Studying abroad in Barbados my junior year of college spurred my decision to apply to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a fellowship that provides grants for study and research projects. Because of my parents’ Caribbean background, I found a passion for Caribbean literature that I wanted to pursue outside of the classroom.
As a result, I viewed studying at the University of West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill as a way to get out of an academic environment that focused on Western writers in exchange for classrooms that instead focused on texts reflecting my parents’ realities as West Indian immigrants.
Fortunately, I received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a grant that allows students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad. This made studying abroad in Barbados for a semester financially possible.
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In one of my courses at UWI — specifically a course called “Caribbean Women Writers” — I was introduced to Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring.
It was this text that prompted my fascination with Caribbean sci-fi and speculative fiction.
As I began independent research on Caribbean sci-fi outside of my classes, I discovered that while African-American science fiction has increasingly received scholarly attention, the vast field of Caribbean science fiction has not garnered the level of interest it deserves.
Consequently, many Caribbean sci-fi writers are not included in classrooms, despite the value their work contributes to the field of science fiction — a field that has historically excluded Black characters and Black-oriented themes.
Deciding to Become a Fulbright Scholar
Because of my passion for the genre, as well as my intention to one day go into academia, I realized that Fulbright would be the perfect opportunity to further develop the field of Caribbean sci-fi, specifically through research in collaboration with UWI.
Although I minored in education and was, therefore, interested in applying to the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program — which places grantees in schools to supplement local English language instruction — my desire to return to Barbados, as well as to pursue my interest in Caribbean sci-fi, ultimately led me to apply to the Fulbright Study/Research Award.
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Even before studying abroad, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program was on my radar because I attended Haverford College.
Haverford has repeatedly been named one of the places that have produced the most Fulbright recipients among a list of American institutions.
Every year since entering Haverford, I became accustomed to seeing articles published about Haverfordians who applied for and received the prestigious Fulbright fellowship.
Because I was determined since high school to study abroad, I figured I should consider all opportunities to be funded to work or study internationally. As a result, I also considered the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. This fellowship funds a year of independent exploration and international travel to students straight out of college.
However, after an information session held about the Watson at my school, where an emphasis was made on the fellowship not being an academic endeavor, I knew that applying to a Fulbright program was the option that would allow me to undergo research I intended to continue in a Ph.D. program in the near future.
Preparing to Apply for a Fulbright Award
One of the reasons I did not fully commit to the idea of applying to Fulbright earlier in my undergraduate career was the competitiveness of the fellowship.
There was no GPA cutoff per se, but in various emails, the Fulbright adviser at my school emphasized the GPA “norm” for each award (3.75 for the research grant and 3.4 and above for the ETA).
My initial reservations were confirmed during my Fulbright Pre-Departure Orientation this past summer when we were told that the 2019–2020 acceptance rate was about 20 percent. More specifically, 2,200 Fulbright grants were awarded from 10,435 applications.
Because of how competitive the Fulbright award is, during my time abroad, I started meeting with faculty at UWI about potential collaboration, as well as reaching out to alumni from my school who received the Fulbright. I also began working on the materials for my application early.
According to my Fulbright adviser, a successful candidate cannot just be “academically accomplished,” but must also “be committed to the demanding process that results in a credible application.”
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Going Through the Fulbright Application Process
My subsequent summer showed me just how demanding this process is. I had bi-weekly Skype calls with my Fulbright advisor, and every sentence I wrote for both essays arguably required intense attention to detail.
By the end of the process, I went through seven drafts for my personal statement and research proposal.
Both the writing process for my application and the research I conducted beforehand were extremely helpful. For instance, I had several meetings with faculty both at UWI and Haverford, read a ton of scholarly articles related to my proposed project, and even tracked down the current Fulbrighters in Barbados while I was abroad to seek their advice on my essays.
And by the time I was ready to submit in October, several eyes had looked over my application materials. These included professors at Haverford and UWI, the Fulbright committee at my school, mentors, family, and several friends. I formally applied on October 5, and a year later, I started my Fulbright grant on that exact date. (This was a total coincidence.)
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How My Fulbright Grant Works
My Fulbright grant will provide a living stipend (exactly $28,000) for 10 months, during which I will write up reports about my research and Fulbright experience. I will work closely with professors in UWI’s Department of Linguistics, Language, & Literature, as well as a local sci-fi writer who spearheaded a digital archive on Caribbean sci-fi and speculative fiction.
When I’m not collaborating with others on my research, I will help run writing clinics in the community for people of all ages and abilities in association with UWI and the National Cultural Foundation (NFC). Given my experience working in the Writer Center at Hunter College as an undergraduate, I intend to work with different age groups in various areas of writing, such as grammar, prose, poetry, and literacy skills.
While I’m not required to submit a formal product at the end of my Fulbright, I hope to demonstrate what I have accomplished during my grant period through academic articles, as well as through the development of UWI’s Black sci-fi course.
What I Hope to Accomplish
Not only am I excited to begin research on Caribbean sci-fi, but I’m also looking forward to learning more about my Caribbean background. Studying abroad in the Caribbean made me realize how American I am, given my difficulty with navigating the island without my family, as well as with understanding accents and cultural references around me.
Because I intend to teach Caribbean literature as a professor one day, I reminded myself that to truthfully represent the region, as well as its literature, I needed to confront my insufficient knowledge of Caribbean culture and history.
Therefore, I view returning to Barbados not only as an experience of academic enrichment, but also as an opportunity for personal growth.
