The first group of grant recipients were recently announced: . For those of you thinking about the Nat Geo Fulbright, in addition to the very helpful info and instructions on the Fulbright website, make sure you address the following in your project proposal:

  • Feasibility of your project in each country proposed.  How will this work in each country? Why is each country setting an important part of your proposal?
  • Who stands to benefit from your project and how? Think about the communities you’d be living/working with as well as US audiences
  • What is your language proficiency? How does lack of proficiency impact your project? How would you address that?

Reviewers will be looking for the demonstrated feasibility of your project in each setting, your demonstrated skills in digital storytelling, your connection to the topic and your genuine interest in exploring a topic (rather than approaching with a particular agenda or view).  The application tips are enormously helpful–read carefully!

Also, like any multi-country proposals, your proposal must be approved by each country you propose to visit. If you select three countries and one does not approve the project, your application will not be successful. So message is to choose what makes most sense for your project!

If you’re thinking about an ETA in France, you should apply to BOTH the the Fulbright ETA and the French government Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF).  The Fulbright awards 6 ETAs to France; the general French Government TAPIF offers an additional 1,100 positions.

To apply for both, you will need to make two separate applications, one for the Fulbright and another for the TAPIF.

For further information on the French Government Teaching Assistant Program in France, please consult the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. website: .  Note: you must be a native English speaker and US citizen or permanent resident to apply.

Sadly, could not stay for the whole tour. Here’s a list of the universities I missed–all excellent and worthy of looking at:

University of Surrey

University of Southampton

University of Birmingham

University of Nottingham

University of East Anglia

University of Cambridge 

Sorry not be to be able to offer first-had impressions!

Day 5, traveled to Wales to visit Cardiff University. Like Ireland, the country is bilingual, and signs everywhere are written in both Welsh and English. I have always considered myself  pretty good with languages. However, we did have a Welsh lesson, and I can say with certainty, this is one language that I would have great difficulty with. Yes, it uses the Roman alphabet, but has far fewer vowels, new consonant arrangements are vexing (my rolled “R” in Spanish is brilliant in comparison to the Welch “ll”), and there don’t seem to be entirely predictable rules. Here’s the longest word:

But lucky for me, English is everywhere, just like in Ireland. Particular university strengths in Cardiff include Welsh studies (obviously!), performing arts (music, drama). You can find more about research agendas at Cardiff here. And for Dr. Who and Sherlock fans, those shows are filmed in Cardiff.

Continuing the theme of historic things, among the delightful historical objects at the University of Bristol was the first-known portrait with a cricket paddle (18c) and the DNA model used by Watson and Crick (on view in an undergraduate lab room).  Bristol is a comprehensive university in a medium-sized city. With aerospace technology nearby, there’s strength in the sciences, but also a commitment to humanities inquiry, particularly in the interplay with sciences. Had very interesting talks from faculty: Dr. James Ladyman on philosophy of science;  Dr. Mark Horton from archeology (who has been exploring early colonial settlements along Cape Hatteras with the Croatoan Archeological Society); and Dr. Gareth Williams, who has recently authored a book about the history of the polio vaccine–and he himself was one of the early experimental subjects for Dr. Hilary Koprowski’s oral polio vaccine. You can find more information about graduate study at Bristol here. Also a place keen to attract more international students.

Day 3. I always find it fascinating to walk around old cities. Living in the US, anything of the eighteenth-century vintage is noteworthy, but looking at a twelfth-century building? That is really something. And that history is part of the delight of Oxford.

and then there are all those famous Oxonians: Erasmus, John Donne, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Locke, Adam Smith, William Penn, Robert Harvey, Oscar Wilde, Cecil Rhodes, Benazir Bhutto,  Elena Kagan, J. R. R. Tolkien to list a few. No doubt about it, there’s lots to recommend Oxford. I spent the day at the Rhodes House, talking with current Rhodes scholars, and then the afternoon in the Blavatnik School of Government , talking with faculty from economics, physics and history. Ended the day with a lovely meal at the Turl Street Kitchen, where the menu was largely organized around locally-sourced foods. Very much like home. So, if you’re interested in Oxford, research the programs of interest, talk with faculty and if you can, with current students. I spoke with students who were delighted with their experience, and others who did not feel it was the right fit. The 2008 RAE ratings are also helpful when evaluating specific departments and programs. I would also refer prospective students to the information about graduate study funding for international students; you need to apply by their January deadline to be considered for university or departmental funding (and this is entirely separate from Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships).

