying, you should apply if you, like me, think that the world can be a better place and that you’re an active part in this process. Being a Fulbrighter for me is about giving back. It’s a huge community that has strong values of sharing, altruism, and openness. I’m proud of being part of it.

Picture 1: Kayaking on the Charles River and view on Boston
Kayaking on the Charles River and view on Boston

My Fulbright application journey was long, like most grantees, because it required diligence and planning. It’s not a whim that you quickly fulfill, it’s an objective you work towards. Once I realized I wanted to live this experience, I started looking at potential host universities. I created a shortlist of professors that work on similar research topics and emailed them, presenting my dissertation. I started receiving answers; they were negative, but it was very encouraging. People read my research plans and thought they were interesting, they just didn’t have the capacity to host me. After a few rejections, an email came through asking for more details on the program, my research, and my background. I remember how my heart beat faster because it was not only a positive response, but it was from one of the most eminent researchers in my field. After a few emails and a Skype discussion, the professor agreed to be my co-supervisor. She provided valuable advice and her contribution even shaped my future research projects. My local supervisor’s support was also priceless.

On mountain top in vermont. Foliage in the background
Hiking in Vermont to admire the fall foliage

My second piece of advice: start early! You will encounter obstacles along the way. Having plenty of time to address them before moving on to the next steps of your application can be a lifesaver.

My third piece of advice: find someone to proofread your documents. We all know the feeling of being so absorbed in writing something that, at some point, we just can’t add anything to it. When you reach that point, it’s important to seek a pair of fresh eyes, and to take a break from it by working on a different project. Consider it a palate cleanse!

Pumpkin carving with another Fulbrighter for Halloween

A couple of months before the application deadline, I was nearly done with my papers and submissions. The most important one, the one where I could express myself and convey my thoughts on why I deserved the scholarship, was the motivation letter. It was probably the thing I enjoyed writing the most. It was almost a healing experience as it helped me reflect on all my past choices and how they led me to that moment and how all the pieces of the puzzle fell perfectly in place. It also allowed me to imagine how Fulbright would shape my future and hopefully the future of those around me. Again, having clear goals made this easier. I was able to project myself and combine my passions with the interests of my community and my country.

Once my application was shortlisted, I needed to conduct an interview with Fulbright in Morocco. It was a little bit nerve-wrecking, but in a positive way. It meant it was worth it. Preparing for this step meant reaffirming my convictions of why I wanted the grant and why I was a good candidate. You’ve got to believe it first before selling it to the Fulbright Committee.

Christmas tree in the Boston Common

Most importantly, enjoy this journey. It was a fun time and it helped me see what I was capable of. I learned many skills while working on my application, such as conceptual thinking and organizing my thoughts. These continue to serve me right every day of my life here in the United States. Today, I’m a visiting PhD student at Harvard School of Public Health. My favorite part about my experience this far is the warmth and the supportive people around me.

Being a Fulbrighter for me is about giving back. It’s a community that have really strong values of sharing, altruism and openness. For me, it’s based on the belief that the world can be a better place and that we all have a role to play in this process. If you have this same belief and want to grow your skills while working to enrich your home and host communities, then apply for the Fulbright Program!

Yasmine is a Moroccan Fulbrighter who is part of the Fulbright PhD Joint Supervision Program and is studying at Harvard Univesity, School of Public Health

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. To learn about Fulbright for Moroccan students, including the Joint Supervision Program for PhD Students, please visit https://macece.ma/. For more application tips and to learn more about other Fulbrighter stories, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and visit our blog, including our Year in the Fulbright Life series.



Fulbright Foreign Student Program in MENA blog. Sponsored by U.S. Dept of State. https://www.amideast.org/our-work/find-a-scholarship/graduate-study/fulbright

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