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Q&A: Student Fulbright grants

Susannah Gal, associate professor of biology and Fulbright program adviser, recently spoke with Inside BU about the program.

Describe the Fulbright program and its goals.

A U.S. senator — J. William Fulbright — created the program after World War II because he believed that better cooperation and communication among people from different nations would help to prevent future wars.

The program is broken into four parts, two for American scholars and two for international scholars. There are programs for students and for faculty members and professionals.

Who is eligible to participate?

The Fulbright Evaluation Committee on campus and I focus on the program for U.S. students, which is open to students who have completed their bachelor’s degree but not yet received a doctorate.

One element of the program offers teaching fellowships in which students help teach English. There are 140 fellows in Germany, 70 in Korea and 55 in France, for example.

There are opportunities for students to do research in support of a thesis or other project. Topics can range from water quality management to art history. In addition, Fulbright has special initiatives. There’s one now focusing on Islamic civilization.

We have two graduate students participating in the Fulbright program now.

Is there help available for students who wish to apply?

Yes. The committee works with Binghamton students to help them decide which country would be a good fit for their research interests as well as on crafting their applications. We help them consider details about getting assistance with their work overseas as well as how competitive a certain grant will be. Far more people apply for positions in the United Kingdom, for instance, than in Latvia.

We set an internal deadline in September and help to ensure that students’ applications are ready for the Fulbright program’s deadline in October. The committee also interviews applicants and submits evaluations of the students to the board in New York City that makes decisions.

Students hear in January or February if they have been recommended to a foreign country. The other country makes the ultimate decision about the grants.

How does this experience compare to undergraduate study abroad programs?

This is a complementary experience. It can work as a follow-up to a semester abroad or give a student who didn’t get to go overseas as an undergraduate a chance to experience another part of the world.

The experience of a Fulbright scholar is quite different from the usual study abroad format, in part because students aren’t usually part of a degree program within a foreign university.

How did you get involved with the Fulbright program?

I did research in Portugal as a Fulbright scholar for three months as part of a sabbatical in 2001-02. Going abroad gives you a new perspective on what’s important in American culture and how people from other countries see us.

It’s also a great way to understand different approaches and ideas within your own field. As a scientist, for example, you might find someone who does experiments in a completely different way than how they’re done in the United States.

Where can students learn more?

There will be an information session from 2-4 p.m. March 15 in UU-103. Students can also visit our Web page at or e-mail me at
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Last Updated: 10/14/08