The Fulbright Program, the U.S. Government’s international exchange program, was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by former Senator J. William Fulbright. The program is designed “to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries”. Under the Fulbright program, grants are awarded to American and foreign nationals to study, teach, lecture and conduct research abroad.
Since the beginning of the Fulbright Program in 1946, more than 189.000 foreign nationals have gone to the United States for study, teaching, lecturing or research. More than 101.000 Americans have gone abroad.
Since 1991, when the U.S. Embassy was re-opened in Latvia, the Fulbright Fellowship program has been available to Latvia’s citizens and legal residents through an open competition, which is announced in the beginning of May every year. The Fulbright program in Latvia is administered in the following three categories:
Students for Fulbright Non-U.S. Student Fellowship. In order to compete for a fellowship, students must hold a bachelor’s degree if applying for a master’s degree study. Students must have a master’s degree if applying for a doctoral study. The Fulbright Fellowship for students is available for two years graduate-level study in an American university. Students may apply to study all disciplines except medicine.
Scholars/Researchers for Fulbright Visiting Scholars Fellowship. Interested applicants must already hold a Ph.D. degree, or be finishing their dissertation. Scholars may apply to conduct research or lecture in any field, except medicine, but including public health. A letter of invitation from an American host university is welcome, but not required; placement at a university will be arranged for all finalists.
In order to apply for one of the categories of the Fulbright fellowship, interested applicants must submit a complete application form by the deadline, which will be noted. Students are given about a month and a half to complete their application on-line and submit the supporting documents. The visiting scholar program applicants are given about two and a half months to complete an application and submit the supporting documentation. The supporting documentation includes letters of reference, certified copies of transcripts from local universities attended, standardized test (TOEFL, GRE/GMAT) scores for students’ fellowship applicants and (for scholar applicants) letters of invitation from American universities. The application forms are available on the embassy’s web site, upon announcement of the annual competition.
A Fulbright scholarship is awarded for one academic year. Scholars can apply for a shorter period of time, starting from three months. A Fulbright Fellowship covers tuition and fees at an American university (scholars receive a generous research allowance), monthly stipend, health insurance, and international airfare. Scholars will receive a dependent allowance, if spouses or children under 18 accompany grantees. However, dependent airfare and medical insurance will not be covered.
Only Latvian citizens and legal residents of Latvia are eligible to apply. Dual citizens (United States and Latvia) are not eligible to apply for a Fulbright Fellowship from Latvia to conduct research in the United States. Applicants must reside in Latvia during the time of application. Applications received from abroad will not be considered. An approximate interview date for semi-finalists of Fulbright Visiting Scholars Fellowship will be scheduled during the last week of November or the first week of December. Semi-finalists will be invited to an interview via a telephone call approximately four to five days in advance of the interview (no exceptions for the interviews will be made). We therefore ask that all applicants put down a telephone where they can be reached during business hours.
For further information regarding the Fulbright program, please contact Ingrīda Bodniece at the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section at +371 6710 7000 or +371 6710 7209 or e-mail to: BodnieceI@state.gov
Inese Voika, Member of the Board of DELNA (Latvia’s Chapter of Transparency International), Fulbright Fellowship Alumna, Master’s degree in Public Administration, JFK School of Government, Harvard University
Studies at a graduate level in the US broadened my horizon beyond my expectations. In the classroom we discussed issues that are of importance to the world today, be it a theory of management or human rights. Participation usually counted from 15% to 50% of the grade, which gave additional challenges – to be competitive, to be able to communicate your experience and message to people from different cultures. US universities are a melting pot in the positive sense of this word. You can be at home there, given that you take the initiative. The combination of what you gain in a classroom, on campus, from the mass media and your classmates can become an eye opening experience about the world to the rest of your life. Fulbright is a wonderful community, starting from the care and advice I got prior to departure and during settling in a country I had never lived in before. In Boston I met a lively Fulbright group that united both Americans and the International students of all ages. It offered an additional frame of reference to learn more about American culture and local historic traditions. I still keep an eye on internet discussions going on between Fulbrighters all around the world.
Ieva Kalniņa, Fulbright Fellowship Alumna, LLM, Harvard University
The path to Fulbright grant is not a sprint; it is a marathon, which demands lots of work, time and motivation. Considering the enormous competition, this process is worth starting only if you are ready not only to be very persistent, but perfect. You have to find time to prepare for TOEFL and GRE tests, which, in my case, meant studying once again the secondary school curriculum of mathematics. You have to spend lots of time writing and rewriting the letters of motivation. You have to get very good recommendations from your professors and employers. At the moment of sending your application questionnaire you should feel that you have done your utmost. And, finally, you have to spend time in serious preparations for the interview. You have to come to the understanding – both for you yourself and the appraisal committee – why you have deserved this grant and not another student as good and gifted as you. If you have persistence, motivation and clear vision of what you want and why you want it, then Fulbright grant is not unattainable, and, finally, each invested minute will bring ten-fold and even hundred-fold returns.
Līga Mitenberga, Lecturer at the University of Latvia and Interpreter at the European Commission in Latvia, Fulbright Fellowship Alumna, Comparative Literature, Columbia University
It is clear that a Fulbright grant that allows a student to spend a whole year in America is something that, inevitably, changes you. The grant and the studies ensured by it change everything: understanding of the subject, of its place among other fields of research, your self-confidence, and, of course, it radically changes your attitude towards work, studies. I studied at Columbia University, New York, and this academic year in undergraduate and graduate level studies was the toughest study year in my life. I was studying literature, literary theory and sometimes the volume of home reading went beyond my imagination – up to 1000 pages that had to be read and analyzed within a few days time. Impossible? Nothing of the kind. If you know why you are studying, if you feel inspired by truly creative, research work, if you are well-prepared for studies at the highest level of education, if you like what you do – is there anything impossible then? Discussions, meetings, debates on various levels, conversations with authors, critics, everyone who is doing something of importance in your field – this is an ordinary study life. Can preparing for this “ordinary life” be a burden?
Visvaldis Valtenbergs, PhD Candidate and Lecturer at Vidzeme University College, Fulbright Fellowship Alumnus, Master’s degree in political science, New School University, New York
A Fulbright scholarship is generous and rewarding. It allows you to enjoy the pleasures of intellectual pursuit, and some smaller pleasures as well. Carrying books in my trolley bag from the university library is what I have only done as a Fulbrighter. Well – there were many good books, and I wanted to read all of them. What’s so special about the Fulbright Program today? There are many world leaders who cherish excellence, freedom of thought, and person’s willingness to learn. Fulbright program proves that there are also leaders who are ready to do something about it.
Gatis Šmits, Fulbright Fellowship Alumnus, Master of Fine Arts, Tisch School or the Arts, New York University
With the help of Fulbright grant I had the opportunity to study at one of the best US film schools – New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. The school offered a very well-considered and very intensive study process, creating all the necessary conditions for student development – knowledgeable professors, students- colleagues from all over the world, rich film library and understanding administration. The School has at its disposal the entire necessary technical basis for film production, not all schools can afford that. I am convinced that the academic world of the US with its traditions and enormous resources offers the best educational opportunities also in other fields.