The Fulbright Grant Program – Conclusion
I hope when you have finished reading my previous four postings on the Fulbright Grant Program:
• The Fulbright Program: An Introduction
• The Fulbright Grant Program: Where Oh Where Should I Go
• The Fulbright Grant Program: Sweating The Small Stuff
• The Fulbright Grant Program: It’s Not Just For Rich People Anymore
you will understand and appreciate that the Fulbright Scholar Grant, the oldest and most well known of its many programs, provides hundreds of opportunities for intellectually rewarding professional travel within a safe, comfortable, and pleasant working environment. Best of all, it offers all this without imposing a financial hardship on either you or your family. It is, without a doubt, the greatest collection of short-term overseas work opportunities available to academics and skilled professionals. If there is any way to take advantage of its many amazing opportunities you really should consider it.
However, for two reasons the Fulbright Scholar Grant may not be a perfect fit for everyone reading these articles. First, the majority of grants last either for one semester (four to six months) or one academic year (eight to ten months), which, for some, may be too long a time to be away because of work or family circumstances. Second, the time lag between initial application and the start of the overseas visit can be as long as eighteen months, necessitating both long-term planning and an understanding employer with an expansive time horizon. Many of us cannot say with certainty if we will be able to take a leave of absence one or two years down the road, and it is a time lag that often cannot be accommodated by one's employment schedule.
But fret not. There is a simple solution that still allows you and your family to experience the joys of living and working overseas without having to give up your regular teaching post. If the above issues constitute an insurmountable problem then you should consider applying for a two- to six-week overseas position via the Fulbright Senior Specialist Award. This is a new class of grant created for the express purpose of providing shorter overseas exchanges for those who cannot get away from home for four to twelve months at a time. Rather than teaching for a semester, as you typically do during a regular Fulbright, on a 2-, 4-, or 6-week Senior Specialist posting you may do consulting, teach faculty workshops, or present a series of public talks, all valuable and important professional services. I have personally had two Senior Specialist Grants–at the University of Kathmandu in Nepal and Genghis Khan University in Ulan Bator, Mongolia–and I can honestly say that even on an overseas posting as short as six weeks, the duration of my two grants, I had a transformative personal, professional, and cultural experience that left me refreshed, renewed, and reinvigorated. I made good friends, had some truly amazing adventures, and learned a great deal about a previously unfamiliar region of the world, all within a time span that was easy to accommodate within my teaching and research schedule.
So, I hope I have now raised and shot down all the “straw men” arguments that people throw out to me when proposing the idea of living and working overseas. As I have demonstrated in these articles, to apply for a working vacation you don’t need to be in business, medicine, or computing, a Nobel Prize winner, a professor at Harvard or Yale, an independently wealthy blue blood, or have an uber-light teaching load that affords you tons of free time. Anyone with a useful professional skill, regardless of age, rank, status, schedule, or school, can and should consider applying for either a short-term Senior Specialist Grant or a longer-term Fulbright Scholar Grant. The only thing you have to lose is your global naiveté.
Michael Schneider is the Academic Travel Editor for Wandering Educators. You can read more of his work at http://otherguysdime.wordpress.com/, and learn more about his new book, entitled On the Other Guy's Dime: A Professional's Guide to Traveling without Paying.