Personally, when I started college with the intention to study English, I wondered what career opportunities were possible outside of teaching, which most people assumed to be English majors’ only route. While I, of course, have the intention to teach in higher education one day, I am grateful to have received the Fulbright Fellowship as an enriching experience to my professional goals.
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Awards You Can Apply for Through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program
Here is a list of similar Fulbright fellowships and scholarships that you can apply to as a liberal arts student.
1. Fulbright Scholar Program
- Provides funding to bachelor of arts and science graduates, master’s and doctoral candidates, and young professionals and artists. Intended for those who wish to research, study, or teach English in a foreign country for one academic year.
- To apply: Materials vary by the type of application or grant, but more generally, you need to submit recommendations letters, a personal statement, a statement of purpose, official transcripts, foreign language forms (if applicable), and a letter of affiliation from an educational institution or other sponsoring entity in the host country (if you’re a Study/Research Award applicant). Certain countries require interviews for applicants who make it through the first round of applications.
- Deadline: Usually early October. This year, the deadline was October 8.
2. Rhodes Scholarship
- Provides students two to three years of study at Oxford University, where students can pursue a graduate or undergraduate degree in any subject offered.
- To apply: Applicants must provide proof of citizenship, a certified transcript, a list of principal activities, a professional headshot, the endorsement of the applicant’s college or university, at least five letters of recommendation, and a personal statement not exceeding 1,000 words. Applicants should also be prepared to attend a reception and personal interview.
- Deadline: The first Wednesday of October each year.
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3. Luce Scholarship
- Luce scholars live and work throughout Northeast, Southeast, and South Asia in diverse fields such as public health, the arts, economic development, environmental science, and more. Scholars are usually associated with NGOs, government agencies, private companies, universities, think tanks, and museums.
- To apply: You must attend one of the 75 colleges and universities invited to participate in the Luce Scholars Program. Each institution may submit three nominations for each year’s competition. Applicants must submit a personal statement, four letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, and a headshot.
- Deadline: Each campus will establish an internal application deadline (usually in early or mid-October). Each nominating institution will then make its nominations no later than November 1.
4. James Madison Memorial Fellowship
- Offers $24,000 to college seniors and college graduates who intend to become future and secondary school teachers of American history, American government, or social studies of grades 7 through 12. The fellowship offers one fellowship per state per year.
- To apply: Register online, complete the application (includes brief essays throughout), upload transcripts, and submit letters of recommendation (up to three recommenders).
- Deadline: For the current application cycle, it’s 5 p.m. CST on March 1, 2020.
5. Marshall Scholarships
- Finances up to 50 Americans each year to study at the graduate level at a U.K. institution in any field of study.
- To apply: Candidates submit the form through an online system to their undergraduate institution. That institution then decides whether or not to endorse the candidate. If it endorses the applicant, the institution will add the letter of endorsement and submit it through the system. The criteria for each application are outlined online.
- Deadline: This past year’s application cycle was September 30 internally and then October 3 by the endorsing institution to the appropriate regional committee.
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6. Thomas J. Watson Fellowship
- Provides a one-year grant ($36,000) for independent exploration outside the United States. Fellows travel to several parts of the world to execute original projects of deep interest.
- To apply: Only partner colleges can nominate students. Complete the campus selection process and application, including a personal statement and project proposal. Submit two letters of recommendation and transcripts.
- Deadline: Internal deadlines may vary, but the national selection process begins in November.
7. The Harry S. Truman Scholarship
- Provides $3,000 for the final year of undergraduate study and up to $27,000 for the first three years of graduate study for current juniors interested in a career in public service.
- To apply: The Truman Scholarship website has a list of general criteria to consider before applying, which I highly recommend reading before deciding to apply. All candidates must be nominated by their institution. (Check out the faculty rep locator.) Applications include the application form, policy proposal, three letters of recommendation, and a transcript. If selected as a finalist, candidates are required to attend interviews held by regional review panels.
- Deadline: Due by 11:59 PM in your time zone on the first Tuesday in February.
8. Princeton in Asia
- Sponsors internships to college graduates to serve in education, health, international development, environmental advocacy, journalism, engineering, technology, law, and business.
- To apply: Submit one completed application form, three completed essays, one short video, one letter of recommendation, one additional reference, one unofficial transcript (if selected for an interview, applicants will be expected to submit an official transcript), a résumé, and a U.S. passport-sized headshot. Note that there is an application fee ($60) and a fellow contribution ($550). Also, if selected for an interview, applicants are expected to pay for transportation and housing expenses, as well as round-trip transportation (if selected) for most positions.
- Deadline: For this past application cycle, it was October 31 by 12 pm EDT.
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9. Princeton in Latin America
- Places college graduates in yearlong service fellowships with nonprofit, public service, humanitarian, and government institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- To apply: Submit a résumé, unofficial and/or official transcript(s), a professional or academic letter of recommendation, a language letter of recommendation, and a completed online application. Candidates must also pay the $100 application fee. If invited, availability for an interview is also required.
- Deadline: For this past application cycle, it was November 8, 11:59 pm EDT.
10. Princeton in Africa
- Matches college graduates with organizations working across Africa for yearlong service placements. Past fellows have helped improve education, enhance public health, source fresh water, and provide alternative energy, as well as increase family incomes.
- To apply: Submit a résumé, unofficial and/or official transcript(s), a letter of recommendation, and a completed online application. Applicants must also pay the $75 application fee. If invited, availability for an interview is also required.
- Deadline: For this past application cycle, it was October 30, 11:59 pm EDT.
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