Applying for any Fulbright can be an overwhelming process, but I imagine the open nature of the Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship specifically adds even more difficulty. My greatest overall suggestions would be to remain open, flexible and practical and to use as many different sources of help as you can. If you take one thing from this article, please MAKE SURE that the last question you ask EVERY single person you speak with is: “Who else should I speak to about this?” This will grow your network exponentially and keep you from hitting dead ends.
Choosing your host country does not have to be the first step. You can start by narrowing down what type of work you want to do, what connections you may already have and where that type of work may be most helpful. I had no prior experience in Ghana but my neighbor who had spent a few summers in Cape Coast on various grants was a perfect jumping off point for me to look into Ghana’s potential as a final destination. The more people I spoke with, the larger my network grew until it finally became the perfect place around which to craft my proposal. I tried to remain open, flexible and practical in order to make a proposal which offered the greatest chance of my success.
Do not focus on what you think Fulbright would like to hear – instead play to your strengths and to the best of your abilities. Nine months to a year may sound like a long time looking forward but it will fly by, and you do not want to take on so much that you can only finish 10 percent of a lot of different things vs. to 75-100 percent of a few. Make sure to read the award description of the Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship as well as any other information about the programs available in your host country. As with all grant writing, the closer you can answer their question directly (even re-using language from the prompts), the better chance that you have. If they are looking for a research proposal, community engagement and documentation of your work then you should make sure to include ALL three in your application.
Although I didn’t reach out to many professors from my alma mater, I found plenty of staff at the local universities who were more than willing to help and became excellent resources. West African Studies professors from schools around the country seemed to know one another and had no problem connecting me to each other. The Internet has made the world a small place and we are no longer confined to our surroundings. Be mindful of their time, of course, but I found educators at institutions everywhere more than willing to help me out within the confines of their schedule.
Finally, let as many people read your proposal as possible. The more sets of eyes, points of view and perspectives, the better. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice, but it will never hurt to hear what someone else thinks of your project proposal. If possible, get someone in the country you are applying to – be it an embassy employee, educator or anyone else in your designated field – because a project can look great from the outside but may not be what locals are looking for. Your first question to a potential host institution should not be a request for a letter of affiliation. Try to cultivate a relationship as best you can with questions, an introduction of what you hope to do and who you are first. Once you have built some rapport, then you can make an ask for something like a letter of affiliation.
This advice is based on my application process but it is just one method for success. Again, play to your strengths the best you can because you want Fulbright to select YOU and YOUR project, not your best impression of someone else. If anything I wrote is unclear or there is any way that I can help, do not hesitate to contact me at cohn13 (at) yahoo (dot) com! I hope this helps! 🙂