Tag: Artists

Which International Exchange Programs Are Looking for You?

During a recent AlumniTIES, I learned some interesting statistics. Over 1 million individuals, including 565 heads of state around the world, have participated in international exchange programs supported by the US Department of State. Annually, the number of people participating in these inbound and outbound programs — all funded by American tax payers — averages 55,000.

These government-funded exchange programs are designed for different types of individuals at different points in their career trajectories. Here are some examples. Each have their own specific designs and processes. Not all are currently open, so check back often.

  • American Arts Incubator: This program uses new media and/or mural arts as a means for engaging youth, artists, and underserved community members in overseas communities in Asia.
  • American Film Showcase: This program brings award-winning American documentaries, feature films, and animated shorts to audiences around the world.
  • American Music Abroad: These musical ambassadors reach beyond concert halls to interact with other musicians and citizens around the globe.
  • Arts Envoy: The Arts Envoy Program shares the best of the US arts community with the world to foster cross-cultural understanding and collaboration and to demonstrate shared values and aspirations. Artists should approach the US embassies abroad to explore possibilities. The budgets and foci will differ by mission.
  • Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange For Young Professionals: The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals is a full-year work-study fellowship program.
  • DanceMotion USA: DanceMotion USA sends American dance companies overseas to connect with audiences and communities through dance workshops, lecture demonstrations, public performances and other arts education activities. Artists are selected by DanceMotion USA.
  • Fulbright US Scholar: The Core Fulbright US Scholar Program sends approximately 800 American scholars and professionals per year to approximately 130 countries, where they lecture and/or conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields. I previously wrote a post with advice for applying.
  • Fulbright Specialist Program: The Fulbright Specialist Program, a short-term complement to the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, sends US faculty and professionals to serve as expert consultants on curriculum, faculty development, institutional planning and related subjects at overseas academic institutions for a period of 2 to 6 weeks.
  • Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms: The Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program (TGC) allows U.S. middle and high school teachers to participate in an online professional development course, two Washington, D.C.-based symposiums and a two-week professional development exchange.
  • Next Level: This unique arts-based exchange employs multi-disciplinary hip hop collaborations, and explores and addresses conflict resolution strategies by sending up to 20 American beat makers, DJs, B-Boys/B-Girls (or experts of other types of hip hop dance), or MCs in teams of 5 artists to lead four- to six-week exchange programs in various countries. 
  • Sports Envoy Program: Sports Envoys are athletes and coaches who travel overseas to lead programs that were developed by U.S. embassies and consulates.
  • Venice Architectural Biennale and Venice Art Biennale: These programs ensure that the excellence, vitality, and diversity of American arts are effectively showcased abroad and provides an opportunity to engage foreign audiences to increase mutual understanding.

There are also programs for students, both graduates and undergraduates as well as high school students.

  • Fulbright US Student Program: The Fulbright US Student Program offers fellowships for U.S. graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to study, conduct research or be an English teaching assistant abroad for one academic year.
  • Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship: A component of the Fulbright US Student Program, the Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship is a special opportunity for up to four U.S. students to pursue projects around an aspect of international contemporary or popular music as a cultural force for expression. Preference is given to creative projects that are conveyed in a dynamic fashion and are accompanied by a feasible plan.
  • Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program: The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program provides scholarships to U.S. undergraduates with financial need for study abroad, including students from diverse backgrounds and students going to non-traditional study abroad destinations.
  • Fulbright Travel-Only Grants: Grants for international travel are available to Germany, Hungary and Italy to supplement other fellowships that do not include travel costs or to supplement a student’s own funds for study/research.

For a full list of opportunities, I suggest clicking here. Apply. Apply. Apply.

While the programs themselves are transformative for travelers and communities alike, the benefits continue well past the passport stamps. As an alumnus of a US Exchanges program, I have free lifetime access to several extensive databases of journals, research papers, news and periodical articles, and popular magazines and newspapers like the Economist, New York Times, The New Yorker, and Wall Street Journal. This access also includes curated collections such as the Diversity Studies Collection with nearly 5 million articles on cultural differences, influences, and contributions; a Gender Studies Collection; and a Small Business Collection with more than 10 million articles providing tips and strategies for successful entrepreneurship. In addition, the alumni services we have include career support, seminars, networking, and small grant opportunities.

