Stage 2. Step 2. The Interview

An interview with an English-speaking committee was the second part of Round #2 of the Fulbright contest. It was scheduled for the end of September and came the day after the GRE test.

Even though preparation for the interview does not normally take a long time, this step is incredibly important for an applicant and, of course, should be taken seriously. In this post, I will share my interview experience for the 2019 Fulbright program. Like I did in my previous posts, I will provide you with a few strategies that should help you successfully prepare for the interview. Please, note that all the recommendations are based on my personal experience and might differ significantly from the experiences of other participants.

I. General information

What to expect on an interview in the Fulbright contest?

At the interview, you will have a conversation with an English-speaking committee. Even though the interview questions are usually very individual and depend on an applicant’s major, there are still basic questions the committee will likely ask you:

  • How did you find out about the Fulbright program and why did you decide to apply for it?
  • What is your biggest achievement?
  • What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
  • Why have you chosen to apply for these universities? (may vary)
  • Tell us about your field of study/ work experience (here the questions might become more specific)
  • What are your future plans? etc.

*In addition to this, be ready to explain the features of the program that you chose to the committee members, as they might not have expertise in a certain field of study.

If you are confident about your plans, you can easily answer these questions. Rehearse answering them to make sure you will state your position clearly at the interview. However, don’t overthink (like I used to do 🙂 ) or make long scripts to memorize – unless you feel that you need to have a few phrases or keywords in mind. I wrote down the list of things that I was going to mention at the interview just to be sure I didn’t miss anything important.

II. Interview for the Russian applicants, September 2019

My experience

The interview took place in the Fulbright office in Moscow and lasted about 20 minutes. The interview panel was comprised of the Russian and American scholars, the U.S. Embassy representatives, and the Russian Fulbright office delegate. I was lucky enough to have the coordinator of the Fulbright program as one of my committee members. She was the only person I knew back then, and her presence made me feel a little bit less stressed.

An hour before the interview – the longest hour ever

My interview was scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Moscow time. I arrived at the Fulbright office about 1.5 hours before the interview started. I didn’t have to come there so early; it was all about my anxiety. As I wandered in the office building trying to find the right door, I felt my legs started shaking. Being a naturally emotional person, I found it hard to calm down and put myself together before talking to the committee. So, here is my advice – try not to panic. Obviously, saying and doing are different things, but if you know that you’re hyper-emotional and sensitive, please, try to work this out. Find something that makes you feel better.

Speaking to people has always helped me unleash my emotions. Especially if those people are in the same boat with me. This is exactly what I was doing while waiting for my turn in the office hall. I made acquaintances with some of the Fulbright applicants who came from all different parts of Russia. We had a good talk, introducing ourselves, and supporting each other. I was amazed by how talented those people were, and I wished we could become colleagues one day.

Still, I could not help panicking, as the time got closer to 3:15 p.m. One of my Fulbright fellows suggested me to do squats. What?! She explained that doing small exercises before interviews or public speaking might help. So why not? I still remember the amazed face of our assistant who passed by as I was doing squats. That must have looked funny, indeed.

Of course, it was not squatting that helped me to put myself together, but the people I met back then. That day turned into a nice memory for me, despite all the stress I experienced.

The Interview –Things to Remember  

Long story short, the interview was not as scary as I expected it to be. The committee members were nice and supportive. When I struggled to answer a certain question, they either put it differently for me or gave some hints about it. They made a couple of jokes during our conversation and complimented me for the achievements mentioned in my application. At some point, I stopped feeling so much pressure and finally realized that I should not be afraid of the committee members who actually tried to help me.

So, here is the first thing to remember – try to relax (within reasonable limits, of course) and be yourself. The committee members do not intend to make you fail; they are here to get to know you better and to answer any questions you may have about the program.

The second thing to remember is that there are no “right or wrong” answers. If you don’t know what to say (which is completely normal), you can openly tell the committee about it.  Don’t try to make up the answer in your head just to make a good impression. The interviewers will likely appreciate your honesty and openness rather than “correct” answers.

