by Rebecca Poutasse–
The Fulbright Student Program funds research, study, and teaching opportunities in 146 countries worldwide. According to the United States Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually.
The program is known to be quite selective. According to ProFellow, the total award rate for the Fulbright United States Student Grant in the 2016-17 period was 20 percent. This means that one in five applications were accepted. Global Education Office’s Fulbright Program Advisor, Betty Anderson, said the average odds of receiving a Fulbright award remain about one in five. “But that number fluctuates widely from country to country, and depends on the type of award,” Anderson explained.
The two most common awards are for research and teaching English. Anderson said there tends to be more awards available for English teaching, as it is a necessity in many countries. Conversely, the research awards are often harder to come by. “Countries determine their own research priorities based on their budget,” Anderson said. “The more robust politically and economically a country is, the more awards they will give.”
The application process is centered around the potential host country. “You’re making the argument that what you want to do will be best accomplished in that specific country,” Anderson said. “The application process is not necessarily complicated, but it is intense because there are a lot of pieces that require a fair amount of time management.” Part of Anderson’s job as a Fulbright Program Advisor is to aid Virginia Tech students and alumni in their application process.
According to Anderson, Virginia Tech beat the Fulbright Student Program’s admissions national average of one in five this year. This year, 22 Virginia Tech students/alumni applied; twelve were named semi-finalists; seven were awarded the grant, and three were named as alternates.
Libby Ebeling, a senior at Virginia Tech double majoring in Public & Urban Affairs and Spanish will travel to Mexico as an English teaching assistant. Ebeling began the Fulbright application process during the spring semester of her junior year. “I’ve always wanted to go somewhere Spanish speaking after graduating because I really want to be fluent.”
Ebeling said she looked into other opportunities abroad, such as the Peace Corps, but eventually landed on the Fulbright Student Program because of its mission. “The point of the program is to be an ambassador for the United States when I’m in Mexico, and to be an ambassador for Mexico when I’m back in the United States,” Ebeling said. “I think that is a really interesting and important position to take on given the current political relationship between the United States and Mexico.”
Fulbright English teaching assistants are also required to take on a supplementary project on the side. Ebeling plans on working with the local government, artists, and non-profits to create a mural in her host community. She says she hopes the mural will serve a source of pride for the community.
As the seven Fulbright scholars get ready to embark on a journey of a lifetime, Virginia Tech celebrates their success.
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