Thursday, May 15, 2014

Awards for Language Learning

There is no better way to learn a language than to be immersed in it! If you're looking to kickstart your language learning, or you want the opportunity to hone your skills with the help of native speakers, here are a few programs focused on language acquisition you might want to consider.
Critical Languages Scholarship Program
Funded by the Department of State, this scholarship pays for undergraduate students to spend seven to ten weeks at one of thirteen different critical language institutes. And what is a "critical language," you may ask? It's a language deemed critical to the protection of American security interests (i.e., not enough Americans speak it and it's important that we have more who do). Here are the languages listed on the website:

  • Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Turkish, and Urdu: Beginning, advanced beginning, intermediate and advanced levels;
  • Arabic and Persian: Advanced beginning, intermediate and advanced levels;
  • Chinese, Japanese, and Russian: Intermediate and advanced levels.
The application period is generally from mid-September to mid-November for the following summer. For this program, you must be fully enrolled at the time of application, but this does mean that you can complete your summer program in the summer following senior year. Both undergraduates and graduate students are welcome to apply.

Boren Awards 
The Boren Award is a bit like the Critical Languages Scholarship but longer (unless you're in a STEM discipline) and with a job built in. Funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), undergraduate students are given up to $20,000 to study for up to a year abroad (preference given to those who plan to study abroad for two or more semesters). Programs of study must include an intensive language learning component, and like our friend CLS, must be oriented toward a less commonly taught language that is deemed of interest to the protection of national security. The list of languages is longer for the Boren (click here). Applicants must also specify how their program of study will contribute to U.S. national security, but national security is defined quite expansively in this case. 

The Boren is part of a group of awards that provide funding in exchange for service. In this case, recipients are required to work for a year within three years of graduation for a federal agency, with the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, or an agency within the intelligence community, having preference. So... if you're interested in working for the feds post-graduation, this is your chance to get a foot in the door!

Applicants for this award must apply through Temple, so check with Study Abroad or Fellowships Advising for the internal deadline for this award. It's generally sometime in the fall. Applicants must be fully matriculated for the duration of the program abroad, meaning that the year abroad can't follow graduation. This award is also open to undergrads and grads, though there are separate applications for each.

Boren Awards Special Initiative for STEM Majors
See above, but shorter. Up to $8,000 for language study abroad during the summer. Programs may be as short as eight weeks and applicants must be STEM majors. 

DAAD German Academic Exchange Service University Summer Course Grant
DAAD has an impressive array of opportunities for undergrads, graduate students and professionals, so please go and click around their site, but this grant in particular funds summer study of German language and various aspects of German culture. DAAD is sponsored by a consortium of German universities, so there's a broad range of courses available under this program. The grant funds tuition, room and board in whole or in part so be sure to check the cost against the value of the award. A travel subsidy is also provided.

For many of the DAAD awards, German is not required, but for the summer study grant, applicants must have at least four semesters of college German, or the equivalent level of proficiency gained elsewhere. Part of the application is a language evaluation form that must be completed by a member of the German department or the Goethe-Institut.

Applicants must be at least a sophomore at the time of application.

Middlebury Language Schools
Middlebury doesn't really belong here as it is in Vermont, which only counts as an international location for the most southerly oriented among our fellow Americans, and so doesn't offer an immersive experience of the kind we're focusing on here, and it is a private, for-profit language school. Nonetheless, it offers first-class language acquisition programs, attempts to create an immersive experience through the "language pledge", and does have a number of scholarships and fellowships available to help with the cost of attending.

Additional Tools
Finally, a few search tools that may help you identify other sources of funding for your language immersion experience:

IIE's scholarship database:

IIE's study abroad program database:

University of Minnesota study abroad scholarship database:


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Guest Post: Catherine Stecyk in the Ukraine and Advice for Fulbright Applicants


Where & Why:
I was a recipient of a 2010-2011 Fulbright Student Research and Study Fellowship to Ukraine. My host institution was the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, and my self-designed research project examined the evolution of the health system in Ukraine as well as the impact of foreign aid NGOs in-country. I was inspired to research this topic after I participated in a volunteer trip to orphanages in central and southern Ukraine sponsored by the Children of Chornobyl Relief and Development Fund.
Some of the greatest moments of my grant year included learning the ins and outs of daily life in a new country. Seeing Ukraine from west to east and seeing the state of Ukraine about 20 years following the collapse of the Soviet Union was fascinating, and meeting new friends and colleagues and experiencing their hospitality was great. Taking ownership of my research project and delving into it one step at a time was a major learning experience-- by meeting expats and Ukrainians, networking, interviewing key stakeholders, working in my host university’s international department, and traveling to new cities and regions to meet with professionals and organizations. I increasingly developed a sort of cultural competence and understanding of etiquette that allowed me to conduct effective meetings and collect quality data for my research. My time in Ukraine was not without its struggles, but my experience there has continued to impact me in numerous ways. As a graduate student, I returned to Kyiv, Ukraine to work for a HIV/AIDS NGO and had the chance to serve as an international election observer in Donetsk, Ukraine for parliamentary elections in October 2012.
Overall takeaways:
The learning experience of a lifetime, specialized knowledge on my own original topic, insight into a country that operates very differently than the United States, and personal relationships with Ukrainians and the international community in Ukraine were major takeaways from my Fulbright year.
Advice for Students:
Keep an open mind, meet as many people as possible, and explore topics of interest! I left the United States knowing far less about international education, global health, and the intricacies of Ukraine as a post-Soviet country than I did after my Fulbright year. The time flew by and I am still drawing on my experiences professionally and personally years later. It might seem daunting to create a research project from nothing, but if you’re interested in a topic, run with it and see where it takes you! My Fulbright year opened many doors and allowed me to meet hundreds of interesting people from all over the world.
Check out Catherine’s Fulbright blog at