Questions the Committee Asked Me

  • As the committee members knew I was applying for Creative Writing program, the questions I was asked were related to writing accordingly: what kind of book do you want to write? What would be the story you want to share with readers? Do you have a role model of a nonfiction writer? If yes, who is/was it?
  • I believe I was a bit lost when the committee members asked me why I listed those three universities (the schools in Texas, Illinois and Colorado) in my application. I honestly told them I did not have any specific preferences, and they accepted this answer without any judgment. Nevertheless, I know I should have made more research on those schools to be better prepared for the question. Please, keep this in mind.
  • When it came to the question about my plans for the future, somehow I managed to complicate things for everyone, including myself. I mixed all my background experiences together saying that I am interested in journalistic writing, non-fiction literature and teaching. I entangled myself in my own thoughts, and here is when the committee saved my life again. A journalist, a non-fiction writer, or a teacher? – they asked me. The answer immediately came from the inside: a non-fiction writer.
  • We also spoke about my research interests, which is studying the phenomenon of political correctness. Here I put the two puzzles together, motivating my desire to study in the U.S. by the chance to learn more about this topic.

The end (?)

As I used to practice self-criticism sometimes, I was sure that I failed that interview. Confusion, awkward silence, my trembling voice – I was analyzing every minute of the conversation with the committee for a while, but then I just let it go. Good job. At least you tried – I said to myself.

In less than a week, I received an email from the director of the Fulbright program in Russia. He announced that I was selected as a semi-finalist of the program.

Now it’s your turn! How do you prepare for an important interview? Do you have any strategies or techniques that you use during the meeting? Feel free to share your tips here  😉



Stage 2. Step 1. GRE test

From August 4, 2018 – the day when I took TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) I had two weeks to get my results. Even though I was mentally exhausted at that point, I decided to take this time to start preparing for the next stage of the contest – an interview and the GRE test. Both events were scheduled for the end of September, so I had about two months for preparation.

In this post, I will focus on the GRE part. Like in the previous article about TOEFL, I am going to describe the structure of the exam, list the resources for preparation and mention my experience as well. So, let’s continue 🙂

What is GRE?

GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) – is a standardized test that is required for admission in many graduate schools in the U.S. and Canada. Students from more than 160 countries can take this test. Depending on their purpose, applicants can choose either General Test or one of six Subject tests that measure knowledge in specific areas (Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology). For the Fulbright contest, we took the computer-delivered General Test. The Fulbright program paid the fee for GRE (the fees varies from $205 to $255 depending on the country).

What is the structure of GRE General Test?

The test takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes. It includes 6 sections with a 10 minute break after the third section.


Number of Questions


Section’s features


#1 Analytical Writing

One “Analyze an Issue” task and one “Analyze an Argument” task

30 min per task


Always goes first


#2 -3 Verbal / Quantitative Reasoning


20 questions per section (40 total)


30 min per section





These sections may appear in any order


# 4-5 Verbal / Quantitative Reasoning


20 questions per section (40 total)


35 min per section

#6 Underscored




Varies (30- 35 min)

Appears as either Verbal or Quantitative Reasoning. A test taker does not get any scores for this section. ETS included this part to test new questions for their future purposes. This section appears randomly and a test taker cannot know identify it among others.

How to prepare for GRE?

ETS (Educational Testing Service) provides students with a number of sources for GRE preparation (books, online courses, etc), both free and available for purchase. GRE Test Preparation Materials in Accessible Formats is the first page I would recommend you to visit. You can see an overview and an introduction to each of the sections + download some of the tests in pdf format.

Cracking GRE by Princeton Review was the book that I borrowed from my professor. Even though the book was published in 2013 (quite outdated), I liked it because it gave me a clear overview of each section and explained in detail how to “crack” them. For me, the content of GRE and the format of the exam seemed to be much more complex in comparison with TOEFL. So, I needed the most detailed description possible which I, surprisingly, found in Cracking GRE 2013. Even though the old edition was helpful to me, I strongly encourage you to use books that were published recently, as they contain the most updated information.

There are many different tutorials on Youtube as well. One of the most popular sources for GRE preparation is MagooshGRE to which I would recommend you to subscribe first.


