Written by: Ali Hermetz, Copy Editor
This year, while many students are working on midterms and thinking about fall break, a handful of Furman seniors are focusing on something bigger: applications for the Fulbright US Student Program. Every year, this program provides around 2,000 students grants to study, teach and research for a full year in other countries around the world. This year, thirteen Furman students are applying for Fulbright grants, which is, as Dr. Scott Henderson, Director of National and International Scholarships at Furman, noted, “a large number for a liberal arts college our size.” According to Dr. Henderson, current Furman applicants are seeking grants to go to a wide range of countries from South Korea to Great Britain.
One of the current Furman applicants is Politics and International Affairs and German double-major Samantha Whitley. Whitley is seeking a grant as an English Teaching Assistant in Germany, which she hopes will not only give her “valuable experience of German language and culture… [but also] prepare [her] for graduate school in International Relations.” She said that part of her interest in the program comes from her time teaching children at Poe Mill Achievement Center and tutoring Furman students in German at the Modern Language Center. Whitley’s experience echoes the advice that Dr. Henderson gives to students considering applying for Fulbright grants. He explained that the Fulbright Program is not simply a gap year; students who apply “have to have a desire to teach, and to teach children and youth…. [and]
have to have a desire to learn about another culture.”
Furman alumni and Fulbright grant recipients Brandon Tensley (‘12) and Claire Pullan (‘18) added to this, describing their experiences abroad with Fulbright as both difficult and rewarding. Tensley, who graduated Furman with a BA in German studies and Political Science spent his Fulbright year in Germany, said those who receive Fulbright grants should be both “humble and hungry.” Now working for CNN as a national political writer, Tensley noted that applicants should be ready to compare what they have learned in the classroom to their firsthand experiences in another culture. Pullan, who received a BA in French and a BS in Psychology from Furman, added that her time as an English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan challenged her in some uncomfortable ways. She encourages those considering applying for Fulbright to “go for it,” adding that her “experience at Furman helped me see that there is a community of people who believe in my potential and who want to help me achieve my personal success,” which helped her through both the rigorous application process and her year abroad in Taiwan.
Dr. Henderson explained that the Furman Advantage is real for students who apply for Fulbright grants. According to him, “Furman benefits from the fact that both faculty and administration strongly support our students in their applications. Without the support of faculty and administrators we would never have the kinds of strong applications we have, and you know, strong applications translate into a fairly impressive winning streak over the last 20-25 years.” Although the Fulbright program can be a challenging experience, all parties seem to report that Furman works hard to ensure that students who are interested receive all the support they need to succeed. Furman’s current applicants will receive their initial notification of recommendation for the Fulbright grant this January, with final decisions coming later in Spring 2020.