Advice for getting a Fulbright scholarship
Disclaimer: This is just my experience on the Fulbright process. This might vary between specialties, countries and backgrounds. Good luck!
During the 2021-2022 academic year I spent a year at Stanford University with a Fulbright predoctoral scholarship from the Fulbright Spanish commission. I have been asked for advice from different people to apply for the scholarships, what is important to highlight in the project proposal and advice for the interview process. Here I am going to explain what are, for me, the most important aspects of the application process. The advice is specifically for predoctoral students that are applying for a research stay, this might differ from people applying to other categories inside the Fulbright scholarships.
Have a specific goal
Why do you want to go to the US? It sounds super cool to spend between six and twelve months researching in the US, but that’s not enough. There must be a reason why you specifically want to go to that university.
Maybe they have some equipment that can be super useful for your thesis, or they are the pioneers of a technique that you are using. Whatever it is, it needs to be highlighted in your project proposal, and also during the interview process. Without a clear research stay goal, your application is going to be less interesting for the Fulbright commission.
Choose wisely the USA supervisor
One question that might arise during the interview process is why you want to do a research stay with that specific professor. You need to have in mind why that person can be crucial for your thesis. Maybe he is a well-known researcher from your area and can provide you with insightful resources and research ideas. He might be an expert on a specific technique that is vital for your thesis. Whatever it is, have a clear answer if you are asked about that.
It might be also useful to have a prior relationship with your USA supervisor, but this is not crucial. In my case I started the interaction by sending a cold email, so don’t hesitate to do that!
The impact after your return
Fulbright is a bilateral program. You go to the US and then you return to your home country with a bag full of experiences. They are expending a lot of money so you can stay there (A TON in the case of Stanford!), so they want to be sure that you are going to make good use of it.
How is this research experience going to affect your country/city/community once you are back? This sounds like a very “American” question, but I think is one of the key aspects of your project proposal’s explanation during the interview. You might want to apply all the knowledge that you acquire during your stay at your home university, starting new research lines. Maybe you want to start a new company in your city with the techniques that you are going to learn. You need to show you have a plan after your return that positively affect your home country, and improves it somehow.
Make it fun!
The jury is going to evaluate a ton of students during the whole day, so they can be quite tired when it’s your turn to shine. In addition, they don’t have to be experts in your area of research, so they don’t have to necessarily know what “artificial neural networks” are.
Therefore, make it fun! Explain everything in simple terms, use analogies to explain the most complicated ideas, and try to use different rhythms during the presentation. You have only a few minutes, so make the most out of them.
Even though they might sound like a few aspects, I think they are the most important ones for the scholarship. Fulbright is an amazing opportunity to learn about how research is done abroad, to meet cool people, and to have amazing experiences (visit all the nature in the US, it’s amazing!). Good luck with the process!