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'We want people from all across India to apply for Fulbright fellowships,' says USIEF

Facts about the Fulbright fellowships made clear, read on...

education Updated: Jun 19, 2012 13:43 IST
Rahat Bano
Rahat Bano
Hindustan Times

The Fulbright scholarships aren't just for people from Jawaharlal Nehru University and the University of Delhi, says Sarina Paranjape, Indian Programme Officer, United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF).

"We want people from all across to apply. It's open competition … The emphasis is on quality but there have been small groups of people in the cohort from those (small town) institutions."

Scholars include some people for whom "it's just another fellowship" as well as others for whom it is "really a stepping stone".

The spectrum is visible at a pre-departure orientation USIEF held for the first batch of Fulbright-Nehru fellows, renamed thus after India became a full funding partner in the fellowship agreement in July 2008.

Under the amended agreement, USIEF has given 75 Fulbright-Nehru scholarships for 2009-10. In all, it's giving 126 Fulbright-Nehru, other Fulbright and non-Fulbright grants for 2009-10.

In different sessions, officials as well as current and former Fulbrighters dispensed with advice on readying for the American experience. There are queries on India's caste system, poverty, secularism, dynasty, gender issues (female infanticide, dowry) and finally Bollywood, says Kavita Sharma, Director, India International Centre, New Delhi and 2007 Fulbright New Century Scholar.

Nathan N Tabor, a 2008 US Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Scholar, says, "Someone into his third divorce might ask you how could you have an arranged marriage." Also, you might be quizzed on your culture. "Not Indian culture. Indian culture is a non-entity," says Tabor.

Michael P Macy, Counsellor for Cultural Affairs, US Embassy, suggests these tips to the US-bound scholars:

Go there with few expectations. People come here and expect to see elephants and tigers on the streets. The same way, the myths about America are not true.

Allow yourself to be shocked, but not appalled.

You've got to ask questions. What drives the academic process in the US is questions.

Go open-minded and open-hearted.

Americans don't care who you are, who your parents and grandparents were or what titles they had. They want to know what you can do and what you do.

You might run into people who are small-minded like in any part of the world. But you'll enjoy being there.

The first batch of Fulbright-Nehru scholars at the orientation ceremony. Seen here seated at the centre of the front row are Adam Grotsky, Director, USIEF; Larry Schwartz, Minister Counselor for Public affairs, US Embassy; and Virender Gupta, Director, Indian Council for Cultural Relations

Two fellows talk about how they made it
Deepti Adlakha, 24, architect, Fulbright-Nehru Master's Fellow, going to pursue Master's in urban design at Washington University in St Louis:

"The interview was very pleasant. They look at how enthusiastic you are, how much passion you have. They asked me about the environment in India and how our Indian design teachings have been sidelined while we are aping the West. They look at your academic record. How serious you have been. They ask questions about your dissertation (which was part of my BArch programme), any research you've done. They ask where you've worked, the objectives of doing a Master's, how you'd contribute to your society."

Ambarien Alqadar, 29, Assistant Professor, Video and Television Department, Jamia Millia Islamia Fulbright-Nehru Master's Fellow, going to study communication studies (film/cinema) at Temple University:

"You require a portfolio through which you can demonstrate your skills. Writing my proposal took a long time - about one month. The proposal involves spelling out what you have to do, where you stand now, what you plan to do. The interview is fairly much about what you've written. You should be able to explain what you wrote. The questions included those like 'what does leadership mean to you? I was also told 'You should be very aware of what you are stepping into'."

First Published: Jun 20, 2009 13:36 IST