The application process for the Fulbright fellowship can often be very emotional, as it forces applicants to look deeper at themselves, Nicole Galante, assistant director of national and international fellowships, said. Galante said one student, in particular, came to mind who’s application process was especially emotional. 

“I asked them, ‘while doing the application, who are you?’ And they just broke down and almost started crying,” she said. 

This student ended up receiving the Fulbright fellowship. Galante remembers this story not for the student's success but as an example of the importance of the process. 

The Fulbright fellowship is a competitive opportunity for graduating college seniors and alumni. Fulbright partners with 140 countries to offer recipients postgraduate abroad opportunities to teach English, conduct research or pursue a graduate degree. 

Over the duration of their fellowship, recipients of Fulbright will have the opportunity to live, learn and work with people of the host country they choose, according to the United States Fulbright Program’s website.

Galante praised the application process for its positive impact on students. She said not only do applicants gain transferable skills through writing and interview experiences, but they learn more about themselves and what they want to do after graduation through the meticulous process.

Whether or not applicants are chosen, they will walk away with something positive, she said. 

Galante described the fellowship program with its motto, “Envision, apply and embark.”

The program aims to help students visualize their future and help them achieve it. She said this is the case for all fellowships, but especially Fulbright.

With the Fulbright fellowship only having a 20% acceptance rate, the program is extremely competitive. As a result, Galante said the fellowship office at Elon emphasizes the benefits of the application process to encourage students to apply.

She said all of the fellowship programs are essay-based with topics ranging from personal statements to grant purposes to leadership. The fellowship office works with students to finalize this essay over three to four weeks, and depending on the country an applicant is applying to, there may be an interview aspect to the process as well.

Galante has seen an uptick in fellowship applications. This past year, the office had its highest applicant pool ever with 34 applicants from Elon. 14 of these applicants were named semi-finalists, according to the office. She attributes this to the fact that students are increasingly open to moving abroad following the COVID-19 lockdown and more seniors are looking for an impactful post-graduation experience before entering their career field. 

Senior Eliana Olivier, recent recipient of the Fulbright fellowship, was surprised she made it as far as she did in the application process. 

“I never thought that I would be a semifinalist — let alone a finalist — for the program,” she said. 

Olivier will teach English in Colombia following this academic year. She said she had a positive experience with the application process, emphasizing the writing and interview skills she gained. 

Nellie Garrison, a graduating senior, is also a recent recipient of the Fulbright fellowship.

Garrison went abroad in Spain her junior year where she taught elementary-level students English. While at Elon, she also taught English at Alamance Community College. When she learned about the Fulbright program in her class — ENG3060: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages — she knew she wanted to apply. 

Garrison said the application process was extensive but also extremely rewarding. In her application, she wrote a personal statement that centered around the theme of fear, which she recalls perfecting with Galante over six weeks. 

She summarized the theme of her personal statement as follows:

“Use fear as a motivator rather than something to stop you,” she said. “I know that in the end, these experiences will be fruitful.”

Garrison will teach English in Spain through the Fulbright program following her upcoming graduation. She said she is looking forward to making an impact and engaging in cross-cultural learning while she’s there. 

“I want to teach them the way they teach me, which I experienced last year,” Garrison said. 

Galante sees other students reaping similar benefits from fellowship programs. The experiences that students gain from their time in fellowship programs are invaluable tools for the workforce and their personal lives, Galante said.

“Fellowships really have a central mission of cross-cultural exchange, acting with humility and curiosity,” she said. 

For more information about the Fulbright fellowship and other fellowships, visit the National and International Fellowship’s website.