I acknowledge being uneasy about being involved with the US government after 2016. Honestly, I feel a level disdain for the Trump Administration, a disdain that is intensified by policies announced by Trump himself including “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and reducing the U.S. Department of State educational and cultural exchange programs by 75% in 2019.

The good news is that 64 members of the US Congress participated in these programs; Congress held the Exchanges budget this year. Now the same fight at hand for 2020 with a proposed White House budget less than half of what we have now. It’s a good time to make our voices heard on the Hill.

Artist/Nasty Woman Meets Artist/Trump Voter

I was struggling to breathe. Wherein I had been worried for months that Trump would find a sneaky way to win, I had been reassured it was impossible. I had spent the day in a pantsuit applauding Hillary Rodham Clinton’s great assets and potential. And here I was on my couch witnessing a presidential ticket which had attacked 14937220_10154462979591084_4707175039355721611_nthe truths I hold to be self-evident winning more electoral votes than the more qualified candidate with more policies of equity and respect, the more experienced public servant, the country’s would-be first female Commander in Chief. Finally!

The unthinkable was happening, and my dear home of Michigan held the future in its grip. All this “grab them by the pus@y” talk had been triggering some trauma in me as one of this country’s mass of sexual assault survivors, plus the Trump/Pence policy proposals were directly threatening my family and close friends; then to have this vile, misogynistic man being declared a winner in my home state was particularly sickening.

My understanding of the values of this country was being violated and I felt it gradually ripping under my skin.


Maybe all was not lost. Could there be a rain delay with a 10th inning rally like our Chicago Cubs? Come on. Something. Virginia!! Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.


Then he won.

The pain hit as hard as the shock.


That was followed by despair, followed by denial and confusion. Then shame.


It was hard and continued through the night.


I wasn’t alone.


We weren’t going to stand for it. Yes, democracy is glorious and the electoral college was the agreed measure going into the election, but I was not claiming that a president whose policies, rhetoric and behavior are so unAmerican represents me. He (now) questions climate change, has threatened to dismantle the National Endowment of the Arts and discredits the value of the arts, disrespects entire groups of the population, and he and his running mate have advocated for measures that are nearly state-sanctioned oppression. In addition, he is an adulterer, not paid taxes to some level, had his wives and nannies raise the kids, and has led an ostentatious life of privilege and self-interest. I cannot even fully list all of his actions, statement and policy proposals that disgust me. His voters seemed to be okay with all that. A vote for Trump was a vote condoning racism, sexism, nativism, and more. A vote for Trump was prioritizing jobs over rights, a government shake-up over human decency, bridges over bodies.  I was fuming.

Then I was stopped cold. Two days into petitioning and questioning and trying to reach out to those who caused this devastating result, I received a heartfelt, thought-out message. It was from a good friend who is both an artist and a woman, in a major US city, revealing herself to be a Trump voter and explaining why. 

“Six months ago I never thought I would vote for him. But in the end, I did. I believe in human rights and equality for all. As an artist, I dance because I believe the arts unite us and remind us of our humanity. I think art has the singular ability to bring peace, to remind anyone and everyone of our capacity to feel, empathize, and love. I cannot admit to my artist friends I voted for Trump because I have no doubt it would hurt my career.

“I am an Independent voter. I strongly dislike the two party system. Initially, I was appalled by the two choices, believing Trump and Hillary to be two sides of the same coin, but as I dug deep and did my research, and most importantly stopped trusting the mainstream media, and started going to the source of any and every statement, particularly reading things in their original context, I decided to vote for Trump. I also learned earlier this year about the federal govt. vs state governments and was shocked at how little I actually knew about which had power in various circumstances,… particularly in education.

