August, 2011

Fulbright recipient, Anna Alcaro, a 2011 Penn State graduate in Anthropology, with minors in African Studies and Geography, is heading to Johannesburg, South Africa.  Follow her life-changing experiences on her blog:

Here is what Anna had to say during an interview about applying for a Fulbright Grant…

1.) Why did you choose to apply for the Fulbright scholarship?
If I had thought too much about it, I probably wouldn’t have applied. I think we all are plagued with a certain amount of self-doubt, and if you go into something like the Fulbright process with this notion that you’re going to fail because it’s something really unattainable or it’s something that only the elite cream-of-the-crop get then you are already defeated. I decided to apply for a Fulgrant a year ago after I returned from my study abroad. I had just got back form South Africa, and I was dealing with all these thoughts about everything I had seen abroad, and I needed to figure out a way to get back there and start to answer some of the questions I still had; I had prior experience with research so Fulbright was my chosen approach.

2.) What does Fulbright matter? Why should students apply?
The Program was founded with the intention of increasing cross-cultural understanding, and this is still extremely vital today. All too often, nationalism clouds our perceptions of the global community we belong to, and people will sometimes forget the importance of thinking globally. Fulbright is definitely a program that can offer more than just financial assistance. Although that is a portion of the benefits, from what I’ve read and heard, this program has so much more to offer in terms of networking and personal growth. I think that students who have a passion for the international community or who maybe have unanswered questions should definitely take the Fulbright opportunity to explore that.

3.) How are you planning on utilizing the scholarship to further your career goals?
Receiving a Fulgrant for me is sort of surreal. It’s not something that a lot of people from my hometown even know what it is. I am not the kind of person who is concerned with status or name-dropping, but becoming a Fulbright scholar will most definitely open up a lot of doors for my future, and I am very thankful for that. Beyond surface-level things, this opportunity to pursue my own research agenda is so exciting. I will be researching public perceptions of climate change and water access in Johannesburg, and this will definitely be something upon which I further build my academic endeavors.

4.) What was your favorite part or experience associated with the scholarship?
So far, this process has taught me a lot about my ability to be patient — or lack thereof :). This is a long waiting game, and it’s important to be aware of that when you go into it. I think too, I’ve learned a lot about networking and bouncing ideas off of other people. I don’t think I am in anyway the smartest person in the world, let alone in this university, but I think that I am skilled at sharing my work with the right sorts of people, taking criticism and feedback, and working it towards a positive outcome. Ruth, Sue, and Dave at the Fellowship office have also been one of my favorite parts of this fellowship process. Like I said before, this is a waiting game, and it’s good to have these sorts of people who can be your support network when you fee like the waiting is driving you crazy.

5.) What are your future career or academic goals?
In the future, I hope to pursue a PhD in applied Sociocultural Anthropology. I don’t know if I see myself ending up in academia, but I think that I want to gain as much knowledge as possible in order to better supplement a life of activism and foreign service of some sort.