Application Tips from Kalliopi Kefalas

My name is Kalliopi Kefalas, and I am a third year student in the history department studying crime and policing in Late Ottoman Crete with the guidance of Professor Thomas Gallant. I applied for the Fulbright research grant last year at the end of June right before leaving for Crete to gather more preliminary data for my research. The Fulbright had been on my mind for quite some time before then, as a few of my colleagues had received it and it made me begin considering my funding for my long research trip the following year. I had just completed my second research paper of graduate school and had decided that the topic I had written on was something worth pursuing for my dissertation. However, it was clear that digitized Cretan newspapers were not going to be enough. I needed access to materials that were not available online, and that were possibly not even listed in the digital catalogue yet.

As I mentioned, I contacted the graduate Fulbright advisor, Zoe Ziliak Michel, and began applying at the end of June. For me, this was enough time to write a few drafts of my proposal and personal statement, get in touch with my affiliate at the University of Crete, schedule and take my language proficiency exam, and ask for letters of recommendation. Some of my other colleagues applying for the grant started even earlier and attended a few informational sessions, many of which I did not go to. Thus, my two most important pieces of advice would be to start the process of applying early – at the very latest in June – and to attend the information sessions. Because I didn’t go to many of these, I ended up asking Zoe many questions that could have been answered during these meetings. The one I did go to I attended via google hangouts while I was in Athens. That is my third piece of advice – try to budget your time for research and anything related to the Fulbright application evenly. Because I was in Greece conducting research last summer and traveling quite a bit, it was difficult to manage the time I spent on the application. While it’s important to devote time to the application, give yourself some time to step away from it. That way, it will be much easier to edit your proposal and see where the problems lie or what parts of it are unclear. One way to do this, again, is to start early to actually have the luxury of having time to step away, read it with fresh eyes, and also allow Zoe enough time to give you several rounds of feedback.

In addition to editing and seeking feedback from Zoe and others, a successful application depends on standing out. This can be done in a variety of ways, but I found that starting and ending strongly was probably what made my application strong. I started my first paragraph with a statement that gave a sense of my project in its broadest terms and its wider importance. I then spent some time (and space) carefully laying out what has already been researched on the topic and some of the current relevant issues in it. Immediately after this, I asked my research questions and then tried to answer them with what I already knew from secondary scholarly literature or from reading primary sources. The point of the proposal isn’t to have a good hypothesis or a thorough analysis of your data already, although these can definitely help; it is to ask important and well-constructed research questions. Finally, while the grant advisor and other people will give you good advice, ultimately, YOU will know whether something sounds right or not. The night before the due date, I took a look at my proposal, which Zoe had approved, and reorganized it. Even though everybody had said it looked good, I knew it could be even better.

After hearing back from the foundation and, fortunately, being awarded, I set out almost immediately to gather information on obtaining a visa. Criteria vary from country to country, but make sure you learn what they are early. I, for instance, have to get a criminal background check from the FBI, which in itself requires getting fingerprints and other things, to get my visa for Greece. If this is the case for you as well, note that the FBI does not accept livescan fingerprinting, but an actual fingerprint card only, and not many police stations give these out. Also make sure to look online for their hours, since some are not open on all weekdays from 9-5 pm. Because I have not gotten very far in this process, this is the only advice I can provide on this issue. Otherwise, if you do get a Fulbright, read the acceptance letter carefully for paperwork instructions and deadlines and mark these down somewhere where you will look daily. I very nearly missed them due to not doing this. Good luck!

Introduction to Ben Smuin, Soon to Head to Turkey

Greetings from Nantes, France. I’m Ben Smuin, a 4th year PhD candidate in the Department of History and a recent recipient of a Fulbright for Turkey. My research focuses on the writing, circulation, and reception of petitions as a form of citizenship practice in Syria during the last decades of the Ottoman Empire and the first decades of the French Mandate.

