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Outline: Real testimonial from Emília de Abreu, an Economics student at ISCTE Business School who wishes to share her amazing international experience in the US with the Uduni community after being awarded a Fulbright Foundation Scholarship!

Before I start, I would like to tell you a little about my personal attitude towards international experience.  I live and study in Lisbon and as a matter of fact Lisbon has become a more and more international city. In addition, I used to work with exchange students thought the Erasmus Students Network, where I worked as a volunteer during one year. Hence, I felt that I was having my own international experience in my own country.  It was sensational spending so much time with foreign students and making friends from all over the world, discovering so many different cultures without leaving my own town! Being a recipient of a Fulbright Foundation scholarship worth thousands of dollars was one of the best things it has ever happened in my life!

All these reasons boosted my wish of studying abroad. Still, in reality something was holding me back. As an analytical and strategic person as I am, I noticed that doing the program Erasmus, as an example, for several reasons would not be that valuable for me.

Under those circumstances I saw an opportunity coming, something that would not have a direct effect on my academic performance and that at the same time would let me get round not only to study a new topic, but also to learn a new culture overseas.  In January 2015, I started my application for an intensive short term academic program, supported by Fulbright, the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders from Europe.  And guess what, I wrote a winning candidature and represented my own country in the United States, during that summer.

So if there is something holding you back from going abroad or if you haven’t found yet a program that suits you, keep reading! I promise you nothing, but good advices!

What is SUSI?

Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Student Leaders from Europe are intensive short term academic programs designed for undergraduate student leaders. Its main goal is to provide students a broad perception of the United States, together with improving the student’s leadership skills.

These have a time length of five weeks and believe me, ‘intensive’ is not just a word used to look good on paper, these programs are really intense and if you are considering applying you should be mentally prepared. You will spend a long amount of time taking part in activities such as: seminars, presentations, lectures, leadership activities, volunteer projects at the local community, between others.

It surely sounds like a lot, but have I already mentioned that this five weeks will be during the summer? Another key point is that there are different SUSI programs which you can apply to, including:

  • SUSI Institute on Contemporary American Literature;
  • SUSI Institute on Environmental Stewardship;
  • SUSI Institute on Journalism and Media;
  • SUSI Institute on Religious Pluralism in the United States;
  • SUSI Institute on Social Entrepreneurship;
  • SUSI Institute on U.S. Culture and Society;
  • SUSI Institute on U.S. Foreign Policy;
  • SUSI Institute on U.S. Political Thought;

These are only a few examples of SUSI, every year the Fulbright Commissions and the US Department of State offer scholarships for different summer institutes and they can vary from year to year.

By the time I applied, Fulbright Portugal promoted the SUSI Institute on Environmental Stewardship and on Social Entrepreneurship, I enrolled in the first one. From all the Europe approximately 20 lucky students are selected to represent their countries in the United States, in each of the SUSI programs.

The Application For A Scholarship

The submission of your application is your earliest contact with the Fulbright Commission as an applicant, surely you will without doubts want to give a good first impression, am I right?

At the SUSI info page, you have all the details and materials you will need to start building your candidature. The most important and compulsory is the Application Form, obviously!

While I was writing this post, I accessed the 2016 Application Form and compared it to the one I filled in last year. Indeed, there are some differences, in particular Fulbright made it easier for you to carry out your application by making available a digital form.

As it can be seen, the Application is divided in various sections, the first ones are questions about your personal data, and then the following divisions are focused on your academic path, work and volunteering experience, as well as extracurricular activities. Remember, this is your first chance to shine, so you will want to include the interesting activities that you have done so far, which had a positive impact on you and that differentiate you!

Reflect about it before start writing, about your experience, training, and knowledge, they will be useful producing a good reaction on the person who is reading your form!

Next, there is a question which is always asked during your candidature process: Have you already been in the United States? Don’t worry if you did not. Fulbright appreciates giving that chance to people who haven’t had it yet.

English fluency is also a requirement for candidates. Do not forget you will be studying in the United States, you are going to be 24/7 in contact with Americans and other European students who don’t speak the same language as you!

The final section is where you have some more freedom to express yourself. And I think this is a vital part to reveal the worth asset that you are! You will be asked to write an essay on a topic that is given you. At these year’s application you must write about your background, your interests, and what will be your contribution to the institute. You are also requested to manifest your expectations about it, and how you believe you will benefit from doing the program, personally and professionally. Although, don’t be too excited, there is a word limit and these are so many questions to answer in a single sheet, plus at the same time you need to hold your reader’s interest, while making your text clear and precise.

Before initiate your text: write in a paper your strengths and skills; think of how ready you are for new challenges and how prepared you are to immerse in a totally different culture. Why does Fulbright need people like you? Are you a visionary, a leader? What makes you unique?

After this, there are still some extra questions about your household data and a supplementary essay question: “Do you consider yourself originally from an undeserved community? Why?” The huge advantage here is that you don’t have a word limit and you can freely state your ideas.

Just be sincere and lucid expressing your thoughts and following all my advices you will create an excellent candidature!

Now grab a pencil and some paper and let’s start getting your application for the Fulbright Foundation scholarship ready!

Some useful links:

You can also check the whole experience by clicking in the following links: 

Author: Emília de Abreu

“One of my biggest traits is to search for reasons and motives, I am very careful about my choices and decisions.  Notably, I always take great satisfaction from being busy and productive, especially when I am writing or working with brands, press and media as part of my blogger tasks.” Fulbright Alumnus: Portuguese Student Leader Representative at SUSI on Environmental Stewardship 2015. Currently studying Economics at ISCTE Business School and blogging at Simplicity is Chic.

DISCLAIMER: The articles featured on our platform were prepared or accomplished by students in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of UDUNI. UDUNI does not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in these articles. It is part of our mission to empower students, by providing them access to unbiased opinions and genuine, trustworthy testimonials, and we believe that is the reason why some of our articles may not please everyone.
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  1. It is also quite interesting to realize how Academic Records and merit is far from being considered as the main criteria for being successful in such application processes… I wonder what it is then… Maybe “business networking”, such a marvellous concept…

    1. While I was writing this post I just focused on enunciating the parts where I did put more effort at. There are other materials that you need to submit during your application, some are: an official copy of your high school transcript and an official copy of your university transcript.
      Your grades are also put into consideration, but in my opinion they should not be the major element that contributes to your candidature selection.

      I don’t believe “business networking” will have any influence at this process. The selection occurs two times (at least this was the way it worked last year). To be the winning student you must be the finalist from your country and after it your candidature will be sent to the US Department of State, where your form will be evaluated again at the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.

  2. Thank you for your feedback!
    Fluency is a requirement, you have to be able to communicate in a different language, which isn’t your native one.
    And remember fluency is different from proficiency! I confess, I am not proficient in English. As long as you are capable to communicate and express yourself in English with ease and clearness, you will not have to worry about it.

    1. Not really: “Someone is said to be fluent if he has a high level of language proficiency […]”.

  3. Quite a few mistakes – wonder how strict the language requirement (“fluency”) really is.

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