By Andrea Swiedom Contributing Writer
Countless times I have made the mistake of asking seniors what their plan is after they graduate. Usually there’s an eyeroll and a sarcastic remark like, “Oh, I love that question.” So here’s an idea for those who are unsure what comes after UMF: an all-expenses paid year abroad.
Recently, Professor Anne Marie Wolf, UMF’s Fulbright Program Adviser, presented information on the Fulbright Award. This postgraduate opportunity is available to baccalaureates up until they receive their doctorate to teach English or conduct independent research abroad for nine to twelve months. Awardees are provided a living stipend, a roundtrip ticket, medical insurance and in some cases, funding to attend a masters program.
The Fulbright looks prestigious on resumes and graduate school applications, but according to Wolf, the major benefit is, “You get to live in another culture and learn y’know, how other people see us, see life, how they kind of go about their daily lives.”
Sarah Gould, a UMF alumna, was a 2017 Fulbright teaching assistant in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. She spent the 20 required hours a week co-teaching English in classrooms at the National University of Mongolia. Gould also pursued extracurricular activities such as riding horses in the Mongolian Steppe and taking a sunset camel ride in the Gobi desert.
While she expressed cultural and climate shock– temperatures in Mongolia can reach -45 degrees C. “Stepping off the plane in Boston [upon returning], I was flooded with this feeling that I had accomplished a challenge that during the year seemed impossible,” said Gould in an email.
This may be one of the most influential side effects from the Fulbright–the scope of impossibility narrows. Gould is now pursuing a degree in International Migration with a specialization in Human Rights Law at the Brussels School of International Studies.
The research award requires applicants to pose a question that they plan to investigate an answer to while abroad. This is not as intimidating as it sounds since the proposal is a mere two pages.
“They don’t expect these projects to produce groundbreaking research that saves humanity,” said Wolf. “But they want you to have some kind of goal and curiosity that you’ll be pursuing over there.”
Although the number of annual UMF applicants is usually no higher than three, the university has an impressive acceptance rate. There have been seven students in the past four years who have received the award to countries such as Spain and Thailand. Despite these promising numbers, only three people,myself included, showed up to Wolf’s Fulbright presentation.
Perhaps students automatically assume they are underqualified, but as Wolf adapted to our small group and perched herself on a table close to us, she spoke candidly about the award’s misperceptions. The teaching assistant award does not require applicants to be education majors, they just need to demonstrate some inclination towards teaching such as tutoring.
Nor does the Fulbright require a 4.0 GPA. Wolf explained that applicants just need to show good academic standing. This reminded me of my Spanish professor, Steven Wenz, who has expressed his regret for not applying for the Fulbright before going into a doctorate program. The stereotypes associated with the award prevented Wenz from ever trying. “I saw it as something almost mythic…like somehow you had to be a genius to get a Fulbright,” said Wenz.
By the end of Wolf’s presentation, I was convinced more students at UMF could successfully apply for a Fulbright Award. Don’t feel as though this opportunity is out of reach. Besides, it’s a lot more fun feeling freaked out about your future in a foreign country.
Contact Professor Anne Marie Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.