Author: Alyssa McCullough
Jasmine Stoltzfus is currently abroad finishing up her master’s degree in Global Security and Borders as a Fulbright Scholar in the UK. Jasmine transferred from Shasta College to UC Davis.
Can you tell me a little bit about the Fulbright Scholarship that you were awarded?
The Fulbright Program provides American students with opportunities to conduct research, teach English, or complete a Master’s or PhD program abroad. Most American applicants go through one of those three main pathways. While those three are the most popular, Fulbright also offers some niche awards for public policy, performing arts, and things like journalism and health.
Of the three general paths above, I chose graduate study abroad. The award I applied to is called the U.S.-UK Fulbright Partnership Award in Global Security and Borders at Queen’s University, Belfast. It is a 12-month master’s degree program in Northern Ireland.
What made you choose this scholarship program over others?
One reason would be Fulbright’s amazing global network—so many countries around the world take part in the program and there are so many participants. I also liked the focus on individual program fit that I found in the UK. I was happy to see that my cohort was really diverse, with people from all different backgrounds and regions of the U.S. There were a few transfer students too! A lot of different universities were represented. I think there is a stereotype that those who receive competitive scholarships are mostly from Ivy League schools—I found that wasn’t the case.
Another reason was the focus of the Global Security and Borders Program and its location in Belfast. It was the perfect fit for me. While at UC Davis, I had the opportunity to take a seminar with a Visiting Professor in Comparative Border Studies from the UK. His class gave me a feel for the landscape of migration studies here and made me interested in graduate study abroad. Similarly, my undergraduate honors thesis had to do with emigration from Ireland but I had never had the chance to visit. Outside of academics, I also had a prior interest in interfaith work, which has a specific history in Northern Ireland that I was interested in learning more about. Over all, there were just a constellation of different reasons that came together that made this the right program for me.
What advice do you have for transfer students who want to apply to Fulbright?
My number one piece of advice would be to connect with the prestigious or competitive scholarships advisor on your campus. The institutional support is really helpful! The Prestigious Scholarships Office at UC Davis has been an amazing resource for me.
Do you have any advice on the application process?
I would just really get as much info as you can. If you’re able, reach out and talk to prior awardees. Be proactive. You can read about a scholarship on paper, watch videos, or scroll the website of a university, but it won’t be the same as speaking to someone who goes there—I learned so much more from those conversations than just going at it alone.
How did you make the most of your time abroad and what advice would you give to others who want to do the same?
My advice would be to engage with your cohort. I had the opportunity to serve as the Course Rep for my master’s and worked on a grant application for a few of us to go on a joint trip to Jerusalem and Hebron. We got the funding; however, we couldn’t go due to Covid-19.
Also, find ways to stay up to date with what’s going on in your local community! Attend events, lectures, etc. I was scrolling around one day and found that Romano Prodi, previous President of the European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, a prior President of the European Council, were speaking just a few hours away in Dublin. I was in the middle of an EU Politics and Institutions course, so hearing them speak was an amazing experience. I also went to Brexit Clinics in Belfast led by the experts here at Queen’s.
What was your community college experience like and how was your experience transferring? Do you have any advice for students who are currently in the process of transferring?
My path to community college was not straightforward. I grew up in Virginia and my family moved to California when I was just finishing high school. I was hybrid homeschooled growing up and didn’t have any form of college guidance or career counseling. Community college didn’t have the best reputation where I was from on the east coast, so I was hesitant to go—but, at the same time, I really didn’t understand the CSU-UC system in California or the application process and had no one to explain it to me.
I attended Shasta Community College in Redding, which is a very rural part of California. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. I feel really grateful for my transfer experience. I had a ton of support from Davis, scholarships and otherwise. As far as advice…connect with other transfer students if you can!
Did you experience imposter syndrome when you got to UC Davis and do you have any advice you would give to your younger self?
I feel like I might always have imposter syndrome because of my different high school experience. Sometimes it feels like there are things that I don’t know, but should know. My advice to my younger self would be to be more humble—don’t cover up not knowing something. I used to not want to admit I didn’t know something, so I would just strategically avoid topics I didn’t have knowledge on (ha). As I’m getting older, I want to put those things out in the open. I don’t want to create an illusion for younger people that others know everything—this just repeats a cycle of imposter syndrome and that is really not helpful for any of us.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Yes! For people applying to a Fulbright Partnership Award for graduate study, I would recommend looking into internal scholarships at the university you’re applying to as a backup. For an English Teaching Award (ETA), I would do the same. If you can apply for other programs that would allow you to teach English in the same country, I think that it’s a great backup. You might find during your application process that you become really invested in going there. The Spanish Ministry for Education runs a program for Language Assistants from English-Speaking countries and then there’s Meddeas as well. France has a similar program and Japan has JET, etc.
Don’t worry about sounding professional. Sound like you. There are over 1.5 billion websites out there, but your story is what’s going to separate this one from the rest. If you read the words back and don’t hear your own voice in your head, that’s a good sign you still have more work to do.
Be clear, be confident and don’t overthink it. The beauty of your story is that it’s going to continue to evolve and your site can evolve with it. Your goal should be to make it feel right for right now. Later will take care of itself. It always does.