Since sources in Syria are inaccessible at the moment, the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul (as well as other archives here in France and Geneva) have become the location of my dissertation research. In fact, I decided to apply for the Turkey Fulbright rather late in the game and only started studying Turkish in the summer of 2014 (I owe it to Zoe to encourage you NOT to make the mistake of waiting until the last minute to apply). If I have one suggestion about the entire application process, it’s to make sure you give yourself enough time to not only complete the application, but to completely ignore it for at least a week. I think Suzanne’s earlier post brings up some good points about writing the parts of the application, but I’ll add that the process of trimming down what might be a 10-15 page prospectus to a two page document can be infuriating, discouraging, and downright awful. Nevertheless, it’s good practice.

Robert’s post below also covers something I think is incredibly important, namely making sure you tailor your application to your audience. Remember that even though the first round of review is completed in the US, the second, and ultimately final decision, is made by representatives of your potential host country. These individuals have likely read thousands of applications over the years, all of which propose interesting and significant projects. Your statements should sell you as an individual first, your project second. Why should this commission select you? Sure you have interesting research plans, but so does everyone else. Most Fulbright applicants have already lived and studied in their potential host countries, so try to show how your presence in the program will benefit not only your research, but also your fellow Fulbrighters and, more importantly, the host community. Finally, don’t be afraid to make your personal statement personal. Cheesy personal stories aren’t always a bad thing.

So far, all I’ve done is make a few medical appointments and sign some paperwork. When I return from France I’ll begin the visa process, and the Turkish Fulbright Commission has been incredibly helpful in making this process as easy as possible. I’ll gladly post any other recommendations I have as the process continues.

Introduction and Application Tips from Robert Terrell, Grantee to Germany

Hello UCSD Fulbright applicants! My name is Robert Terrell, and I am a fourth year graduate student in history and a Fulbright recipient for Germany.

My dissertation is about Bavarian beer in the decades following the Second World War. I am following the history of production and consumption from the wreckage of the war and extreme caloric scarcity through the economic boom, the subsequent social and cultural transformations of West German society, and on to the export of beer and the globalization of a particularly (or stereotypically) “German” mode of consumption around the world. I’m trying to speak to a number of debates and historical issues including the political and ideological legacies of National Socialism (Nazism), the nutrition policies of the Allied Occupation; the so-called Economic Miracle; debates about Americanization, Westernization, and European integration in the context of the Cold War; and the many questions around consumerism in late 20th century globalization.

I delayed my grant by a few months for a variety of reasons and have been in Munich since January 2015. My grant will carry me into November. Research has been overwhelming but good. Now a few months in, I feel much more in command of the archives, but it will probably always be a bit overwhelming.

Living in Munich has been fun, but on a practical level it’s also tough. I would advise all applicants and grantees to spend some time getting to know the local housing market. Germany, and Munich especially, is very tough and very expensive. If you get a grant, be sure to contact your respective handlers (I’m not sure what they’re normally called, but here it’s just called the German Fulbright Commission) and see about additional funding for housing. In Germany, they will subsidize your rent a little if it goes over a certain percentage of your income. That’s especially nice somewhere as expensive as Munich.

In general the Fulbright has been very good to me. They let me delay the grant, and they were quick in answering questions of all sorts from health insurance to residence issues to university matriculation. Once I handled all the bureaucratic business of living and working here (which is always a hassle but not the end of the world) receipt of payment was easy and straightforward.

As for applying, write statement drafts way in advance and then ignore them for a while to get a fresh perspective. Above all, I would say to be mindful of your audience. Your application has to go through a number of stages, and at each one the audience is different. Writing for multiple audiences is hard, especially in such a short application. But do the best you can to make your project description as specific yet accessible as possible, and be earnest in your personal statement. I think my personal statement actually really helped me distill my personal motivations in some interesting ways. And I think that probably translated. Avoid the clichés and write honestly. The committees probably won’t remember your name. Give them something else to remember you by.

