Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know About the Fulbright Program

I am spending this semester in Baku, Azerbaijan, as a Fulbright Scholar. I teach at Baku State University Law School (in English, thankfully), and have also been involved in training local law faculty on American-style law school teaching methodology. As the experience has been amazing in every sense of the word, let me take this opportunity to describe the Fulbright Program, in an effort to demystify the application process and promote the Program in general.

The Fulbright Program offers funding for students and professors in many different fields, including law, to engage in research and teaching abroad. The Program is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and it is administered by the Institute for International Education. Here is how the Program works.

If you are a professor based in the United States, you may apply for either the Core Program or the Specialist Program (I should mention that there are a few other short-term programs and “seminars” available, as well as a Distinguished Chair Program). If you are interested in spending one or two semesters abroad, at a foreign host institution, you should apply for the Core Program. The deadline is August 1, 2013 for the following academic year (2014-15). You may select a country for which you wish to apply from a “catalogue” of awards; for each country, different selection criteria will apply. Some countries will only accept one-semester long applications, while others may prefer a two-semester stay. Some countries may require a letter of invitation from a host institution located in that country. In that case, you may need to contact a potential host institution, explain your plans, and ask (beg!) whether they will host you during your Fulbright visit, should your proposal be accepted by the Fulbright Program. For some countries, such as Great Britain, France, Spain or Italy, competition may be stiff. For other, more “obscure” nations, competition may not be as intense. Finally, some countries offer teaching awards, while others allow for purely research grants, or a combination of teaching and research. You should choose your country carefully: it should be a place where you truthfully wish to spend four to ten months, but it should be a place where you feel you have a realistic chance of being accepted. In some instances, the Fulbright Program itself may deny you your first choice of country, but may offer you another, “similar” country. You should also think about how you would obtain a semester- or two-semester-long leave from your academic institution in the United States – many professors will use a sabbatical leave, if they are eligible for one, or negotiate an ad hoc leave with their respective deans. The general application, to be used for all countries, consists of an online form, a five-page proposal, where you detail your teaching and/or research plans at the host institution, three recommendation letters from your peers or superiors, and for some countries, a letter of invitation from the host institution. Continue reading