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    Three Stony Brook Students Awarded Fulbright Scholarships

    Last Spring, three Stony Brook students learned that they were awarded with grants to study overseas through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the prestigious international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

    Efie Spentzos, the Fulbright Program advisor at Stony Brook, said students are able to choose the country they want to study in, and the Fulbright program offers a certain number of grants to each country. According to a Stony Brook press release, the three students chosen will study during the 2007-2008 academic year in Greece, Madagascar, and Thailand.

    Spentzos said that the students had to apply a year in advance, in September 2006, in order to be considered for this competitive scholarship. The students were not simply chosen based on academics and merit; they had to submit a 2-page proposal stating what kind of work they would like to pursue in the host country they choose as well. In addition, a 1-page autobiographical statement must be submitted. ‘It’s not need-based,’ she said, referring to other types of scholarships that pick students based on income levels.

    ‘The basic purpose is to promote cross-cultural understanding, it’s not just to study,’ Spentzos said. She added that students are expected to create relationships with locals, do volunteer work, and learn the local language.

    According to the 2008-2009 Fulbright information book, distributed by the Institute of International Education, the program had 6,071 applicants for the current academic year, and was only able to distribute 1,444 grants, making the application process highly competitive.

    ‘You have to have a good proposal,’ Spentzos said, adding that the application process could look very intimidating at the beginning, but as long as one takes the necessary steps to submit a well-prepared application, it isn’t so bad.

    Carly Kenkel, a recent Stony Brook graduate who majored in Marine Science, was one of the students awarded with the Fulbright scholarship for the 2007-2008 academic year. She said she is going to Thailand to study coral disease in the aftermath of tsunamis in Southeast Asia. According to the information book, 27 applications were received for Thailand, and there were only 4 grants available.

    Kenkel, who originally studied at Southampton College before the campus was purchased by Stony Brook, said that the school had a strong Fulbright following, and that’s how she found out about the program. She said she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do until she attended a speech at the New York Aquarium about physical damage of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. She found out that no one was studying coral disease in the area, and decided to make this her proposal for her Fulbright application.

    ‘I think this is very worthwhile,’ Kenkel said. ‘I’m really excited. I think it’s going to be one of the best, if not the best, experience of my life to date.’

    According to its website, the Fulbright Program for U.S. Students is designed for recent BA or BS graduates, master’s and doctoral candidates, young professionals (including writers and journalists), artists and musicians. The website states that the program operates in more than 140 countries worldwide, and preference will be given to candidates who have not had prior experience in studying abroad.

    The Fulbright grant covers the living expenses of students for 10 months. During this period, students are able to develop relationships and understandings of the cultures they are surrounded by. She added that many students also take the opportunity to become an English Teaching Assistant in their host country.

    Applicants must apply the September before their target year of study, and they will know if they are accepted by spring, giving them a whole summer to prepare paperwork and take care of travel concerns. Spentzos said that some students may need to arrange certain permits, especially those for labs, in advance.

    ‘When students go there, they don’t go unprepared,’ Spentzos said, and added that there are professionals on the other side expecting the students’ arrivals.

    According to the 2007-2008 information book, Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas established the program in 1946. Since then, more than 105,400 Americans and 174,100 participants from other countries have benefited from the experience.

    Spentzos encourages all students interested in the Fulbright program to contact her at the office of International Academic Programs, by phone 631-632-7031, or by e-mail [email protected].

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