What was similar?

I started preparing to GRE right after taking TOEFL, and for the next two months, I followed the same strategies that I had before: planning all my lessons ahead, surrounding myself with learning materials, watching tutorials online and having regular drills.

What was different?

#1 Math. Unlike in the TOEFL test, there are no speaking and listening sections in GRE. Great news? Not for me. This time I had to face a different challenge – preparing to Quantitative Reasoning part that includes solving mathematical problems. Considering that I had not practiced math for more than five years, I could not imagine remembering even a small part of this. I thought of giving up but my boyfriend dragged me out of those thoughts. He did a lot of math during his B.A. program in engineering, so he tutored me to make sure that I understood everything. I found my old school books on algebra, geometry, and arithmetic to use them in addition to GRE textbooks. From the day I finished school, I did not think I would ever open them again. That was, indeed, an unforgettable experience. Although the most astonishing part was that eventually, I got a higher score on Quantitative Reasoning in comparison to Verbal Reasoning

#2 Vocabulary. The Verbal Reasoning section in GRE is distinguished by its specific vocabulary. For a short time, I had to memorize a big number of words, which, as I found, are not commonly used in English. The lexis was completely different from what I had in TOEFL. To make the process less tough and more effective, I tried using different methods to memorize new words. Flashcards with definitions were my number one tool. I printed them and stuck the cards all over my workplace at home. As I had them in front of my eyes every day, most of the lexis was eventually kept in my memory.

Quizlet is the best app that I can recommend using for learning vocabulary. In this app, you can both create your own set of flashcards or join the classes of other people where all the words are ready for you to learn. You can test yourself on spelling words, matching them with their definitions or writing definitions by yourself. For me, it was super helpful. Approved and strongly recommended or GRE!

Test day

I was taking GRE in Moscow, at the end of September 2018. Surprisingly, that day I felt less anxious in comparison to how it was on TOEFL. Still, that experience was equally stressful.

Before going to the computer room, each of the test takers was scanned with a metal detector (to confirm that we did not have any electronic devices, which could be used for cheating). The procedure repeated as we came from the ten-minute break. I did not expect it to be so strict, and, needless to say, this “added fuel to the fire,” making me feel even more stressed.

During the GRE exam, I did not notice the time passing like it was before during TOEFL. The average time for each section varied from 20 to 35 minutes, so imagine how quickly you should switch from one type of task to a different one (one more similarity to TOEFL). I felt my brain working on its full capacity. By the end of the test, I had a terrible headache that lasted until the end of that day. A heavy dose of painkillers, chocolate bar and taking the fresh air did not help. 

Nevertheless, I was incredibly happy to realize that I was done with the test. Despite the persistent headache, I enjoyed the rest of the day walking in the center of Moscow and taking pictures.

A bit of reflection

In general, I know that I did everything I could to prepare both for TOEFL and GRE. However, looking back at this now, I realize that the main mistake I did was poor time management. At every stage of the contest, I doubted if I took it successfully and spent much time just waiting for the results, hesitating if I should start preparing for the next step. So, from that experience, my advice would be to plan everything before the very first stage of the contest, i.e. before submitting an application. Even though you can’t predict how successfully you pass each stage, keeping yourself prepared will reduce a lot of stress and make you feel more confident. My English professor once told me “Don’t think about failure at all. Just keep going. You should set yourself on success from the very beginning.” I was struggling to follow this advice, and I hope that for you it will not be a problem at all. Best of luck 😉

Now, let me turn this over to you. Have you ever taken the GRE test? How was it? What would be your pieces of advice to prospective test takers?

Sources used:



Stage 1. Step 2. TOEFL


In a month after submitting my application to Fulbright, I received an email approving my further participation in the program (yahoo!). The next step for Russian participants would be taking the TOEFL test. That part of the contest was the most stressful for me, as it took a lot of time and mental work. In this post, I am going to give you a brief overview of the TOEFL, to describe how I prepared myself for the test and to list the biggest challenges I had back then. I will also share a few useful tips that I’ve learned from personal experience.