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Finding Graduate Funding, Currently Enrolled PhD Students Edition

This post is intended primarily for students who are currently enrolled in PhD programs in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. I'll address finding grad school funding for those applying in a separate post.

So. Graduate student friends. You are in graduate school and hopefully your financial situation is great! You are working with a well-funded mentor in a grad department with lots of money to toss your way. Should you still apply for funding? YES. And for those among you staring down abject poverty, you already know you need to apply for funding. Still, a quick "why apply" list to convince our first group may help motivate you latter folks (likely the majority).

Why apply

1) Applying for funding at regular intervals forces you to articulate your research project in a clear and concise way. This helps keep you on track even if you don't earn the funding.

2) Applying successfully even for small awards establishes a record of acquiring funding which will be important down the line when you're trying to make the case for why you're hireable.

3) It will make your advisor happy.

And now, how. First, start early! Think a year ahead of where you are right now. If a year from now you'll be finishing coursework, think about funding for preliminary research or for writing the proposal. If a year from now you will have completed your comps, think about funding for research. And if a year from now you will start the final year of writing (should the stars align), seek out dissertation completion funding.

There are very few graduate awards that fund the first two or three years. The NSF GRFP can generally be applied for in the first or second year of graduate study, and you may be surprised at the fields it will fund. The Soros can be applied for as an enrolled graduate student and will fund coursework and you can apply for the Ford Foundation's Predoctoral award as long as you have two years of coursework remaining. These latter two are incredibly competitive. The GRFP is by far the biggest among these, with 2,000 awards made for 2014/15. For students in the sciences, the NDESG and SMART may be options. NDESG also applies to the behavioral sciences. The resources below may also help identify other, more specific sources of funding for those early years.

Once you are looking at funding research, fieldwork, travel, dissertation completion, etc., your search will become more field specific.

Sources to help you identify funding

1) Your supervisor, grad chair and fellow graduate students: Now is not the time to be shy. Be sure to ask your supervisor and grad chair what the biggest sources of funding are in your field and when a student ought to apply. Ask other students - particularly students in cohorts before yours - what they applied for. And ask students at conferences you attend what they've applied for and what their supervisors encourage students in their programs to apply for. Take all advice with a grain of salt; fact-check for yourself.

2) Pivot: an important database for academic funding from undergrad to senior faculty that is accessible through academic institutions. If you log on to a Temple computer and click this link, you will be taken directly into the database. From home, you must create a login.

3) Era@TU: Temple's access to the InfoEd suite, to be used for identifying funding and submitting proposals. I'll be honest. I think this resource does all manner of things I am unfamiliar with - post-award administration, possibly creating unicorns. I'm not sure. What I do know is that if you click this link, you can log in and then click the words "Find Funding" in the upper lefthand corner to search for funding.

4) H-Net announcements: Finally! One just for you humanities and humanistic social sciences folks! On H-Net's announcements page, you will find calls for papers, job and post-doc listings and funding announcements. The search function seems a bit funky to me - best just to scroll.

5) Your professional association: Professional associations will sometimes provide awards for fieldwork or travel; more often they'll have a page of awards applicable to graduate students in a field. Remember to look for both your major disciplinary association and smaller sub-disciplinary or regional associations. Both may have resources. And if you're not sure what your professional association is, use the power of Google or go back to your supervisor and tell them that when you asked about major sources of funding, you forgot to ask what your professional association is.

6) Profellow: Who is, according to their page, building the "world's best fellowships database." The Kingdom Tower of fellowships databases, if you will. You be the judge.

7) The CV's of those you admire: I give you permission to snoop the publically accessible (no hacking, please) CV's of new faculty at your institution and at other institutions, post-docs, and other grad students you perceive to have successfully worked the system to learn about awards in your field. I emphasize early career academics because the funding landscape frequently changes. Again, the power of Google.

8) These other databases: Grants.govCornell University Graduate School, UCLA database, University of Chicago database

And finally, a few other major awards for those later years:

- NSF Dissertation Completion grants:
- Fulbright: (Temple contact = Denise Connerty, director of Education Abroad)
- Boren fellowship:
- American Association of University Women awards:
- American Council of Learned Societies:
- NIH Graduate Partnerships Program:
- American Educational Research Association: click here
- Woodrow Wilson National Fellowships Foundation fellowships:
- Social Science Research Council Fellowships:
- National Endowment for the Humanities grants:
- NIH Fogarty funding opportunities: