Congratulations to Elizabeth Ransone (one of our very own PSAs) on her Fulbright Academic Grant to Germany! Here are some of her thoughts on the Fulbright program and its application process:
What do you hope to get out of the opportunity that Fulbright affords you?
I hope that Fulbright introduces me to a lot of interesting people and perspectives. The ability to further my research and learn new techniques from a leader in my field should help me a lot downstream in my career. I’ve also never lived in a non-English speaking nation for longer than a week, so I’m both terrified and excited for that challenge.
How and why did you choose your recommenders, and what is your relationship with them like?
I’ve worked in the research laboratories of all of my 3 recommenders. One of my recommenders, Heidi Goodrich-Blair, was my principal investigator (PI) from my time at the Microbial Community Functions and Interactions Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. This recommendation was particularly important, as I wrote my Fulbright application as a continuation of the project I began with her. My other two recommenders were John Swaddle and Dan Cristol. I joined their lab as a freshman with the HHMI freshman research program. They’ve essentially taught me everything I know about research and are my biggest supporters.
What motivated you to apply for a Fulbright?
I’ve been a Peer Scholarship Advisor since 2014, and our largest scholarship is consistently Fulbright. I met some incredible W&M student through their applications. I really like the flexibility that a Fulbright research grant gives to explore and grow with prominent PIs. Grant funding is incredibly difficult to cobble together while still a student, and the money behind a Fulbright makes it much more likely that a professor will be willing to accept you as a trainee for a year.
How did you choose your country?
After I decided on the general topic I wanted to study overseas, I reached out to my professors. Over the summer, I asked Dr. Goodrich-Blair about her collaboration network. She mentioned a handful of PIs, and the language requirements for each country did a good job of narrowing the list down further. Then I reached out to my PI in Germany, who was kind enough to email and Skype with me during the application process.
What did you realize about yourself throughout this process?
I realized that I am an incredible procrastinator. Try to get as much of the application done during the summer, as the school year is always more hectic than you remember it being.
What are you most proud of in your application?
I’m most proud of the relationships that I formed with my laboratory PIs. I’ve never read their letters of recommendations and have no wish to, but I think that rec letters often set great applications apart. I’ve never considered myself the best writer, but the good and honest word of 3 separate PIs is often enough to convince people to take a chance with you.
If you could do it all again, what would you change about the process?
If I had to apply to Fulbright again, I would write a few more drafts of my personal statement. I recently reread it and cringed.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to future Fulbright applicants?
START EARLY! And talk to the PSAs!