So, let’s start with the first question.

What is TOEFL?

“The TOEFL® (Test of English as a Foreign Language) measures the ability of non-native English speakers to use and understand the English language as it is heard, spoken, read and written in the university classroom” (ETS, TOEFL). TOEFL is one of the main requirements for participation in the Fulbright Program as it prepares international students for academic demands at universities in a host country.

What is the price?

The prices for TOEFL varies from country to country. In Russia, taking the test costs $260. As an official participant of the Fulbright contest, I did not have to pay for it.  The program fully covered the cost of the exam (which is a nice part of applying for Fulbright 🙂 ).

What is the structure of TOEFL?

The test includes four sections:

  • Reading – includes 3-4 academic passages with 10 multiple questions to each
  • (54–72 minutes)
  • Listening – includes 5 listening passages: 3 academic passages with 6 multiple questions to each + 2 campus conversations with 5 questions to each.
  • (41–57 minutes)
  • Speaking – includes 4 tasks: expressing an opinion on a certain topic (2) + speak based on reading and listening text (2).
  • (17 minutes)
  • Writing – includes 2 essays: the one which is based on reading and listening task and the one which supports a student’s opinion on a given topic.
  • (50 minutes)

The test takes about three hours, including the ten-minute break after the first two sections.  And here is the first tip – be fast and learn to think quickly for the test. You have a certain amount of time for each section (see above). Once the time is finished, you can not go back to the previous part. Given how many tasks TOEFL includes and how limited the time is, you should rationally use every minute – sometimes even seconds – during the test (which is a big pressure, so be ready).

Preparation. Learning materials.

Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test (4th edition) by Jolene and Robert Gear was the book that I used during the preparation. Quite informative, and helpful.

To get familiar with the structure of the exam, you can start with The Official Guide to the TOEFL with DVD-ROM (5th edition) by ETS (Educational Testing Service). It contains four full-length tests, so you may see what an experience of taking an authentic test feels like. If you don’t want to take the whole test at once (which is totally understandable, and I think rational enough for the beginning), you can make exercises from different sections. For me, it was a good start. As I learn about the structure of TOEFL and test myself on different sections, I did not feel so overwhelming when it came to intensive preparation.

On their website, ETS offer(s) a list of the books that you can buy for TOEFL. You can review all of them and decide which one(s) would be better for you.

Do you need courses on TOEFL?

If there are any learning centers in your city that offer the course on TOEFL preparation, I strongly recommend using it (if you have such an opportunity, of course). I did not take any courses; I chose to prepare for TOEFL by myself, which, honestly saying was extremely hard. So, if you can afford to take courses, just go for it! Otherwise, you can double-check with the program in your country whether there is an opportunity to take this course free (one of my fellow Fulbrighters did have such a chance) which would save you a great sum of money.

What did I do?

I was preparing for TOEFL for about three months, which I felt was not enough for me. I made a schedule for myself and had my own program that was quite intense as I had limited time. Even though I had a high level of English, I had to get used to the structure of TOEFL and, as I mentioned before, to learn thinking quickly.

Apart from the books that I listed above, I used to do various exercises that I found online. There is plenty of studying materials even on Youtube (in particular, listening and speaking section). The good thing about it – it’s free. The bad thing about it – the materials are a little bit (sometimes even not a little bit) outdated.

I also used to watch online tutorials like TST Prep and linguamarina (the Russian blogger and entrepreneur who lives in the U.S.). They helped me a lot with my preparations.

One thing I found the most difficult was training myself on writing and speaking parts. I obviously could not do it by myself. I needed someone who can give me feedback on my work. This is how my boyfriend and my friends became my English tutors. Their level of English is the same as mine, plus, my friends have a B.A. in teaching. So why not? It’s difficult to describe how thankful I have been for their time and patience 🙂 And even though such an idea might seem careless, it worked perfectly for me. But be careful with it. If you know that your level of English is not enough for TOEFL, it is worth taking a professional course.

What was the biggest challenge?

