How I earned a Fulbright scholarship

How I earned a Fulbright scholarship

Just yesterday I received from Fulbright the official confirmation for the scholarship I was after. But it hasn’t been easy. The process has taken me over two years and 3 or 4 try outs. Still, my determination probably won over the jury and I will be able to spend two years in Los Angeles taking on an MFA in Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy (NYFA).

The Fulbright Program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and hereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.

– Senator J. William Fulbright

The Fulbright Program is an international program of merit based grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists founded by United States Senator J. Williams Fulbright in 1946, and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Originally, it grew funds by the proceeds from selling surplus U.S. government war property. Today, additional support comes  from partner governments, foundations, corporations (in this case it is COACH) and host institutions. Under the program, american citizens are eligible to study or conduct research in other countries, and vice versa, with the final aim of increasing mutual understanding between people. It is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE) and operates in over 155 countries around the world administered by each country’s bi-national Fulbright Commission.

If we do not want to die together in war, we must learn to live together in peace.
– President Harry S. Truman

53 Fulbright alumni have won Nobel Prizes, 78 have won Pulitzer Prizes. Wikipedia says that candidates have high academic achievement, a compelling project proposal and/or statement of purpose, demonstrated leadership potential and flexibility and adaptability to interact successfully. I’m not sure if I will ever prove myself to the standards that I’m supposed to, specially not thanks to my social awkwardness, but I’m sure that I tried my best at delivering the most fascinating purpose for my grant and my future that I could forge.

Every time I had to rethink my project, rewrite the essays and put forward a plan, I learned something new about myself, what I wanted to do and what I wanted to become. I changed my route to find a new focus and purpose. I always thought I was presenting the best of applications and had the worst of lucks, but it turns out that there was always one better coming up. Rejection after rejection I was improving my writing and the emotion thrown into it.

And then there is the interview. When applying, I have learned that the most important thing of all is to have a clear goal and a solid future plan. Only then your motivation and self-confidence will be off the charts and your determination will show through. When you truly believe in what you are presenting, your tone is strong, powerful and your pace is rhythmic, steady but constant. I actually stalked looked up another Fulbright fellow that had studied were I was looking forward to go and managed to ask him what to say or not say during the personal interview. He told me just to be myself. I must admit how a cliché that seemed, given that he didn’t know me at all, but in the end believing in myself was the only way to keep off nerves and fly over the interview — or that’s how it felt like, only to receive a confirmation call just hours later that I was going through to the next round.

After exiting the interview, right in Fulbright’s front door, I tripped on a bundle of wet autumn leaves and fell in a puddle. But I recall cleaning off my embarrassment quickly and still smile in relief thinking that that could have been all my bad luck wasted in the puddle. You can only go into a glorious day from there.

This was back in December. My sister and I took a quick trip to Madrid for the interview, arriving the day before. We had time to take a stroll at night and enjoy the Christmas atmosphere. I left the hotel for the interview next morning and, after I was back and dry again, we even had time to take on a tour around the city and do some shopping. Thank you Raquel.

From then on I have been arranging things with NYFA’s counsellor, the IIE and Fulbright’s Commission but I still didn’t feel it was real until I checked my mailbox yesterday. This is happening. Wow.


Almudena Cathedral
Almudena Cathedral
Raquel at km0
Raquel at km0
20141215-IMG_3688- ProPhoto
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