Day 2–a short drive out of London to Royal Holloway, also part of the University of London system, although not located in London. The most immediately arresting feature of the campus is  this building:


In a word, Hogwarts. But really, the Founder’s Building above was inspired by the Vassar campus–and Royal Holloway was initially established as a women’s college (at the suggestion of founder Thomas Holloway’s wife, Jane). University is highly ranked and most popular graduate degree programs are English, History, Media Arts. Distinctive courses: Holocaust Studies, Public History, and Crusader Studies. And yes, weather on this day really was as glorious as it looks in the photo!

Then, slowed by traffic for the Royal Ascot (horse race; I had to inquire), on to the University of Reading. Located in the Thames Valley (Britain’s Silicon Valley), it’s about a 3o minute ride to Paddington Station. Ten departments are ranked in the top ten; major focal areas include climate change, food security, health, and sustainable environments. You can read more about the 2008 RAE evaluation here. Definitely some noteworthy departments, including philosophy and archeology.

At long last have a few minutes to post notes about specific UK institutions I visited in June, as part of the NAFA UK study tour. (NAFA is the US professional organization for fellowship advisors, in case you were really wondering.) I will break posts up to focus on different institutions–otherwise, this will be absurdly long.  Onward: day one was spent in London, visiting four universities. The University of London actually consists of 18 self-governing colleges and 10 smaller research institutes–see the full list at .  What great about studying at one of these institutions is that you’re also part of this larger consortial group, so as a student at one college, you have access to a wider set of facilities and services. Due to flight problems, I missed the visit to UCL , but there are a wide variety of very strong programs there and the university is in the top three research institutions in the UK (based on the 2008 RAE rating). UCL prides itself on interdisciplinary research (among other things) to address significant human challenges–global health, sustainability and more. I caught up with the group at Imperial College London, which focuses on sciences (engineering, technology, life sciences, physical sciences–all programs very highly ranked in UK and Europe, medicine and business. There’s lots of interest, for example, in the intersection between technological innovation and entrepreneurship–very evident, for example, in the bioengineering program we visited. Then onto Kings College London. Kings has programs across the disciplines (Rosalind Franklin was a researcher here).  Some noteworthy areas: War Studies, Geography, BRIC Economies. And so as not to be outdone by US colleges, Kings’ also boasts a highly successful a cappella group All the Kings Men  (listening to them now!).  Next, onto the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, founded in 1899 with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Learned a good deal about their school of public health and focus on lab, field and policy in areas of public and population health, epidemiology, infectious diseases, and tropical medicine. Learned a great deal about mosquitoes (they are most attracted to foor odor–and no, garlic does nothing. Stick with DEET). Also learned about a fascinating program to cure cataract-caused blindness in Kenya. See .  You can see Dr. Andrew Bastawrous talk about the project here in his TED talk . Very cool project. Studying in London definitely has it’s perks–what a fabulous and highly international city! Arts, science, events–lots and lots going on. Downsides: definitely expensive, your housing may be quite a distance from campus, and there not so much of a “campus” experience of the kind you’re used to.

Sure, everyone here has heard of Oxford, Cambridge, and LSE–just like everyone in the UK has heard of Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford. But Middlebury? Not always. And yet you know it’s an excellent undergraduate college with noted academic strengths and beautiful location, albeit a bit cold in the winter. Point being: there are many excellent universities in the UK, so how do you find out which ones are best for your academic interests? Here are some websites to get you started:



The UK higher education system offers degrees that sound similar to those in the US, but there are some important differences. The undergraduate BA in the UK is typically a three-year degree, focused on a particular subject area and lacking the general education component of our degree requirements. Scottish universities do have a four-year undergraduate degree, very similar to our own structure. For graduate degrees (post-graduate study), there are masters and doctoral degrees, just as in the US, but they vary in both the depth of focus, the duration and the method of instructions. While there may be individual programmatic or institutional variants, here’s a general overview:

Taught Masters: e.g. MSt, MSc, and others. Usually one year in length, but may vary between 9-15 months. Consists of course instruction and independent research work.

Research Masters: e.g.MPhil and others. Usually two years in length, highly independent research program, working with a faculty mentor. Depending on the program, there may a be a broad research methods course, but typically, you’ll be immersing yourself in a specific area of research.

DPhil: PhD, usually 3-4 years in duration. This is shorter than the US program, which is typically 5-7 years, depending on the field. But some key differences–the DPhil does not include the kind of broad coursework that an American PhD does, nor does it incorporate teaching experience into the degree program. Some UK programs may require you to begin as a MA student and then convert your program to the DPhil; others allow you to begin the DPhil immediately. But key to note–this is a very self-directed, research intensive degree, without the kind of taught course foundation you’re used to in the undergraduate degree.

That’s the quick primer–so when looking at degree programs in different faculties, you’ll have a sense of what’s involved. It’s important to talk with the department about your background and your interests to know what the best degree program for your interest area is.

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