“Unfortunately, there are extremists who also support Trump, the KKK being the prime example; though Trump did not want the endorsement (he also did not dismiss it entirely). I think it’s a good thing that we are seeing that these terrible views still exist. But I wonder how much of the racism and violence–violence on both sides– is the result of frustration and a human reaction to hate the other for problems beyond any one group’s control. I am appalled by the tribalism that has taken a hold of the country–aren’t we all Americans?

“Yes, I realize that many people are afraid of Trump because they fear they will lose their rights–I am not ignorant of that. I hope Americans, Trump and Hillary supporters and everyone in between, do as Bernie said–support Trump in his policies that support the middle class, and call him out when he tries to do anything that would hurt minorities/women/immigrants or the environment. We have 3 branches of government for a reason, so that one single person cannot make drastic changes to this country.

“No matter who had won, the country would have remained divided, and I hope we can all work together as Americans to build a stronger America. The U.S. has never been a perfect country, I am not looking to a past that was supposedly “great,” I look toward a future where we all work together to right the wrongs in this country, where we look at all people as human beings, where we recognize difference but do not judge because of difference, an America where neither class nor ethnicity nor sexual orientation nor sex limit us in any way.  If we’re too busy hating the other, or telling them they’re wrong and ignorant and don’t know what’s best for them, we cannot work together to find solutions that work.”

I was surprised and humbled, and I’m still trying to hear her out. Simultaneously, I told her President-elect Trump and VP-elect Pence must denounce the hate crimes being committed in their name and restore confidence that they will uphold the 1st and 14th Amendments.

She agreed.

Then I reminded myself that our Constitution and our government are on our side. Today the Obama White House has put out a list of available federal resources for reporting hate crimes, bullying and harassment of students, and threats against houses of worship. Use these if needed, my friends. No matter who you voted for. And send some donations to Planned Parenthood or social justice organization while you’re at it.



So You’re An Artist Who Wants to Apply to Fulbright

In the past few weeks, several artists have reached out to me looking for advice on the Fulbright application process. It can be daunting. As I am a huge advocate for the program, I thought maybe sharing my tips more broadly may support more people who are on the edge of applying. These come from friends, colleagues and personal experience.

So, if you are interested in applying as an artist, here are ten steps…



STEP ONE: Decide Your Program

For U.S. Citizens: University Faculty, Staff, Researchers, Artists – ideally with a graduate degree (awards include lecturing grants, research grants, combination lecturing/research, and arts training grants with stipends for tuition or classes)
U.S. Fulbright Scholar – Core Program (2-12 months) *This is the program I did, and with which I have the most information and experience.
Deadline: Monday, August 1, 2016


For U.S. Citizens: Recent graduates, Masters or PhD candidates, Young professionals with <5 yrs experience
U.S. Fulbright Student Program (grant lengths vary, often more than 12 months)
Deadline: Monday, October 11, 2016


For U.S. Citizens: University Faculty, Staff, Researchers, Artists – ideally with a graduate degree
U.S. Fulbright Specialist Program (2-6 weeks)
Rolling Deadline: March 4, May 6, July 8, September 9, or November 4


For Non-U.S. Citizens: Students pursuing Masters degree, research, or professional training (varies per country)
Fulbright Foreign Student Program (grant lengths vary)
Deadline: varies per home country

*P.S. There are more programs to check out, but these are the standards.

In general, know your strengths and unique points as an artist. What do you offer? And what do you want?


STEP TWO: Make a Short List of Countries

If you are not a citizen of the United States, your list is simple: you are headed to the USA.

If you are a U.S. citizen, this step can be overwhelming. This is what I suggest. First, think of places where you have some sort of connection but not much experience. Then list what those places offer, either historically or contemporary (what you could learn from them) as well as what their current needs are.

Narrow down to 5-6 countries and then search for those countries in the Fulbright catalogue of awards to see what affiliations are available in your discipline. Read the news from the countries listed. Talk to people there.

After doing those activities, your first-second-third choices should be revealed, as well as initial project ideas.

Remember that if you want to do any sort of research, you usually need at least three years of study in that language. I wasn’t fluent in Arabic, so I had to switch to a lecturing grant and cut all the formal research parts of my proposal.