To me, it was the speaking part. Not because I did not know what to say. I always did. The problem was that I felt really stressed speaking to a…computer screen instead of a real person. Unlike the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test, where a student speaks in front of the examiner, TOEFL iBT is completely computer-based. For me, speaking to a machine was not comfortable at all, so I made myself get used to it. 

One more thing you should be ready for is that during the speaking part you may hear voices of the other people, which can be a big distractor. So, don’t count on a headset with good sound isolation (mine was just awful, I heard everyone around). Be prepared and learn how to focus on your ideas despite the noise you hear.

The most general, but still effective, pieces of advice that I might give you are the following:

  1. Identify your weak points and focus on improving them;
  2. Train regularly, and don’t forget to take breaks;
  3. Don’t study at night before the exam. Have a good sleep;
  4. Use all the possible sources for preparation. If you find a person who took TOEFL before, ask if they have any materials. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Sounds simple. Nevertheless, I believe this works best for both school tests and language exams. So, if you choose to take TOEFL, best of luck! I hope that this post was helpful to you. If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them. And if you took the TOEFL test too, feel free to share your experience here. It would be great to compare different experiences and to learn something new.

See you later!


Sources used:

ETS official website


TST Prep: 



Stuck in Chicago

I would like to start the column “Adventures in the U.S.” with the story about my arrival in America. I believe that a diary-style narration would be best to describe what I experienced back then. To keep you on track, here is a small prequel of the story: I came to the U.S. one month before the beginning of the academic year at St. Cloud State University. From July 20 to August 17, 2019, I had a pre-academic training program that took place at Ohio University, Athens, OH. Forty-two students, Fulbright scholars, from all over the world were going to spend a month in Ohio to get prepared for the U.S. graduate school, and I was lucky to be a part of that team. 

July 20 was the day (or it’s better to say the evening) when I arrived at Chicago O’Hare airport. I had about four hours before my next flight to Columbus. Seemed like plenty of time for me. Exhausted after a long time I spent on board I was still excited to meet new people and finally reach my destination point. But destiny had a different plan on me, and here is the story.

I remember waking up at 3 a.m. in the king-size bed. My hair was still a bit wet and smelled of shampoo. The room was silent. The soft light from the table-lamp was filling the space around and made me feel more or less safe for the first time in a while.

The first hours in the U.S.

About seven hours ago, I missed my flight to Ohio. I was supposed to be there in the evening, on July 20, 2019. The day when my pre-academic program started. By that time, I should have been at Columbus airport, meeting the other Fulbrighters, and moving to Ohio University, Athens.

Instead of this, I was wandering in Chicago O’Hare airport, buzzy and full of people. I missed that damned flight standing in the huge lines, which had been moving as slowly as it could be possible. I was not physically able to be on time for a plane.

The next flight to Columbus would be the next morning, the officer told me. I caught my breath. Where should I stay? The woman gave me a small leaflet. It was the voucher, which I could use to have a discount on certain hotels. Which hotels? By that time, my brain was half-shut, and my English got completely broken. As I spoke to the officer, who seemed to be as tired as I was, I realized that from that moment, I was left to myself.

Alone and completely lost.

Wait. So what is my plan now?

My hands were tired of dragging a 21 kg luggage bag. I felt shattered after the ten hours flight and five hours spent in the queues. My hands were shaking. I was about to burst in tears right there like a small baby. No. Not now. I forced myself to stop it. My thoughts kept tangling. I was alone in a foreign country. For the first time in my life. I did not have anyone in Chicago who could help me. I had a Russian SIM card on my phone with no money on it. I could not make a call. All I had was the airport Wi-Fi and my power bank.

I texted my parents in WhatsApp, saying that the flight was delayed. Promised to keep them informed. The other details were omitted. I was sure that even without this they both were worried enough.

The super-expensive hotel that I found right near Terminal 2 was a ray of hope for me. The receptionists let me use their phone to reserve a room in a different place. In half an hour, I was on my way to Extended Stay America. I hardly remember what we were talking about with the taxi driver during the ride. With every mile, I was getting absent-minded. Sooner I would be safe, I thought. I would be able to catch a break and to cry as much as I want. It would be more than enough.

