At this point, you’ve probably already settled on your country and project. Your application will be strongest if you’ve already made some kind of connection to your proposed host country—through a previous visit, research from afar, language study, or even having friends who grew up there. And similarly, your project will be the most convincing if it reflects some part of who you are and is consistent with your academic and professional aspirations.
To improve your proposal, try to familiarize yourself with everything related to your subject. Go beyond reading academic articles on the country you’ve chosen. Locate music journalists by checking the culture sections of local newspapers online, follow relevant people and venues on social media, browse YouTube for music videos and informal clips of performances, and meet with people who have lived in the host country.
Unless you already have many connections in your host country, describe some steps you’ll take to gain them. You can seek the help of professors and colleagues at your home institution and at other U.S. institutions, visit cultural centers or attend meetings for international students from the country you’re interested in. When your travel date is close, you can contact professors or other contacts you’d like to meet with in your host country.
Try to keep your proposal accessible to non-academics, even as you demonstrate your academic preparedness to undertake the research. One way to do this is to seek verbal feedback from several friends or family members outside of your field. Explain your project in detail (from memory), and then its personal importance to you. Take note when they ask for clarification or seem unconvinced—it may indicate an area that also needs further explanation in your written proposal.
Include specific examples in your proposal when possible. If you plan to document a particular genre, or research a variety of genres in a particular community, show your readers that you have located relevant examples—YouTube clips, lyrics, and names of musicians and organizations.
If you don’t have the photo, audio, film, or editing skills you’ll need to contribute Fulbright-mtvU blog entries with videos, podcasts, etc., include a plan for how you will gain those skills before you depart, as well as how you will locate follow-up support once you start your Fellowship. If you feel confused about what skills you’ll need, look at what you’re proposing in your application and do some practice documentation using equipment you already have – even if it’s just your cell phone. Record an interview with your roommate and write it up, or edit it into an audio or video clip. Or edit some film that you’ve taken of your friend’s band. This experimentation will help you figure out how you’d like to present things in your blog entries.
Finally, keep in mind that engaging with your community effectively will require learning from others and being flexible. Plan various ways to contribute or to inspire the interest of your community, so that you are well-equipped when some forms of engagement don’t work.