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Ohio State tops list for Fulbright scholars and students

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Fulbright scholar Erin McAuliffe said she didn’t have the complete experience she wanted while studying abroad as an undergraduate. While she enjoyed her study abroad program in Thailand, she didn’t feel as though she had the full experience she wanted.

“I wanted to apply for a Fulbright grant to Thailand because I knew it would allow me to live in a more rural community and really get to sort of become an active community member,” McAuliffe, a 2014 OSU graduate in political science and German who is currently in Thailand on a Fulbright grant, said in an email. “Even as I studied abroad in Thailand at a university on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, I still felt that outside vibe at some points, despite the student uniform and my basic command of the Thai language.”

The Fulbright program offers chances for students, scholars, teachers and others from the United States like McAuliffe to study in other countries and complete projects, teach, conduct research and exchange ideas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

OSU was recently recognized as one of the top producers of Fulbright scholars and U.S. Fulbright students for the 2014-15 school year.

McAuliffe traveled abroad to Thailand again this year on a Fulbright grant to teach English and music in a secondary school in rural Northern Thailand, close to the Mekong River. She said this time, she has felt a deeper connection to the cultural traditions and aspects of daily life that surround her.

“I’ve been learning a traditional northern Thai stringed instrument and have had the opportunity to play with the music group at temple ceremonies a few times,” McAuliffe said. “Restaurant cooks and market vendors know who I am and usually what I want to eat. They even usually ask me what I am doing during the week or how I am, in Thai of course.”

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, OSU ranks fifth in the amount of Fulbright Scholars grants awarded to faculty, tied with Michigan State University and the universities of Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, North Texas and Wisconsin, and 16th out of 36 top-producing research institutions for student winners of Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants.

Faculty members of U.S. universities are eligible for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Students who have at least a bachelor’s degree, but have not obtained a Ph.D., can apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

OSU has been a top Fulbright student program for the past two years, according to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website. This means OSU has a larger amount of students that receive Fulbrights compared to other universities.

Dana Kuchem, program manager of the undergraduate fellowship office at OSU, said about 60 to 70 graduates and recent graduate students apply for Fulbright grants every year, and about 12 to 15 students typically receive the grants.

“We’re always looking for students who are interested in this program,” she said.

This school year, six OSU faculty members were awarded Fulbright U.S. Scholar grants. Fourteen OSU recent graduates and current graduate students received Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants.

Kukielka-Blaser said she thinks part of the reason the numbers are as high as they are is because of an outreach program in April that seeks to help recruit more students and faculty into applying for Fulbright grants, called Fulbright week.

“I believe in some ways, the outreach led to the recognition of Ohio State as one of the top Fulbright producers in the nation,” Kukielka-Blaser said.

McAuliffe said although there are still challenges as a Fulbright student, such as being in a rural village very far away from anyone else in the program, she likes the experience.

“In my case, the closest Fulbrighter is three hours away. I know for some people this may intimidate them,” she said. “But this is exactly what I wanted, which is why I applied for Fulbright.”

The Fulbright Program is funded by Congress by the Department of State through an annual appropriation. Participating governments and host institutions also provide direct and indirect support, as well as corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States, according to the United States Department of State website.

Editor’s note: This article was revised on Feb. 25, 2015, to update its organization.

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