Monica Stancu, an accomplished international student from Romania, pursued and funded a Master’s degree in the United States with a series of fellowships, including the prestigious American Association for University Women’s (AAUW) International Fellowship. The AAUW International Fellowships are awarded for full-time study or research in the United States to women who are not United States citizens or permanent residents. One of the world’s largest sources of funding for graduate women, AAUW is providing more than $4.3 million in funding for more than 278 fellowships and grants to outstanding women and nonprofit organizations in the 2012-13 academic year. Monica provided us some tips on how she tapped into this incredible source of funding for international students.
1. Why did you decide to apply for the AAUW International Fellowship?
I came to the US to pursue an MA in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. However, my Fulbright scholarship was only able to cover the first year of graduate studies. Coming from Romania, I could not afford to pay tuition and living expenses on my own. Just one month after I started school, I decided to start looking for other fellowships that would allow me to stay for the second year. However, I found that there were few generous scholarships out there for non-US citizens pursuing MA studies in social sciences. Luckily, I came across the AAUW international fellowship, which is open to non-US citizen women enrolled in graduate work. I did my research and found that AAUW does an amazing job in promoting women’s equality. I thought my MA thesis, which focused on Roma women’s activism, was a good match for the organization’s mission.
2. What do you think made your application stand out?
I think AAUW liked that my thesis focused on women’s rights. They also requested we send them a bibliography that we plan to use for our final thesis/dissertation. Even though I submitted my AAUW application only four months into my Master’s program, I already had a huge bibliography for my thesis. That may have lead them to perceive me as prepared and focused. That I already received a Fulbright grant probably worked in my favor as well. I also had amazing and supportive professors who knew me well and could write detailed recommendation letters.
3. What tips would you give others applying for the AAUW International Fellowship?
- Make it clear how your research project will help women in your country.
- Don’t be afraid to get personal and reveal how your experiences made you interested in women’s issues.
- Ask for recommendation letters from professors that know you and your work well.
- Showcase your volunteer work (especially if it is related to social justice) and be specific about the skills you acquired while doing that
- Look at past recipients to get an idea about what AAUW is looking for. You can find all past fellows on their website.
- Spell check!
No matter how scary the application process is, go for it! The only sure way you are not going to get a scholarship is if you don’t apply.
Monica Stancu earned her BA in American Studies from the University of Bucharest, Romania, and holds an M.A. in Women’s History from Sarah Lawrence College, NY. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Junior Award and an AAUW International Fellowship. Monica is currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University where she is conducting research on Romanian women immigrants who came to the US during and after the communist regime.
© Victoria Johnson 2012, all rights reserved.