Laying the Groundwork for Grants & Fellowships While Abroad

Many study abroad program alumni want to go back. One way to do this is to apply for one or more of several fellowships available to graduating seniors. The opportunities most often pursued by Pitzer students are the Watson, Marshall, Fulbright, and Rotary International.

The following ideas may be useful if applying for a fellowship:

  • •   Keep a journal while abroad to jot down fellowship ideas that can be fleshed out later. You can refer back to journal entries and quote them when appropriate in your fellowship application essay. This demonstrates long-term interest and, perhaps, passion – important ingredients for successful fellowship applications.
  • •   Many students who apply for these fellowships propose to build upon their independent study projects. If this is a possibility for you, conduct your ISP with this in mind. Think about the questions you would investigate, the people you would meet, the work you would do, and the places you would go if you were able to return for a full year. Write these ideas into your ISP paper and your fellowship essay will be half written.
  • •   When applying for a fellowship, your ability to demonstrate relationships with and support from host-country institutions and individuals will strengthen your application. The most important thing you can do is to develop contacts while you are abroad. Cultivate relationships with host-nationals and organizations in the field you wish to pursue with a fellowship. Discuss your ideas with them. Ask them for advice to get them invested in your project.
  • •   Get specific and accurate contact information for people and their institutions (phone numbers, fax number, email addresses, official titles, etc.). Ask them before you leave if they would be willing to support and or recommend you for a fellowship. If you are in a country where communication is slow, consider asking for a recommendation letter before you leave to avoid the frustration of trying to meet a deadline while waiting for recommendations from far away. Your mentor may have travel plans of their own and may not be easily reached when you need them. Keep in touch with your contacts. Send a thank you message as soon as you return home.
  • •   When appropriate, and if communications permit, allow host-culture contacts to help you with your proposal. If they feel involved in the planning stage, they may offer stronger support.
  • •   While you are still abroad, visit local institutions that sponsor specific fellowship recipients. Fulbright representatives and Rotary International members are often very willing to discuss your ideas and fellowship possibilities with you. Six months later when a bunch of applications come across their desk, yours may be the only one with a face associated with it. That may make all the difference.
  • •   When you return to the US, it is also a good idea to do follow up research on the country from which you have just returned. You have likely had a life changing experience and learned much about your host culture but there are many recognized scholars who should be consulted to deepen your understanding. Find out who is the leading authority and read some of their works. Don’t rely on only your own perspective about the culture; test it out by reading further works.
  • •   Sign up for the International/Intercultural Studies Colloquium (IIS 100). This course is open to students returning from abroad and will assist you in extending and enhancing the knowledge and skills you developed on your experience abroad. As part of the course, you will be strongly encouraged to apply for a post graduate grant or fellowship. The work of applying for one of these grants or fellowships will be part of your coursework and not something you need to do in addition to a full load of courses.
  • •   Think about applying to as many fellowships as possible. This can only increase your chances. You may choose to try out more than one idea or use the same idea (and essay) for more than one fellowship application.

More information about available grants and fellowships is available here.