Tips for Fellowship Applicants (Paying It Forward)

This time last September, I sat in my home office back in Missoula, Montana, having a tiny panic attack. The deadline for the Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship was three weeks away. My cluttered desk summed up the state of my application: teetering stacks of books, a fringe of Post-It Notes around my computer screen, and the trash can filled with rewrites.

I thought: Why put myself through the trouble? The odds were long that I’d get the grant, anyway.

Outside, the sun shone on changing leaves. Autumn is my favorite time to fish and I knew of a river where the trout were biting. My fly rod was in the closet, ready to go.

Pulled between a need to write, and a want to go flyfishing, I felt like the little boy in a River Runs Through It.

If you’re submitting an application for the 2016-17 competition, and you’ve found this blog post, odds are good you’re in the same boat I was in last year. And you’re doing what I did next, instead of go fishing: turn to the Internet for inspiration. I bet you’ve read the program guidelines for the 100th time. You’ve clicked through the National Geographic “Voices” blog to see what kinds of projects have won in the past. And if your browser history mirrors mine, you’ve found 2014-15 Fellow Mimi Onuoha’s blog post of tips for applicants. If you haven’t, go check it out. Mimi made me feel like it was possible to win a Fulbright-National Geographic Fellowship.

Twelve calendar pages have flipped since then. The fish are again biting on that same river in Montana. But here I am in Moscow, two weeks into my fellowship. Life does have symmetry. In appreciation to Mimi, it’s —> Read More