As a recipient of the 2019-20 Fulbright U.S. Student Award, I am currently living in the Czech Republic and studying international politics and economics at Charles University, one of Europe’s oldest universities. This program also encourages students to perform independent research as well as an in-depth research project, with mine focusing on intersections of media, politics, and society.
Having spent a few months on the journey already, I can readily say that my time as a “Fulbrighter” is one of the most important experiences of my life. Based on how well the experience is progressing, I have the potential to write a book about my research project, pursue a career in the foreign service, or continue my career in journalism, applying much of what I have learned and encountered thus far.
As a journalist by profession and a student of international political economy at Fordham, the situation here has made for the perfect combination of research, study, and cultural immersion. For example, I have had the luxury of communicating with media scholars and international journalists on the ground in the country, while also having access to rare historical documents at the National Museum for my independent research. The resources available here, from the first Czech newspaper published three hundred years ago to the last communist party papers published prior to the Velvet Revolution, are invaluable to my work and experience in the Czech Republic. These experiences have allowed me to excel in my graduate classes and make significant progress on a project on a critical topic for both the region and, for that matter, the world in addressing political influence on media outlets and journalists as well as impacts of new media platforms on public discourse.
The Fulbright program has also allowed me to gain working proficiency in Czech language and culture beyond my prior classroom study. I have visited the countryside on longer journeys, providing a more holistic view of the nation through wine festivals, hunter’s balls, and commemorations of Communist dissidents among many other memorable encounters off the beaten path, so to speak.
Everyday experience communicating in a new language is invaluable not only to proficiency but also to understanding a new culture, sans an initial language barrier that might otherwise impede these vital cultural encounters. Perhaps that is precisely why one of my key pieces of advice for those considering applying for a similar grant is to become exceedingly familiar with their country of choice and, if possible, acquire some language skills.
If you are on the fence about applying, do not hesitate to contact the scholarship office at Fordham. I graduated from Fordham in 2015 and applied for the 2019-20 application cycle, which had stoked a lingering fear in my mind that perhaps I’d missed my ideal application window. In truth, my post graduate experience in journalism at major outlets in the United States made me a stronger applicant than I had anticipated. Yet I would never have known that without first reaching out.
Once you make contact, utilize the resources available and revise your application essay drafts often. Crucial feedback and edits on my initial submissions from Dr. Beskin and others in the Office of Prestigious Fellowships helped me to clarify my research aims and personal interest in Czech culture.There is a tendency to believe your initial submission is perfect, but as any journalist will tell you, editing is a painful, yet necessary process. Even as a writer by trade, I revised my drafts more than ten times before arriving at a final product.
Overall, these growing pains in the application process have led to a life changing experience in Central Europe wherein I have already been able to complete a large degree of engaging research, meet many scholars in my field of interest, and explore the rich culture and history of a vibrant nation in the heart of Europe.
Edited by Alex Finn-Atkins