My best advice for whenever and however you get wherever you’re going is to be mobile! I’ve tried to make a point of taking adventures as often as possible, some small, some large. I bought a bike, which has made my world infinitely better. I went to visit a fellow UCSD grad student in Croatia, I went hiking in the Alps, I visited the historic city of Regensburg, and I’m going to London in a few days for a conference and visit. I’m planning to do a lot more travel and I recommend it. The benefit of being almost anywhere outside of the US is that it’s not hard to go yet somewhere else!

I’ve sent along some pictures as well. The first is looking out on the chalk cliffs of Rügen Island on the Baltic Sea, made famous by the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. The second is Munich’s famous Rathausglockenspiel in the center of the old city. The third is the interior of a Catholic church in Zagreb, Croatia; pretty standard as European Catholic cathedrals go, but beautiful. Rugen


Application Tips from Suzanne Dunai, Recipient of Research Grant to Spain

Hi! My name is Suzanne Dunai and I am a PhD student in the History Department at UCSD. I was awarded the Fulbright to Spain for the 2015-2016 academic year so that I can perform the research necessary for my dissertation on food culture and food politics during the years of rationing in Spain(1939-1952). This was my second application to the Fulbright grant (my first application was rejected in the first round last application cycle), so I strongly encourage you to keep applying and refining your application as long as you are eligible for the grant.

Because of my experience in having both one unsuccessful and one successful grant, I want to share some of the things that I learned in the process. First and foremost, have as many people read your statement of purpose and personal statement as possible. They don’t have to be in your field or department. In fact, it is better to find people with different backgrounds to read your grant application because the grant committees can be diverse. This is especially true if you have to translate your grant to another language. [Comment from FPA: Spain requires applicants to submit their statements in both English and Spanish.] Second, save enough time before the submission deadline to ensure that you have the proper page formatting. Every line counts in the grant application, so do not wait until the final draft to write your heading. By my final draft, I was making revisions based on the number of letters in each word to keep my draft within the page limit.

Thirdly, what is important is that your research goals are very narrow and very polished. Remember that the Fulbright does not have to encompass all of your dissertation work, so there is no need to include ALL theory, sources, archives, etc., in the application. For my successful application, I narrowed the scope of my application to one city instead of three. While my dissertation will still include archival materials for a larger project, I only presented the most precise elements of my research in the application, which helped with clarifying my research goals for the grant and for my project. The statement of purpose should present a cohesive project which is obtainable in the time/financial allotment of Fulbright. In the end, it is the coherent project that gets funded, not the exhaustive. This also applies to the content of your proposal. Make sure that your application doesn’t favor theory to the extent that your own intervention is lost, and you do not want to present too many lists of sources or archives in your statement as this consumes space without providing interest in you as a candidate.

Finally, one major change that I made between my first application and my second is that I included the presentation of my initial research at a conference in Spain near the end of the academic year. I explained in the “country participation” section that I was going to apply to present my initial findings at a conference for young scholars in my field so I could further develop my project and academic network. This addition might have shown greater purpose or academic motivation for my dissertation, or perhaps it did not help or hurt my application at all. Unfortunately, we do not receive comments on our applications, so my thoughts are just speculative.

I hope my reflections on the Fulbright appliction help. Good luck!

US Student Fulbright Program Info Session May 12

Edit: Please click here to RSVP.

The US Student Fulbright Program allows graduate students and recent bachelor’s graduates to go abroad to one of more than 155 foreign countries to conduct research or teach English.  Interested students are encouraged to attend the information session below.  Interested students who cannot attend the information session should contact me individually at

US Student Fulbright Program Information Session

Tuesday, May 12
4:30-6:30 PM
Student Services Center (SSC)

Multi-Purpose Room


Zoe Ziliak Michel

UCSD Fulbright Program Adviser
Foster Chamberlain
Fulbright Fellow to Spain

Sarika Talve-Goodman
Fulbright Fellow to Israel

Come learn about the US Student Fulbright Program, which sends Americans to more than 155 countries to conduct research, complete an arts project, or teach English!

Undergraduates, grad students, and faculty are all encouraged to attend.

