I found information at Northwestern for a Undergraduate Research Grants that gives students 3000 U.S. dollars to fund original research grants, including international ones. This was around Feb/March of 2007...my junior year. Since it was 2007 and Ghana's 50th anniversary, I wanted to do a project that would perhaps, help to commemorate that, and to shed light on what was going on with Democracy in the country. How do you "study democracy"? At first I thought, "Oh, I'll go around with surveys asking how people feel about democracy!" Too broad. Try again Karen. I tried again, this time zeroing in on radio and media. "Okay, I'll do a study of radio broadcasting, and how they cover democracy...!" Closer, but do better.
One day, I was locked in the library studying articles on radio and media in broadcasting. I found that people were talking about these phone in programs that were popular in Ghana. Bingo! I developed the idea into my final project proposal for the URG. Specifically I wanted to explore the nature of these new shows, how they operated, and why they were so popular. I turned in my proposal, got my professor to recommend it (Shout out to Barnor Hesse, Prof. of African American Studies, much love).....and won a grant!
However things didn't stop there. I was approached by my school (School of Communication, what what!) and the Office of Fellowships (pictured here. Dont let the pristine image fool you. Read on about how I was semi-hazed, lol) about the project. It was those in the Fellowships office (F.O) that really encouraged me to look at Fulbright to expand on this. I knew about Fulbright before, and honestly...before this project, there was no way I thought that I could possibly have a shot at something so prestigious. But in the interest of positive risk taking, I decided to start the application process in June 2007, after much encouragement from those in the F.O.
Okay, I'm going to fast forward through spring quarter...through the drama, breakups, um...hospitalizations.....(thats another post) and skip to around August/Sept 2007. I'll tell you....at least for me, the hardest thing about applying around the July-Sept time is getting all those recommendations (both electronic and hard copy) and the affiliation letter (hard copy only). I rarely consider myself an aggressive person, but wow. I was sending constant emails...almost harassing Professors to get their recommendations in on time. People like to take their time, I understand. But I was like..."Um, do you not understand that you taking your time could, like, ruin my future?" Ha. I'm half kidding. But looking back on it now, perhaps I agitated my recommenders a bit. I guess the end justif.....I kid, I kid. I will say that I probably would have quit on the Fulbright if it were not for me getting in touch with two of the former Ghana Fulbrighters (one an NU alum) who really really encouraged me and helped me with my project. I'm eternally grateful for their help.
All those who are thinking of applying, find out who the alums are! Reach out! (Ahem, you have one blogging right here!)
Coming back to school, the NU vetting process is tough. The campus deadline is a month before national deadline. But the office was good about keeping up to date with what materials you had in/what you were missing, etc. It can be frustrating though....when you know yourself that you don't have everything in, and then to get a flaming email from the F.O. reminding you that you're kind of sucking at this Fulbright deadline thing. And that barring the gazillion revisions you have to do, as well as the panel interviews. However, it was worth it. The F.O. is toughest on those they think have the best shot. I'll admit though, I did break down into tears when I got an email saying, "Your project feels incomplete. You need to find Professor _______ at all costs before 5 pm tomorrow when he leaves town. Do everything in your power to get in contact with him. He has the key to make your project better. Good luck." I'd never met Professor X. I left all sorts of messages, went to his office, sent emails, everything. I finally ran into BY PURE LUCK that evening at an African Studies function. But point is, I was definitely hazed by the Fulbright office, lol.
Fast foward to October....post-national deadline. Then the waiting game begins. You hear nothing from Fulbright until January, informing you of your first round status. Its the first and largest cut. But Oh-Em-Gee-Golly when I got that email saying I passed the first (hardest round)...man, I think it was the first time where I was like..."Wow, I have a shot at this, for real?" It was awesome. But it meant more waiting.
February...nothing. March....no word. At this point....it somewhat sucks. I began making Plan(s) B, C, D, and so on and so forth. I applied for other jobs, began applying for graduate school (not the greatest idea). Actually, I got a job working with the Chicago Federation of Labor for a year. I was psyched about it. And then April 11th came...
"Congratuatulations...you have been selected......" Its rare that I have breakdowns or freak out. My friend who I was talking to at the moment I got my letter can attest to this fact....I couldn't breathe. I kid you not. I couldn't speak coherently. I got teary eyed and immidiately called my mom. She pretty much caught the Holy Ghost. Its the best thing thats happened to me for a good while (ranks up there with getting into Northwestern, and perhaps discovering all-you-can-eat Sushi buffets). I never thought I'd see my name and profile on the Fulbright website, or on the O.F. website or in newspapers and stuff. (Well, I take that back. Google me in a few years, I'll be all up in the news, lol)
Like I said in my last post....after graduating and partying/playing/chilling in Chicago for the past few months, its time for me to refocus on my project and preparing for my trip. This blog will help me, I think. Just to keep track of what I've done and what I still need to do. I still need to revise some aspects of my project. I still need to make some contacts over in Ghana. I still need to figure out certain things about housing and transportation. I need to figure out how exactly I'm going to learn more Twi. But its not a stressful place to be. I'm not saying I'm totally ready...but I'll get there.
Thats all for now,