Welcome to Extended Stay America!

I came into the over-sized room and felt goosebumps covering my skin: the air conditioner was working on its full capacity. I turned it off immediately and looked around. The room seemed luxurious. Any room would be luxurious for me at that moment. I passed by the small kitchenette, fell on the king-size bed and had a sigh of relief.

My stomach had been empty for a few hours. I did not feel hungry though. After a long time of “complaining” at me, it finally gave up. But still, I knew I had to fill it with something edible. Not to get dizzy at the end. A cup of hot tea and some pastry would be perfect. I came downstairs and asked the receptionist if they had any coffee shop around. No. Supermarkets? Pharmacy? Nope. Just a vending machine in the laundry on the first floor.

Better than nothing.

Wide awake, tired and safe

It was about midnight. I kept waiting for tears to flow from my eyes. They still did not want to come up. I came into the bathroom and stood under the shower. I set the temperature to make water hot enough. The warmth was spreading inside my body. I closed my eyes. Still no tears. It was quite a strange feeling. Safe and anxious at the same time. My heart was pounding like crazy. I was breathing heavily. Too tired even to cry.

I guess it was that night when I first experienced jet lag. Even though I was tired like hell, my mind refused to switch off, and the number of sleeping hours reduced from six to three. From 3 a.m. until the early morning, I was on the phone speaking to my boyfriend, and then to some of my Russian friends. We spoke as if nothing bad had happened to me. That was exactly what I needed back then.

At 5 a.m., a silver-grey line flashed between the dark curtains. Morning dawned. As I had my tea, which had been warmed up in the microwave oven, I packed my stuff as quickly as I could and asked the receptionist to call the taxi. For the next few minutes, I was busy painting out dark circles beneath my eyes with a light-beige concealer. I glanced at the mirror. Not bad. At least looked like a human being. The taxi arrived. I looked and the watch, preparing myself to continue this trip.  Now I will make it in time.

Ohio, I am coming

It was July 21, 10 a.m.

I was sitting near the window. On the plane. It was drizzling outside. Thick clouds covered the sky. I put my headphones on and felt that I was gradually falling asleep.

The loud voice in the onboard speakers announced that the flight was going to be delayed for a short while because of the weather conditions. I scrolled down the list of songs on my phone. I did not care how much time it would take to make it to Columbus airport. I knew I would be there sooner or later. I knew that there were people waiting for me.

I was on board. That was the main thing I knew.

I turned the music on and closed my eyes.

That’s it. Does it sound familiar to any of you? Do you remember the first time you arrived at a foreign country? Do you have any vivid memories about it? Feel free to share your stories or make some comments about this one. Thank you 🙂 

Stage 1. Step 1. Submitting applications


(February 2018 – May 2018)

Doc #1 Doc #2 Doc #3 Doc #4
An application form Two essays CV + a Scan of Diploma Three Reference Letters


The first document that I filled out was an application form. In this form, a participant indicates the field of study they are applying for (for me it was Creative Writing), provides brief information about their education, research experience and plans for the future. If an applicant has some preferences in the university, they can mention the schools they want to study in, briefly explaining their choice. However, as was mentioned to each of us, Fulbright does not guarantee a placement in a specific university. Although all the preferences of a participant are always taken into account, the final decision of placing the students in a certain U.S. university is always up to the sponsoring organization. In our case, it is an Institute of International Education, or IIE as we call it (current location: New York, United States). I kept this in mind, and after consulting with my professors (one of them is a Fulbright alumnus) and doing some online search, I chose three schools: one in Colorado, Texas, and Illinois. Minnesota was not on my list back then, so the first secret is revealed 🙂 What brought me there in this case? I will come back to this point later. I promise. 


Study/ Research Objective Essay shows your specific interest within the field of study you are applying for. It is very important to connect the Fulbright program that you chose to your previous experience and to your further plans.  

Personal Statement should include information about your education and work experience. Any professional achievements and specific interests in the study field should be mentioned as well. The essay is usually written in the form of narration, which I think is great as it gives you more space for being creative. 

