Yale Daily News

The U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs released a ranking last month of higher education institutions that produced the most 2020-2021 Fulbright students. With rankings disclosed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Yale placed fifth among research institutions — 10 places higher than the 2019-2020 cycle. 

An international exchange program operated by the U.S government, Fulbright supports travel to over 140 countries to study, research or teach English. Students find faculty mentors affiliated with the University and work with their mentor to design a project relevant to their interests. Despite travel difficulties posed by the pandemic, 32 Yale students and alumni were offered awards in the most recent cycle.

“2020-2021 was certainly a difficult year to try to embark on research, study, or teaching abroad,” Senior Associate Director of Fellowships Lindsay Lawton wrote in an email to the News. “Each country has had a different response to the pandemic, so each grant has also had a different outcome.”

Some countries delayed the start of Fulbright grants until the spring of 2021, while others allowed deferrals until the fall of 2021 or canceled the programs altogether. Lawton noted that relative to past years, many more finalists “made the difficult choice to decline the grants this year.”

In the past five years, nearly 100 Yale students and alumni have won the Fulbright award. During the most recent cycle, 123 students and alumni applied for awards, increasing the number of applicants by 40 percent from the previous year. Some Yale College graduates were given English teaching assistantships across nine different countries, including Indonesia, Cyprus and Germany. Others were successful in the “Study/Research category,” with project proposals ranging from photography in Iceland to climate resilience research in India. 

One awardee, Grace Jin ’20, plans to work with National Taiwan University and Taipei Medical University to study preventive health programs for older adults at community care centers for ten months. The centers provide health education, social activities and caregiver support to help elders stay in their communities. 

Originally beginning the yearlong application process to Fulbright China in the summer of 2019 — the summer before her senior year — the pandemic changed Jin’s original trajectory. Given international regulations, she switched her destination to Taiwan, which unlike China offered grants for the spring of 2021. Jin is currently studying in Taipei.

“I studied global affairs and focused on global health and had been intending to do something more substantial before going to medical school,” Jin said. “I knew some people who did the English teaching, but [I’ve always done] global health research, and this was a yearlong opportunity to do that.”

 

Another Fulbright awardee, Annabelle Pan ’20, is currently working in Singapore with an NGO called HealthServe that has aided migrant workers throughout the COVID crisis with food and health support. 

Working within this system of doctors and volunteers, she has assisted in taking patient vital signs, registration and general feedback surveys. 

“I was originally supposed to be joining a research team that does studies on health literacy and giving health literacy surveys in rural China to populations that are very underserved in every sector – especially the healthcare sector,” Pan told the News. 

Pan plans to pose surveys aimed at increasing health awareness and hopes to examine the migrant worker experience in the wake of the pandemic. 

She expressed concern over the fact that migrant workers – low income, under-skilled laborers in Singapore – comprise around twenty percent of the population and 95 percent of the COVID-19 cases seen in Singapore. 

“We are extremely proud that so many Yalies were recognized in this competition, and we are delighted to see more students applying for Fulbright,” Lawton said. 

The Fulbright competition for Yale College students is administered annually through the Office of Fellowships & Funding in the Center for International and Professional Experience.

Zach Morris | zach.morris@yale.edu