First ApprovalIn October, my Fulbright buddy Allen Scott received notice that his Fulbright proposal has been officially recommended by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars Peer Review Committee for the award. Now his papers would be forwarded to the Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy in Poland for further consideration. My notice of good news or bad news had not come yet. I was concerned, but I got the mail the next day, and was thrilled to learn that my proposal, too, had been selected to move forward. My Fulbright buddy and I shook hands. My husband started to worry and believe that I could really be chosen to do a Fulbright in South Africa!
My overused phrase during the next months was, “Has the mail arrived?” The waiting for the final assessment is excruciating! After the host Embassy looks at your proposal, it recommends it or not for final review by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. I must say, that all of this very intense scrutiny made me nervous. I was sure I had spelled everything correctly, and that my sentences said what I thought they said, and that I used no slang or unwarranted lingo…
Being SelectedMy Fulbright buddy received his selection notification first, by email. I earnestly congratulated him of course. I figured that my notice of good news or bad news would come later as it did before. Unbeknown to me, mine had actually been delivered to my rural mailbox where it sat through a terrific rainstorm. The next day, my husband brought in the mail and was certain that the CIES envelope contained a rejection, since it was slim, and not an email as my Fulbright buddy’s had been.
I gently opened the envelope, and my husband turned away as I read it, ready to turn back and comfort me if I was too disappointed. I read the letter. I sat down hard on the nearest chair with my mouth open in an “O”. I was selected for a Fulbright. I was astonished. My husband rushed over, thinking to comfort me after reading a rejection but I said, “I got the Fulbright.” He was amazed and not altogether happy but extremely pleased and proud. He read the letter through several times, and let out a loud “Whoop!” and gave me the best hug ever. We made dinner, then, but I can’t remember what it was.
Fulbright Buddy and Family ReadersI’d like to say a word about having a Fulbright buddy. We are from the same university, the same college, but different departments. We were ruthless, and often politely shook our friendship to the core making sure that each other’s wording was exactly what we thought it meant, and that we had covered exactly everything our project proposals demanded. We proofread, and suggested alternative sentences to help the word-count. His style was very different from mine, as it should be, but beyond that we were very critical readers of each other’s proposals. I had others read the proposal beforehand as well, but to share the writing with someone who wants the same outcome as you, well, that is precious.
It is a good idea to use other readers. I naturally chose my husband. He asked the hard questions, double checked that I had hit every required topic, and also proofread my proposal. His efforts did two things. First, we knew together that the proposal represented a possible future, and what an 11 month Fulbright would mean to us. Second, my husband is a mathematician, and stoutly aware of grant writing procedures. He double checked that what I wanted to do was clearly explained and supported.
Approval of the Medical ReportThe process of being selected, by the way, is only a small part of actually being a Fulbright grantee. There is a plethora of paperwork, a maze of tasks, and a lot of worrying.
The medical report was the biggest log-jam until May. It was sent in late April to CIES who turned it over to their doctor who reviews the status of my health in comparison to the tasks I am likely to perform in South Africa. Of course I am a healthy individual, but there I was, waiting again. The CIES doctor is extremely busy right now, with nearly 300 medical reports to look at in a matter of weeks. I wouldn’t want that job. Without medical approval, the Fulbright stops dead in its tracks. Scary thought. I was extremely anxious about getting the medical paperwork cleared, because that is so important to becoming an actual Fulbright grantee. Medical clearance arrived, and I next waited on the financial statement needed for the treaty permit visa.
In a Nutshell
I have always loved the ways in which all cultures design expression of their values and issues and how their stories are told in live performances. Now I have been given the opportunity to spend nearly a year really getting to know the current world of South Africa as expressed by its theatre.