STEP THREE: Design Your Project

Go to the country’s Fulbright page and see if you can locate the list of former grantees. Investigate what Fulbrighters have already done (or are currently doing) there.

Go to the university affiliation’s page and see what faculty and curriculum are already in motion there. What gaps or challenges can you gather? What are the strengths of what already exists there? Do they have American guests regularly in your discipline?

The design-thinking process can be your friend here.

Remember, Fulbright loves weird. Be specific and bold.

Think through how your project will have ripple effects back home. How many people will be impacted and in what ways? Describe what you hope to contribute and what you hope to learn from the place you are going. Be clear and enthusiastic about your top choice country. Get advice from current and alumni Fulbrighters. Most cities have a group page on Facebook, Eventbrite or MeetUp.


STEP FOUR: Reach Out to Potential Affiliations

Several grants and countries require formal letters of invitation as part of the application package. For those that do not, it is always a good idea to learn from a few contacts there. Introduce yourself and your project proposal.

Also, reach out to the Fulbright staff and current grantees of the country for where you are applying. Their insights could be golden. Ask about security status for the country and how that affects the number of grantees, as well as any lessons learned. Know if the three countries you selected are “Commission Countries” or not. Find out if Fulbright programs are administered by a Binational Fulbright Commission, U.S. Embassy, or another organization such as IIE, World Learning, AMIDEAST, etc.



STEP FIVE: Tell People. Get Help.

Let someone at Fulbright (usually the regional director for your program) know that you are planning on applying. Send them a draft and let them know how excited you are or if you have had any major struggles or questions. I was mighty happy I did this during my application period, because the program director reached out to me, encouraging me to continue when I had nearly given up. He also let me know that the invitation letter requirement had been waived for Egypt.

Lastly, tell your friends, family and colleagues that you plan to apply. Most Fulbright application packages take 3-6 months to pull together successfully. Make sure you have a support network. If you have only a small pool of proofreaders, consider using a service such as Fiverr.



Leverage all the thinking and investigating you have done up until this point. Remember that your application package should be complete, clearcohesive and comprehensive. Avoid duplication of information and listing assets without context. Market your strengths and who else will benefit beyond yourself. Address any red flags. Check and double check the instructions. Apply a week or so before the deadline.


STEP SEVEN: Be Prepared to Wait

It is a long process. I applied in July 2011. Then on December 28, 2011, I was given the following Christmas present….

“Dear Ms. Lent, It is a pleasure to inform you that the peer review process organized by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) has been completed and that you are among those recommended for a Fulbright Lecturing award in Egypt for the 2012-2013 academic year. Please know that this constitutes only the first phase… Your papers have been forwarded to the Fulbright Commission in Cairo…”

In May 2012, I got the letter of congratulations that I had passed the Egyptian panel and signed my contract.  I had just a few months to get my flights in order, insurance papers, notify my U.S. employer, etc. Pre-departure orientation was in late June  and I left for Cairo in late August 2012.






STEP NINE: Apply to Everything Else

No matter the outcome, putting together a Fulbright application is a worthwhile endeavor. Utilize this fine application package you have put together to apply for other exchange programs, awards, grants, networks, residencies, degree programs, volunteer and professional development opportunities. Apply to at least one thing per week. Here are a few of the sites that I check regularly…

U.S. Department of State – Exchange Programs

On the Move

Mladi Info

Alliance of Artists Communities

Peace & Collaborative Development Network

United Nations Alliance of Civilizations

British Council, UN Women, UNHCR, Idealist, Jerome Foundation, A Blade of Grass…

One of my previous blog posts also listed programs and opportunities…


STEP TEN: Thank Everyone You Can Think Of

Gratitude is great for business, but more importantly, it is great for your own health (I checked WebMD) as well as for the wellbeing of others and your relationship with them. Make gratitude an integrated part of your practice. Celebrate with your supporters and champions. Do something that they need help with. Listen to them. Be there for them.



If these ten steps help you in any way, please consider sharing this post.

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