Questions?  Contact Zoe Ziliak Michel at

Introduction to Edward Falk, About to Start Research Grant in Turkey

In a rapidly shrinking field of education funding in the United States, the U.S. Student Fulbright Program stands out in its longevity and support. Though I’ve yet to begin my Fulbright research, thanks to a different fellowship that has allowed me to conduct archival research in Lebanon before I start my Turkish Fulbright, I can comment on the application process and pitfalls that I’ve encountered along the way.

I first considered applying for a Fulbright as an undergraduate at Carleton College, where I had begun studying Arabic and became interested in Syrian history. At that time, a Fulbright was still offered in Syria. However, after months of research, it became clear that without making contact with a Syrian university and academics there, this would not be in the offing. However, working in the Middle East after college had only made me keener to continue my studies and conduct further research.

After beginning in the PhD program in history at UC San Diego, the events of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ led me to refocus my project, as slaughtering sacred cows of nationalism becomes a difficult effort indeed during times of political unrest. By focusing on the position of Syria and Lebanon in the Ottoman Empire, I was able to ask many of the same questions, while hopefully finding the answers in Istanbul rather than Damascus.

So at the end of my first year of graduate school, I went to Izmir, Turkey, to study Turkish in the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program.

This program, also run out of the Department of State [like the Fulbright], is an extraordinary opportunity to intensively study languages in the Middle East, Central Asia, and East Asia, including languages like Turkish, Azeri, Punjabi, and Urdu that aren’t widely taught at American universities. While it was created during the Bush Administration to train students for the Foreign Service, military, or similar careers, it’s actually filled with graduate students and thoughtful undergraduates who are more curious about the world than intelligence positions. [Note from FPA: Please don’t take this as a criticism of careers in the Foreign Service! I think that’s a wonderful career path as well.]

In any case, this program provides an excellent springboard for the Fulbright, as it allows potential research applicants to make contacts with academics in their country of study, while Fulbright ETA applicants’ personal connections in the country can strengthen their applications as well. Finally, it’s run from the same bureau at the Department of State, so CLS alumni definitely stand out in that regard. In my own experience, at least 30% of my CLS Turkish classmates in 2011 and 2012 went on to receive either Fulbright research or ETA grants.

The path to a dissertation and research funding is rarely a direct one, as I can attest with my many stops, starts and detours.

Ultimately, though, it’s a rare opportunity to learn for a living, one that shouldn’t be passed up.

Ted in Ankara

Edward at Ataturk’s tomb during his second CLS trip

Ted former archives

The former home of the Ottoman Archives, where Edward conducted preliminary research in 2011

Update from Casey McCoy – What Else do Fulbrighters Get to Do?

Two months remain on my Fulbright grant period in Vienna, Austria. It is hard to believe how quickly the time has passed! In my previous post I noted the value in having so much freedom as a research grantee to work on my research and pursue my interests, both at the university with which I am affiliated and elsewhere. In this post I would like to share some information on some of the other kinds of opportunities that the Fulbright program affords.

Besides the intrinsic benefits of the many events and activities here in Vienna, they have also served to introduce me to the scholarly community across Europe such that I have had the chance to travel to nearby countries to present my own work.

The first weekend I was in Austria I attended a workshop at the university and met a scholar who works in Bratislava, Slovakia (a short 45 minute train trip down the Danube from Vienna!). A few months later, after his kind invitation, I was attending and presenting my research at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, getting to know scholars from across the Czech Republic and Slovakia who were in attendance, and enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the organizers and Bratislava!

Recent appointments at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, have led to the creation of a strong center of research in my field. My local advisor spends part of his time in Munich (a five hour train ride from Vienna) and extended an invitation to me to spend a week meeting the locals (and some old friends!) in January. Although I couldn’t be sneaked into the busy schedule of lectures and workshops at the center, I did have an enjoyable week listening to the great talks, chatting over dinner or the famous Munich brews, and taking a memorable stroll through the famous English Garden with new and old friends.

