On Monday morning, I was happy to learn that the Office of Experiential and Global Learning (EGL), which oversees all study abroad programs and international scholarships, was hosting a “personalized” information session. The session catered to the specific questions that students may have regarding eligibility and the application timeline or process.
Though I had anticipated a general group information session, I gladly took the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Valerie Jenkelunas, an advisor within EGL and Dr. Vin Moscardelli, the head of the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships (ONSF). As you can imagine, EGL and ONSF are inextricably intertwined in regard to international scholarships.
Many of these competitive awards are offered nationally and are federally funded. Concurrently, many involve a learning component, project or study abroad experience that occurs overseas.
Perhaps one of the most crucial messages of the experience was the importance of preparation as the cornerstone to a successful application and experience. From the time you decide to apply to UConn to the time that you board a plane to begin learning Turkish on behalf of America’s foreign interests, being vigilant of deadlines and knowing what to have ready is critical.
For this reason, getting involved early, knowing your options and beginning dialogue is foundational. While you may not feel ready to apply until your junior year, it’s easy to underestimate how much planning is involved in the process.
For one, if the scholarship involves a study abroad experience — such as the Gilman scholarship — learning how this will factor into your major requirements and plan of study will likely require the help of your major advisor. Planning out your finances and applying for a visa are also important steps that can be time-consuming and often forgotten by the wayside.
Fortunately for Huskies, there are advisors in EGL who make student applications their priority and help students interested in the awards with every step of the application. All that’s required is a little bit of motivation and personal initiative.
Because most of these programs are funded by American taxpayers — and are possible as a result of America’s bilateral and diplomatic relations — most awards are restricted to citizens, though a select few are available to permanent residents. If you’re not yet a citizen but plan on becoming naturalized, fear not, as eligibility is just around the corner.
Perhaps one of the most sought-after international scholarships that everyone should be aware of is the Fulbright scholarship. This hypercompetitive national scholarship funds an awardee’s experience abroad as they engage in a project uniquely beneficial to their chosen country. One myth is that there’s only one type of Fulbright; in reality, there are different awards that are targeted at undergraduates, graduate students, professionals and researchers.
One type of Fulbright, the English Teaching Assistant Award, supports those willing to aid local English teachers in the classroom. Another, known as the Fulbright-Fogarty Fellowship, sponsors individuals in the healthcare field to conduct field and clinical public health research while abroad, typically in areas known for compromised public health.
A category of lesser-known but equally prestigious awards support the recipient’s acquisition of foreign language skills. Awards such as the Boren Awards and Critical Language Scholarship seek to expose and immerse recipients in a culture and language of choice.
At the end of the day, no matter what your background is or how competitive you’re feeling, these programs are a great way to boost a resume, experience a new culture and give back to the world around you. While your academic career as an undergraduate or graduate student may be busy, simply beginning a conversation with an advisor from EGL may open up possibilities that you have never considered before. EGL can be found on their website: egl.uconn.edu.