In the heat of the pandemic, Salva Ramallo discovered that there were hardly any economic possibilities to continue his pre-doctoral studies in Spain. The hard months of her confinement made her look for research programs and she finally decided to apply for the Fulbright scholarship, one of the best known USA scholarships in the world.
The flow of students looking for work abroad does not stop increasing and is reaching the numbers seen before the pandemic. In 2019 alone, 44,297 students left, within training programs, according to the Ministry of Universities.
Business Insider Spain has spoken with 3 students who have accessed pre-doctoral fellowships, sports scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships in the United States to find out How did they go through the paperwork and what challenges have they faced?.
Working in the US: a year in Manhattan with a Fulbright scholarship
“I started the process at the beginning of the pandemic, thinking that when the situation was resolved I could leave and get out of the apathy that this hard stage was causing me,” he told Business Insider Spain Save Ramallo.
“I found out about this scholarship thanks to my university, since it has agreements with universities and also the autonomous communities participate in it,” says the scientist.
How to apply for a Fullbright scholarship?
Ramallo contacted the Fulbright Commission, which helped him prepare an application to study and work at New York University, establishing what he wanted to investigate, why it would be useful for the host university to receive him and what he would contribute in the field of research.
“In addition, I had to take an English exam and present the project to other Fulbright students from various fields,” says Ramallo. A few weeks later, he received the news that his project Analysis of complex systems had been accepted.
The Fulbright scholarship has an annual budget of about 11 million euros, which are used to cover the cost of living and the work of the scholarship recipients.
“In the current academic year 2022-23, 238 scholarships have been awarded so that American students, professors and researchers come to Spain with a Fulbright scholarship and 191 Spaniards go to the US to study or study,” says Alberto López San Miguel, executive director of the Fulbright commission.
All the scholarship holders have a powerful support system that helps them from the presentation of their application to the arrival at the destination university. “As a Fulbright Scholar, you often have the opportunity to participate in a pre-academic program prior to entering the study program.“, says López San Miguel.
How was the shock cultural?
For Ramallo, his first surprise was the diversity of students who attend New York University. “I came from studying engineering in Murcia, which is studied from a more local point of view, it is common for your classmates to be from the next town; however, the market there is global and there are people from all over the world,” he says.
The workload, on the other hand, is much more intense, according to the researcher. “American culture is meant to work and universities compete globally, shifting that pressure to researchers and students. They fight to be the best and to attract the best talent.”
In addition, admires the ability of universities to attract private funding to pay for their research projectssomething that he considers to be lacking in Spain and that hinders innovation.
What would you say to a future Fulbright scholar?
“For me it was a great experience and I take colleagues who are incredible, the best in their countries; therefore, I would encourage anyone to get out of their comfort state and have that experience,” says Ramallo.
Study in the United States: a sports scholarship to play basketball in Pittsburgh
Rebeca Navarro is a young basketball promise. Since she was 6 years old, she has played in leagues throughout Spain and, at the age of 17, her father encouraged her to apply for a sports scholarship in the United States.
in the style of the protagonist of I want to be like Beckhama hit movie from the 2000s, Navarro boarded his first plane to play college basketball and studying Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.
How to apply for a sports scholarship in the United States
There are several pages that offer information on available sports scholarships, such as NCSA Sports. In the case of Navarro, it was his father who initiated the procedures. “For me it was an opportunity because playing basketball at a professional level is very demanding and in Spain it is normal for people to choose online studies to be able to combine it“, he assures.
“My father had my qualifications translated into English and then I took the Toefl English exam and the American Ebau, the SAT, to be able to access university,” says the athlete and psychologist.
“On the other hand, I had videos of me playing basketball and I sent them to various universities. I had a response of 2 and I chose the smallest one because I thought it would be easier to integrate into small classes”, explains Navarro.
How was the shock cultural?
The language was the first obstacle he encountered when he got there and studied the degree entirely in English. “I could quite understand people but I couldn’t speak. It was a bit difficult at first, but I had help from a tutor who also knew Spanish,” she explains.
“One day when I was in my first year, the basketball coach said that if I did an exercise wrong, all the others had to run. I didn’t find out and he told me, ‘Let’s see, Rebeca, it seems you haven’t heard. Sit down. in this chair and now look how your companions run””, she explains.
Along the lines of what other Spaniards who have studied with a scholarship in the United States say, he affirms that “It is a very demanding society. Every day we watched a video of how we had played the day before and we had to maintain a good body posture, in addition to getting good academic grades to continue playing”.
“If you get injured, you have to keep going, because your coach is demanding the maximum from you every day on a physical and mental level. In addition, your colleagues are very competitive because the university degree costs about 60,000 euros and you have to put up with it so that your scholarship is not withdrawn”, he acknowledges.
What would you say to a player who wants to apply for a sports scholarship?
“I would recommend it to everyone, it is a lifetime experience. Today, I realize that I am using resilience in my life and in my work and I have learned to master English.”
“Of course, I left with the idea of wanting to live there but over the years I have realized how lucky we are in Spain, from our culture and to be able to live in the center of a city and go out for a drink or simply to walk to buy bread. When I moved from Denver to Alicante, I thought, ‘How lucky I am to live here,'” Navarro says.
Work in the United States: research in Rochester
“I am an astrophysicist by training, I studied in Tenerife and did a doctorate collaborating with an Italian institution. At the end of the thesis I thought: ‘If I want to continue in science, I have to look for options outside of Spain,'” says José Ramón Bermejo.
How to apply for a research grant in the United States
To apply for his scholarship, the researcher reviewed all the web pages that offer jobs abroad, such as Research Jobs and university job portals.
“After trying my luck in Europe, one day I saw an offer at the University of Rochester, in New York, and I received the invitation for an interview. I was hired because the lead researcher was interested in one of the topics that she had touched on in my PhD.”
After 2 weeks of interviews and an English test, Bermejo obtained a contract, although he had to wait 3 months while he processed his visa. The young researcher has been in the United States for a year now and has no return date.
“Researchers are a kind of nomads who go wherever they can hire us”he laments.
How was the shock cultural?
“For me it is a very pleasant experience from a work point of view. I take a more complete curriculum and that increases the chances of finding a good job in Spain“, it states.
“In addition, I already knew English before I came, but by interacting with native speakers I have learned it at an academic level and that is also something quite useful today,” he says.
What would you say to a researcher who wants to work in the United States?
“I would tell you, If you have the opportunity to embark on a program at any academic level, go ahead and come on.. In the best of cases you can keep a good job; In the worst case, if you don’t adapt to life here or end up in a place that is very cold, as is my case, nothing happens, you can always return home,” says Bermejo.