By Deborah Vieyra
An international fellowship can be a landmark experience that enriches both your personal and professional trajectory in an unparalleled way. So much so that later in life you may divide your memories into two distinct chapters — pre-fellowship and post-fellowship. Not only do many fellowships provide the opportunity to further your research interests, but also open you up to the invaluable experience of getting to know other places and cultures.
There are a wide range of international fellowships for you to choose from. If you have started to do your research, you are likely familiar with the Fulbright U.S. Student Award, that provides the opportunity for study and research abroad to U.S. students. The Alfa Fellowship in Russia and the German Chancellor Fellowship also provide opportunities to outstanding individuals looking to embark on the adventure only an international fellowship can provide.
If you are sitting on the fence as to whether or not you should apply for one of these prestigious awards, it’s worth considering that the decision to do so can be genuinely life-changing. It was for me.
Here are five of the top skills you will gain from an international fellowship to motivate you to get that application started.
#1 Language skills
Whether you have learned the basics of a second (or third) language and are looking to improve your knowledge, or are learning a language from scratch, an international fellowship can be a launchpad into developing advanced language skills. There is no better way to learn a language than to immerse yourself in it. You will be surprised at how quickly you pick up vocabulary and grammatical structure when it is a matter of survival. Thanks to this kind of accelerated learning, you should return home fluent in another tongue. How marvellous would that be?
#2 Cultural competency
Understanding another culture and way of life is one of the most valuable skills you can garner in our globalized world. Having the humility to step back while you learn to understand other traditions and customs is not just a good skill in terms of your professional development, but is also vital to becoming an integrated global citizen. What’s more, it’s interesting! What could be more amazing than learning about other people and their way of life?
#3 Subject matter expertise
Imagine studying the birds of Botswana, the pyramids in Egypt, or the relics of sixteenth century Italian architects. By conducting research right at the source, you will be well on your way to becoming a respected authority in your field. The perspective that you get from studying abroad will place you in good stead when you return home to a local job market. Whether you choose to remain on an academic route, or going into another field, your work abroad will be immediately notable.
Diplomacy is not something you can learn in a book. Learning how to engage with people of other cultures and nationalities can only be done through practice. Many of the international fellowships on offer include networking events where you will get to interact with people from all parts of the globe. This means that not only will you have the experience of immersing yourself in a foreign culture during your time abroad, but also have the opportunity to form connections with people whom you may have otherwise never had the opportunity to meet.
There is no bigger learning curve than living abroad for an extended period of time. Yes, things will be challenging. Yes, there will be times when you will want the comforts of home — but the resources you will find within yourself to deal with the obstacles you encounter will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. Think of it as strengthening your independence muscle. It doesn’t come easily, but you will most certainly reap the rewards.
Are you ready to apply? Head on over to ProFellow and look through all the options available to you. You won’t be sorry.
Deborah Vieyra is a Fulbright alumna from South Africa who completed her MA in Applied Theatre Arts at the University of Southern California. She now works as a writer, proofreader and performer in Vancouver, Canada.
© Victoria Johnson 2018, all rights reserved.