Friday, March 6, 2009

Fulbright Fellow Application Tips - Daniel Shorr - Japan


My name is Daniel Shorr and I'm a GT graduate of '08, current Fulbright Fellow researching international warning symbol comprehension at Kyoto University as a psychological researcher.

For this post, I'd first like to share a little personal history to put things in context and then focus on providing tips about the application process, concluding with a very brief reflection on my Fulbright grant year thus far.

Personal history:
  • Since summer before Sophomore year, I have been affiliated with GT psychology labs, involved in the research process and loving it. (I did my senior thesis with the HFA Lab - wonderful, supportive research environment [yes, for undergrads too!])
  • I studied Japanese at Tech for three years (quality program), freshman - junior (I would have continue senior year but requisite courses for my graduation created a scheduling conflict).
  • Summer before junior year I attended GPC's 20 day study abroad in Japan program (note: USG students such as Techies are eligible to participate). I don't know how the current program is conducted, but in the incarnation that I experienced it it was a great introduction to Japan - basically a guided tour to many, many places [from Tokyo to Hiroshima], granting much freedom to explore on your own, and allowed nearly all of the bookwork to be completed upon return to the states (grade was mainly based on a research paper).
  • Summer before Senior year I attended Tech's 6 week LBAT Japan and had a great, but very different experience - much, much, much more emphasis on studying. If you go, I highly recommend remaining in Japan after the program finishes if you want to have a chance to relax, hang out with the cool folks you met when slaving over your coursework, and do some more sightseeing.
  • After returning to the states, I was considering my post-graduation options. I knew I wanted to return to Japan somehow; I wanted to become more accustomed to Japanese life, I wanted to become fluent, and I knew that the only way to do that would be to live here. I also knew that I loved research, and had interest in conducting cross-cultural studies.
  • I spoke with Dr. Howard Rollins who suggested I consider the Fulbright program. He told me I'd be able to perfectly merge my interests of psychology research, cross-cultural research, and living in Japan (and I have).
Application Process:
  • I was then directed to Ms. Amy Henry who very supportively guided me through the application process.
  • Before meeting with her, I first did extensive research about the Fulbright Fellow program online. There was a mountain of information and it was somewhat overwhelming, but after sorting through it for hours it started to make sense.
  • If memory serves, I had less than 2 months from the time I became aware of the Fulbright program to the time my application was due. That was intimidating. As soon as I decided that I was going to apply, I requested letters of recommendation (rec).
  • Who provided my 3 letters of rec? 1) one of my HFA lab directors, 2) a Tokyo Tech professor who was friends with my lab directors and whom I knew from making a presentation to his lab, and 3) one of my GT Japanese professors whom I knew well.
  • Because of the imminent deadline, I prioritized the application and "fought to keep my drafts on other people's desks." By that I mean to say that since I could only control the rate at which I completed work, and not the rate at which others reviewed my work, I prioritized completing my work as quickly as possible so that it could be back on their desks as quickly as possible. While they were working on proofreading I could refocus on my classwork and other obligations.
  • In addition to the written application, there was a GaTech conducted interview. Do not fear this at all. It is more akin to a final, group proofreading and advice session. Literally, a few Tech professors discussed with me my proposed research and helped me better tailor it to the Fulbright application reviewers.
Takeaway Tips:
  1. It is never too early to start considering your future. Make choices that lead toward your goals.
  2. Use the internet to research things first before you meet with people - it saves both of you effort in the long run. When you meet you can focus on any gaps in the online/published info; no one needs waste their time discussing what is already printed and understood.
  3. Don't be dissuaded by tight deadlines.
  4. Ask people to proofread - get a variety: friends, professors, TA's - people whose ability you respect and with whom you have a candid rapport.
  5. Be 100% sure that you are applying before you request letters of rec.
  6. As soon as you are 100% sure, request your letters of rec (i.e., respect others' time).
  7. Create a timeline of when you should have each step of the process completed. It will keep you on track.
  8. Do not fear the Fulbright interview.
Me with some of my labmates in Amanohashidate

Reflections on my Fulbright Grant experience:
I am thrilled to be alive. Kyoto U. has fostered wonderful experiences for me in many ways.
  • Research-wise: via my helpful research advisor (Dr. Kusumi), supportive labmates, and thought-provoking weekly seminars and department colloquiums.
  • Japanese language-wise: via the numerous Japanese language classes taught by engaging professors, and through my simply living here.
  • Socially: via my friendships with labmates and connections outside of the university - some through Fulbright events, some through my own exploration of Kyoto, and some through friends I had from previous visits.

If you'd like to know more, you can contact me at dshorr [at] gatech [dot] edu. And feel free to check out my photosite and personal blog.


Best of luck to you in achieving your dreams,

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