Most recently, the Austrian-American Fulbright Commission hosted their annual Seminar in American Studies, this year held in Strobl, Austria in the Salzkammergut (the Austria “Lake District”) for the first time. Fulbrighters from the U.S. and from Austria gathered together to hear lectures by some of the U.S. Scholars (professors on Fulbright grants) on topics ranging from Gender in Education and Society to Food in American Culture to The American Theme Park Industry. There was also time for the Americans and Austrians to join together in breakout discussion sessions to discuss transatlanticism, food practices in the U.S. and Austria, and others. It was a great time for “promoting mutual understanding!”

These have been great experiences for me personally, and I think give a good glimpse of what kinds of opportunities can arise during a Fulbright research grant (especially in Europe). I look forward to continuing the relationships with new friends and colleagues, and with my host country in the future!

Update from Casey McCoy – Halfway Through his Stay in Austria

My first semester at the University of Vienna comes to a close at the end of January. It has been an extraordinarily rich experience so far, and I very much look forward to the spring semester. My Fulbright grant is a full research grant to work on my project, “Philosophical Implications of Inflationary Cosmology.” Most of my time has been devoted to this project, but there have been many opportunities to interact with the local academic community and participate in cultural activities sponsored by the Austrian-American Fulbright Commission, the University of Vienna, and the Austrian governmental agency funding my Fulbright-Mach grant, the Austrian Agency for International Cooperation.

One of the greatest personal benefits of the Fulbright grant has been the opportunity to focus full-time on my research project. Besides the valuable time to write, my project has benefited greatly from my interactions with my local academic supervisor, Dr. Richard Dawid, and other contacts made in the local community. A difficulty that I expect many Fulbright research grant recipients face, though, is this very time and freedom. Graduate programs in the U.S. can be fairly structured, with seminars, colloquia, reading groups, advising, and teaching rapidly filling out one’s time. Transitioning to an environment where a lot of this familiar structure at one’s home institution disappears ironically presents a challenge to efficient time management and productivity. With a lot of time on one’s hands, it’s easy to waste a lot of time unproductively! Many anecdotes from my fellow Fulbright scholars support this observation as well.

The solution is obvious in theory, but can be difficult in practice. In the first place, one can replace the familiar events from one’s home institution with similar events at the institution with which one is affiliated. For me, this has included regularly attending one of the lecture series in the Department of Philosophy, and participating in the Vienna Forum for Academic Philosophy.

It is also a great idea to take advantage of the many events sponsored by organizations invested in your presence in the host country. One of the highlight events of this semester was attending a reception at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Vienna, where I had the opportunity to interact with the many people involved in supporting the Fulbright program in Austria, former and future Austrian Fulbrighters, and my fellow U.S. grantees. There have also been many opportunities to take part in cultural and community service activities, such as taking guided tours of the city of Vienna, visiting exhibitions in local museums like the Vienna Museum Karlspatz, attending a traditional ball at the Imperial Palace (waltz lessons included), preparing meals for the homeless, and many others.

Of course, one cannot know about many of these events in advance, but it pays to think ahead before arriving in the host country about how to organize your time. The several months of one’s grant period go by quickly, and it is no good to spend a lot of that time figuring out how to spend the rest of it! Show up with a plan, enforce personal deadlines, etc.

Just be ready to throw the plan away when opportunity comes knocking, as it certainly will!

Update from Shelley Guyton

Fieldwork at a Bloggers’ Summit in the Philippines

“You influence people who read your blog or tweet.  You are an authority, whether you want to be or not.” –Jason Cruz, presenter at iblog9

Cruz’s statement above sums up the recurrent theme at the iblog9 Bloggers Summit in Manila, Philippines: that bloggers are the digital influencers in today’s growing online society.  Iblog, a free event now in its ninth consecutive year, was modeled after a similar (and now defunct) conference in the U.S.  The event is intended to cultivate positive interaction and support between bloggers at all experience levels.  I attended this formal blogger gathering not only to establish contacts and conduct interviews with attendees, but also to gain a better understanding at how blogging is organized in the Philippines.

The summit prepared two days full of presentations from notable bloggers, social media professionals, and other experts in the digital field (for example, a lawyer presenting about how the law affects blogging).  The first day operated around topics for bloggers, marketers, businesses and entrepreneurs curious about the commercial potential of blogs.  The second day branched to everyone interested in blogging.

The best way to describe the event is fun, techy, and inclusive, and the best way to illustrate my point is the live tweetwall that organizers screened during Q&A sessions.  Throughout the day, participants—both in attendance, and viewing through livestream—were encouraged to express their impressions and tweet their questions, tagged #iblog9.  After one provocative presentation, “How Blogging is a Lot Like Dating,” in which the presenter likened his blogging experiences to his dating realities, the tweetwall that was screened behind him during Q&A began to fill with playful jabs about his dating life, and then on to public speculation about if the girl in question was in the room and who she was.  The room was full of laughter for about 10 straight minutes while this continued and the presenter played along.

Beyond the markedly young, urban and techy interrelations being played and displayed at the event, I found the presentations themselves could tell me much about how the blogging community defines itself.  Presentation titles like, “Blogging and Social Thought Leadership” and “Bloggers as Digital influencers,” both speak to bloggers’ desire for fame and audience, and also reinforce a consensus that these should be the goals of blogging.   Another presentation, entitled, “Understanding the Blogger Psyche,” reinforced shared conceptions of the blogger identity: opinionated, passionate, and critical.

I interviewed many bloggers (novices to 10 years’ experience), blog group organizers, and social media professionals in casual conversations to gauge their conceptions about the possibilities that blogging might offer them and society in general.  Everyone was more than willing to work with me, and many offered to extend their involvement further.

At the end of event, we all walked out of the auditorium with a notebook full of useful scribbles, a handful of new friends, and an iblog9 t-shirt designed after the Philippines flag.


Introduction to Casey McCoy

I’m a fourth year graduate student in the philosophy department studying the philosophy of physics. Through the support of a Fulbright grant I will be spending the next academic year in Austria at the University of Vienna working on my project, “Philosophical Implications of Inflationary Cosmology.” The project is an extension of my PhD dissertation research, which is officially due to start after I advance to candidacy this quarter.

I’ll say a few words about my project, but first I’ll explain how it came about. The key decision I made was spending last summer in Vienna. The main impetus to go was a two week summer school focused on science studies. Once I had committed to spending two weeks in Vienna, it was an easy decision to spend the rest of the summer there. Members of my faculty put me in touch with colleagues at the University of Vienna and other institutions, and naturally I met many people during the summer school.

After a while it occurred to me that Vienna would be an ideal place to pursue my research, and I started thinking seriously about applying for a Fulbright grant. The contacts I had made were enthusiastic about the idea, and the philosophy faculty in San Diego was supportive, so I applied. I think developing personal familiarity with the destination in advance was absolutely crucial to the success of my application.

The aim of my project is to make a philosophical investigation into the foundations and conceptual issues of one aspect of modern cosmology, namely the speculative idea that the early universe underwent a phase of rapid expansion. This expansion precedes the well-established “Hubble” expansion, a feature of the Hot Big Bang model of the universe, responsible for, among other things, the observed redshifts (recession) of distant galaxies. The speculative “rapid expansion” scenario is called cosmological inflation and has become a pillar of the current standard model of cosmology, a model that attempts to extend and improve the Hot Big Bang model.

What is interesting about inflation, from a philosophical point of view, is that physicists postulated it as a solution to certain perceived explanatory problems with the basic Big Bang universe story. For example, the geometrical flatness of the universe and its large-scale uniformity are explained by the Big Bang model through what cosmologists feel are implausible special initial conditions. These particular problems are known as the Flatness Problem and the Horizon Problem. These problems do not arise from the familiar sources of problems one finds in the history of science, namely disagreements between theory and observation or inconsistencies between well-confirmed theories. Are explanatory problems of a piece with these familiar problems? Or are they pseudo-problems that the practice of science would do well to ignore? These are the questions to which I hope to provide interesting answers during my time in Vienna!