THIRTY-NINE American Fulbright-Nehru student researchers have arrived in India and they are determined to make the best use of the nine months they’ll get to spend here.
The Fulbright-Nehru scholarships finance education exchange programmes between India and the US, and is for students, research scholars, professionals and artists looking to return to academia outside their university or country. The nine- month Fulbright-Nehru student research programme is a part of this larger academic exchange.
Nick Wertsch - Georgetown University
“The experience isn’t purely educational, it’s inter- cultural,” says Nick Wertsch, a Georgetown University, Washington, D. C. political science graduate (Class of 2009) who is here working on a project titled ‘Energy and Democracy in India: Balancing Community Rights with Infrastructure Development’ at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
For the past two years, Nick has been coming back to the country to work with an Andhra Pradesh- based NGO named Samata, which works with tribal communities on land rights.
Talking about the first steps to a research fellowship, Nick said it’s most important to get your research proposal right. As long as it is realistic, you can make a case for it.
And once it’s approved, it’s good to get in touch with a professor working in the area in the US (in the case of Indian students). Just good marks are not enough to help you get the scholarship.
Kelly Sky - University of Oregon
“The things you do outside of your area of academic interest really count,” advises Kelly Sky, who’s pursuing a Master’s in environment studies at the University of Oregon in Eugene. “Whether it’s community service or pursuing a hobby, the more different things you do, the better your chances are,” she adds. Kelly will spend her time here working with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in Bangalore.
What’s one big advantage higher education in the US has over India? “Flexibility,” said both in unison. Kelly’s university, for instance, gives students the option of submitting a projectbased graduate thesis.
It also allows a multi-media presentation — a written paper combined with, say, a short film. “I started off thinking I’d stick to writing, but I have now decided to make my paper visual, so my thesis will incorporate a film and photography,” Kelly says.
Continuing on the theme of flexibility, Kelly says the environment studies graduate programme at her university works like this: you choose two disciplines — Geography and Anthropology, for instance — and study these through a green lens. “The university,” she says, “seeks out individuals who think across disciplines and constant invent ways of bringing creativity into their work.”
Nick and Kelly are excited about being here at a time when young people have been mobilised in large numbers by Anna Hazare’s movement. As Nick puts it, “This makes the experience even more interesting.”
Not surprisingly, he considers the Fulbright- Nehru student research programme to be “ like no other programme” in the US. He says: “You’re financially covered to travel to another country, spend a good nine months there, soak up the culture and maybe even the language, and learn something you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to.” And the good news is that it’s also open to Indian students, who, once selected, get to do similar things in the United States.