Photos by Micah Lambert
Whether a freshman or a senior, there is always one question in the back of every Pepperdine student’s mind: What am I going to do after graduation? For students who have been scrolling through job ads, attending career fairs and networking like crazy but still nothing seems to fit, have no fear, there are other options. For students who are fascinated by other cultures, enjoy teaching or research, are interested in learning another language or looking to pursue a masters abroad, Fulbright might be the right fit.
The Fulbright Program is a nationally competitive fellowship program that offers teaching, research and study grants to recently graduated or graduate students in over 140 countries. Founded by former congressman William J. Fulbright to foster international goodwill, Fulbright scholars are selected and funded by the US government for a full year. It is the largest US exchange program with approximately 8,000 grants awarded annually, according to their website.
More than 44 Pepperdine students have won a Fulbright in the last ten years. Approximately 25 students applied last year with two actually winning the award, according to an interview with Dr. Dana Dudley, Assistant Dean of Special Academic Programs and head of the Pepperdine Fulbright Committee. Due to its prestigious nature, it is highly competitive. ‘Fulbright Scholar’ is a title of honor, and there is an extensive network of Fulbright alumni in every field imaginable. Dudley continues, “Lots of things will fall off your resume, but Fulbright never will. It remains with you, like your education, and becomes an identifier.”
Pepperdine’s robust International Programs are a perfect breeding ground for prospective Fulbright applicants. It may appear that their experiences living abroad and engaging with other cultures would make them prime candidates, giving them a leg up on much of the competition. But Dudley points out that there is a large difference between an IP program and a Fulbright.
“It takes the abroad experience to the next level. You have significantly more independence, yet still have a support and safety network to fall back on if need be,” she says.
In particular, many Pepperdine students apply for the English Teaching Assistant grant, which places recipients in an elementary or secondary English classroom to assist the head teacher. 2016 graduate and ETA grant recipient Lauren Haberstock will begin teaching in Germany this October, as stated on the Pepperdine Fulbright website.
When recently interviewed about her Fulbright experience, Haberstock reflects on the lessons she learned through the application process. “Overall, I think the process really helped me figure out where I see myself long term,” she says. “It forced me to evaluate what I’m passionate about and what I want to do long term. It was a self reflective process for me. I think everyone should apply, even if you don’t get it.”
So what questions should you start asking yourself to see if Fulbright might be a good fit for you? A few examples might be: Am I interested in taking a gap year before entering the formal work world? Do I want to give back to a community in some way? Do I have an advanced research niche I want to pursue? Or is there a graduate program abroad I hope to attend but might not be able to afford?
Most of all, however, Dudley reminds us that there is no one specific ‘type’ of applicant. “Fulbright can fit a variety of interests,” she said. “And there is no age limit. You can always come back to Pepperdine for help with the process. Seaver is blessed with a very giving faculty. It is a community effort.”
If this sounds like you, start brainstorming about your Fulbright application in the spring. The campus review deadline is mid-September, with the formal deadline in early October. There are several components (i.e. two essays, a language evaluation, references, etc.) but it is completely manageable if you start working on it in small chunks.
The world beyond Pepperdine can certainly seem daunting, but it can also be incredibly exciting. It is filled with transformative opportunities and countless experiences. Don’t worry, you’re future is bright regardless, maybe even Fulbright.
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