The essay part was definitely one of the most challenging for me. I guess those who have ever written cover letters and grant proposals will understand what I am talking about – the process of writing seems to be never-ending. Before starting to write, you should do the same thing that you would do for a job application: learn about the program, find the keywords, explain what you can contribute as a participant and…promote yourself. I would also recommend giving your essays for someone who can check them. Since I did not have a writing place at my university, I asked my professors to look through my papers. If there is a writing center in your place, you are the lucky one. Take that chance!  


Curriculum vitae is a document that shows your working experience, educational background, your soft skills, achievements, and honors. In other words, this would be a more detailed version of a resume. The good thing about writing a CV is that you are not limited in a number of words/ pages. Make it as long as necessary to demonstrate your experience within the filed. When applying for the Fulbright program, we could use any of the standard formats of a CV (there are plenty of templates on the Internet). Another option was to fill out the Europass CV form, which was exactly what I did. I found that form very convenient to use in terms of arranging the information. When filling it out, you don’t have to think what sections you might include there – the form has everything ready for you: the section for personal info, job experience, education, certain skills, awards, etc. If you don’t want to include some sections in your CV, you don’t have to do it. You can personalize the format of the document and make it look in a way you want it. 

As for the scan of the diploma, I could not send it since I was still studying the last semester in my undergraduate program. So, I submitted an enrollment certificate instead.


Reference letters should be written by your teacher/professor/supervisor who can confirm your competency in a proposed field of study. The most important thing here is that a referent should know you very well, to be able to describe your best sides in detail. The status of a referent is not as important as your personal connection to them. My academic advisor, the professor of English and my boss from the last place of employments kindly agreed to recommend me for participation in the Fulbright program. Just take some time to think about who can make a good advertisement for you.

To sum up,the main goals of the Fulbright application are:

1) To motivate your choice (ask yourself, “why Fulbright?” “why the U.S.?” (or any other country) “why this major?” ) 

Before applying, do some research on the major you are pursuing. Look through the programs that universities abroad offer to prospective students, and find something that would perfectly align with your plans. 

I applied for the program of Creative Writing, and I motivated my choice by sharing the dream of becoming a non-fiction writer. But here is the first question – why the U.S.? Can I pursue the same major in my country? Of course, I can. The thing is that in Russia the program of Creative Writing is taught only in my native language, which would not be enough for me. Writing in English would help me to break new ground both in the spheres of publishing, teaching and translating literature, and this is exactly what I emphasized in my application. To motivate your desire to study abroad, try to find something that would show that the program you want will be super-helpful to build your future career. And don’t forget to ask yourself the why questions (see above).  

2) To prove that your candidacy is the best for this program

If you feel uncomfortable with making compliments to yourself, it’s time to learn how to do it. I noticed that as you start working on the application, you can gradually develop this skill. Make a list of your achievements, no matter if they are small or big. If nothing comes to your mind, talk about it to your friends, professors, and supervisors. Sometimes people around us see many things that we don’t want to notice in ourselves, so I think, this might help you to realize what makes you stand out. 

All your accomplishments along with a background experience should be related to the field of study you are applying for. Demonstrating your passion for the subject of studying is important too. Since I intended to study writing, I showed how dedicated I am to this craft. Here is one of the lines from my essay:

Writing compositions in Russian and English was my favorite occupation. I was so deep in it, that I always was the last one who left the class after lessons.

I started telling the story of how my passion for writing revealed itself and how it led me to all my accomplishments such as taking prize places in a few linguistic conferences, getting awarded for contribution to a journalist association, etc. Think about your passion and connect it to your studying and professional experience.

Even though the first stage of the Fulbright contest might seem to be an easy one, I would say it is not. It takes some time to think about your goals, interests, achievements and then put everything together. So, take this time. Be attentive and scrutinize all the requirements. Be confident and think twice about why you are choosing the Fulbright program. I guess these are the main pieces of advice that I can give you. Please, don’t hesitate to ask your questions in the comments. Thank you! 




Fulbright Contest: From an Applicant to a Finalist

If you have ever tried applying for different grants, you might be already familiar with how it works. Usually, the competition for any grant includes submission of the application documents, taking an interview, and probably taking certain exams. The details of a process, of course, depend on the type of grant. As you may guess, the Fulbright award also has a number of specific requirements for those who decide to apply for it.

Following up on my first post, I would like to introduce you to the column in which I am going to describe each step that I took during the Fulbright competition. So, welcome to Fulbright contest! If you were to ask me what it takes to become a Fulbright grantee, you are on the right page. In the sections of this column, I will explain each stage of the contest in detail, focusing on the most important things that a potential applicant may take into account. Useful tips and personal experience are included 😉

Disclaimer: the procedures of application and the rules of the competition itself may differ depending on a country. In this column, I am going to talk about the requirements for Russian participants who applied for the Fulbright Graduate Program in 2018 – 2019. If you want to apply for the grant or learn some specific details about the process of application, please, check the Fulbright website of your country. 

To have a general idea of what Fulbright contest in Russia looked like two years ago, have a look at this flowchart:

As mentioned before, I will provide you with more details about each stage in a few sections of this column. I hope you will find them informative and helpful.

Thank you for being with me! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to share them here. See you soon 🙂



Fulbright scholar – to be or not to be?

     What comes to your mind when you think about studying abroad? A chance to see the world? To immerse yourself in a foreign culture and practice language skills? Or is it about an opportunity to start building your career? I would say “yes” to all of this, adding that the status of an international student may expand our horizons and make us feel as being a part of the bigger world. Sounds like a dream, right? Actually, it used to be one of my biggest dreams when I first found about different programs of academic exchange. For a long time, such an opportunity seemed unattainable to me. A while ago, I would think that only “the chosen ones” could reach that star and become international students. Things have changed since I became a grantee of Fulbright scholarship and moved to the U.S. to study in graduate school. In my blog, I am going to explain what it means for me to be a Fulbright grantee, and, hopefully, to prove that nothing is impossible for those who have such a dream.

     First, let me introduce myself. My name is Kseniia. I am a graduate student at St Cloud State University, Minnesota. I was born in Kazan city, Russia, and I had never traveled abroad before coming to the U.S. last year. How did I come to this point? Here is the story: two years ago, I graduated from Kazan Federal University receiving my bachelor’s degree in teaching Russian and English. At the beginning of the last semester, my professor sent me an email, which had a subject “Fulbright Award.” The name seemed familiar to me, and I decided to learn more about this. Sometimes it is nice to relive that moment in my memories, reminding myself how it all started. Back then, I could not imagine that this program would literally change my life.

Let’s move on to the main question: what is Fulbright?

Fulbright is an academic exchange prog ram that offers different types of awards to students, teachers, and scholars in more than 140 countries. The history of the program dates back to 1946 when the American senator James William Fulbright (1905 – 1995) put the idea of international academic exchange into action. If you feel like learning more about Fulbright’s history, you can check an official website of the program.

Types of the Fulbright awards may vary depending on the country. For example, here is the list of programs for Russia:

Student and faculty programs Scholar Programs International Education Administrators Other programs
Graduate students

I am here 🙂 

Visiting Scholar Facilitators of international exchange programs: hosting foreign students, professors and visiting guests Humphrey fellowship
Faculty development program (FFDP) Scholar in Residence Awards for alumni
Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Arctic Initiative

I applied for the Graduate Student program when I was about to finish my five-year Bachelor’s degree course in teaching. The whole process – from the day I submitted my application to the day of a pre-departure orientation – took about a year and a half. I will speak about this in detail in one of my following posts. Anyway, if you choose to participate in the program, arm yourself with patience as the process of application will require time and lots of preparations.

Looking back, I do not regret making that choice. Following the dream, I traveled a long way from Russia to the U.S. to study Rhetoric and Writing in graduate school. This is only a small part of the whole story, and I hope to share more notes from my Fulbright journal soon!

Now it’s your turn 🙂 What do you think about studying abroad? Have you ever heard of any programs of academic exchange? If yes, have you tried applying for any of them? In what countries have you considered studying? Why? Feel free to share it here, and let’s begin reaching for the stars together!

Sources used: