International Fellowship Programs: 10 Tips You Need to Win

by Sojourner

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International fellowship programs are some of the most dynamic opportunities you can find! Spanning across continents, countries, and career aspirations, they are competitive opportunities to deeply understand how we are connected globally.

So, what are the application tips you need to know? Well hello, I have that information just for you!

Yes, hard work and lots of writing are required. However, international fellowship programs are worth the hustle. With five years to reflect on my Fulbright Fellowship experience, I want to share tips on applying for international fellowships with you. Are y’all ready to dive in and go abroad? If so, keep reading. 

Research, research, research

There are many international fellowships out there you can pursue! From engineering, to education, to the arts, overseas fellowships attract a variety of career aspirations. Yet, this also means it is easy to get overwhelmed. As you research, be sure to use the field of interest in your search terms. Examples of solid search terms are, “education fellowships abroad” or “international business fellowships.” Get specific and start with these websites to begin your search for that ideal opportunity.  

Do not force an international fellowship to work for you

Aspiring fellows often try to make international fellowship programs fit them, instead of the other way around. Just the idea or thought of going abroad can get the best of applicants. The excitement can also cause some to “elaborate” about their skills and/or experiences. Finessing is one thing, lying on a resume or CV can get you caught up.

I am the biggest supporter of marketing yourself and knowing your worth. However, don’t overdo it to make an opportunity align when it doesn’t. What most applicants don’t realize is there are enough overseas fellowships out there for everyone. Reflect and think on what you really want. Some questions to evaluate if an international fellowship is right for you include:

– Where do I see myself when the fellowship is over?

– What are the pros and cons of pursuing this international fellowship?

– Do I really want to do this work for my full-time job abroad?

– Does this fellowship align with my career values?

If you just want to travel, do not apply

Yes, this is a travel blog that highlights everything from traveling for leisure to working via overseas fellowships. But, read that again! I want to reiterate that working abroad is no joke. International fellowship programs are more than just traveling. Make sure the passion for work is prioritized over the urge to travel. Most international fellowships are for those wanting to advance or enhance their career path, and that should be the goal. If you don’t want that, you need not apply. 

Know why you picked a country, region, and/or language

In addition to being career-based, many overseas fellowships are location-based too. For some people, they are flexible and want to experience any country they can access. Other applicants have very specific reasons for picking a region, such as a cultural or educational connection. Regardless, know your why and weave it into your essay explanation.   

And of course, factor in language ability! Language-learning is a key part of immersive experiences like international fellowship programs. Depending on your abilities, this may not be a factor (i.e. you speak the language of the host country). However, if you do need to learn the language address why in your application. Language-learning is one of the best aspects of international fellowships, so take advantage of it.

It’s common to apply for more than one at a time

Who said you have to limit your possibilities? Due to the competitive nature of overseas fellowships, it is very common to apply to multiple at a time. Still, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend replicating applications because you still want each one to be unique. Now, if you win all of the ones you apply to, then you have a big decision to make. Don’t sell yourself short because that is a great problem to have.

Solicit different people to review your application

Having people who know you well, and people who don’t know you well, review your personal statement is important. Mixing it up means you can get two forms of feedback. The variance in point of views can further revise your application. Whether you end up cutting whole paragraphs or elaborating on some ambiguity, feedback is key shaping your application voice.  It can also help convey why the fellowship committee should pick you.

Double check the internal campus deadline

For international fellowships that require a university sponsorship, this tip is just for you! As someone who applied through their university, I had an internal deadline dated a month before the Fulbright Program’s official one. Some institutions only nominate a handful of students, meaning you have to go through their process first. This means you are formally applying to the institution before applying for any of the international fellowships themselves. Planning is key to make sure you hit those deadlines correctly. 

Connect with your on-campus fellowships or study abroad office

The same colleges and universities that encourage study abroad opportunities also encourage participation in international fellowship programs. Producing winners of international fellowships are of high priority because it makes them look good. In return, this means more investment in you. Check if your college or university has an on-campus fellowship and/or study abroad office. These are the offices dedicated to helping aspiring applicants win those coveted overseas fellowships.  Tap into those resources to get all the application help you can!

Start your application early

The more time you have to work on your essays, and overall application, the better. With more time, you can triple check all essays and recommendations. Having extra time to review also means evaluating it’s the best representation of you, your career aspirations, and your experiences. Even though some applicants do produce their best work under pressure, it never hurt anyone to start early. 

Don’t believe in yourself? The review committee won’t either

Some of these international fellowships ask for a lot. They are demanding applications with multiple moving parts for them to be complete. Do not let impostor syndrome get in your mind and thoughts! You are ready to tackle all that these international fellowship programs ask you to submit. Half the battle is believing yourself and knowing that, no matter what happens, you did your best. 

At the end of the day…

Applying for international fellowships is a big feat. But, if it’s what you want to do, let me finish writing so you can start! Always go after what you want. Adventure and work experience awaits. Don’t let that feeling of purpose fester any longer. You deserve to do something you love and an international fellowship may be the path for you. All the best!

Now, you are ready to apply to an international fellowship! Begin with this list to get started! And if you’re specifically looking to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship/Fellowship, check out these tips here!

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