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The Scarlet & Black

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Fourth-years prepare Watson and Fulbright applications

For fourth-year students applying to the Fulbright Grant and Watson Fellowship, national merit-based awards for after college, the start of the semester has been even busier than the already hectic schedule of a typical Grinnell student.

Reina Matsuura ’19 committed to apply to the Fulbright Grant for the English teaching assistantship in South Africa close to the deadline. “I committed at the last minute and I had a MAP this summer … and the MAP actually went into basically a few days before classes started,” said Matsuura. “I was pretty stressed, I cried a couple of times, I’m not gonna lie.”

For Matsuura, the biggest struggle of the application process was keeping up her self-confidence knowing that she was in competition with many other applicants.

“I guess the most challenging part was looking at what these programs want and being like ‘I’m not good enough’ because part of the whole process is … you’re gonna be compared,” she said. “So, going through those self-esteem moments I think was the most challenging.”

In such a grueling process, Matsuura stressed how the College, specifically the meetings with the Assistant Dean & Director of Global Fellowships & Awards Ann Landstrom, served as a helpful resource, and she urged future applicants to also take advantage of the CLS as a resource.

“Go to the CLS. Even if it’s just … [to] set up appointments just to force yourself to get drafts in. … Even having someone else listen to your own academic trajectory really helps because other people are more attune to what you can present and what you should highlight.”

For Lily Hamilton ’19, who worked on a big part of her application over the summer, the process was a long one.

“It’s been good. It’s been long. … I started talking to the adviser about it last May, and I’ve been working on essays and meeting with her over Skype and stuff since … June basically,” said Hamilton. “I have eight drafts of essays and things, its only two one-page essays … so it’s been a long process but it’s kind of nice to have it done in October.”

Hamilton is applying for the English teaching assistantship in Morocco, where she hopes to continue to learn and speak French, which she started studying in Grinnell.

“I really liked how learning a language … prompted me to think in new and different ways and also to kind of reevaluate my role as an American citizen but then also as a global citizen, and how my American identity helps me fit into different contexts,” she said.

Receiving the Fulbright Grant would also help her acquire skills that she would need in the future, as she hopes to go to law school and work “in the realm of civil rights law or criminal law reform or just legal advocacy more broadly.”

“Doing that would require me to work with a lot of … communities holding a lot of identities that I don’t have … and that would require a lot of cross-cultural communication of me … so I thought that doing a Fulbright would be a good opportunity for me to really develop those skills … in a way that would serve me in the future as well,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said the biggest challenge she faced during the application process was trying not to get overwhelmed by the idea of putting herself in a completely new environment.

“For me this would be a huge step, living abroad in … a non-Western country where I know women have very different rights and I would be stepping into a role that I don’t have a ton of experience in,” Hamilton said. “I think the biggest challenges … have mostly been … my personal introspection … and sort of using that as an understanding that informs my process, but also recognizing that ‘yeah, it is gonna be hard.’ But that also presents opportunities for growth so just trying not to get too overwhelmed by that, too.”

Steven Duong ’19 has also been very busy with applications, as he is applying for both the Fulbright Grant and the Watson Fellowship.

“I applied for both the Fulbright Grant and the Watson Fellowship because I really want my year after graduation to be like a sort of an exploration in a … place that’s very unfamiliar to me,” Duong said.

“A lot of people have talked to me like ‘Oh, I thought you weren’t allowed to do that, you’re not allowed to apply to both the Watson and the Fulbright,’ but you are, it’s just a shit ton of work,” Duong said. “You just have to be sure that … if you were able to get either of these … you’d actually wanna do them, and that’s the case with me.”

For the Fulbright Grant, he is applying for the English teaching assistantship in Vietnam, and for the Watson Fellowship, his project entails going to four different countries. For Duong, the process was definitely a stressful one.

“The interview process, definitely very stressful because, just a lot of dates and deadlines I had to come through for … sort of just like a lot of work, a lot of time,” Duong said.

However, similarly to the other Grinnell applicants, the CLS and his professors helped with navigating the application process.

“Ann Landstrom … was really helpful … She was here during the summer so I just came in with drafts of my essays for each of these applications and like worked on it throughout the summer. Probably had like six or seven drafts for each one,” Duong said. “And my professors definitely really helpful, just like giving advice … One of my professors who was my recommenders was also a Watson fellow … so he was really helpful with the process. … I’ve had support from both faculty and staff … It’s been good.”

From left to right: Reina Matsuura, Steven Duong and Lily Hamilton all ’19 have spent their summers and fall preparing for the rigorous Fulbright Grant and Watson Fellowships.
Photo by Mahira Faran

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