Robert’s excellent guide to applying and surviving the Fulbright experience

Section Editor, Sophia Lim


“So, this is Robert’s excellent Fulbright adventure,” Rober Hauhart, Ph.D., begins. 

Grateful to have been scheduled to speak on his experience as a Fulbright scholar, sooner rather than later, Hauhart felt that it gave him the chance to keep the flavor of it in his recount. To conclude the last Friday Faculty Lunch of the semester, an educational and humor-filled presentation was given by Hauhart, in regards to his Fulbright trip to Slovenia. In an hour long span, Hauhart presented his five rules of applying, and surviving, as a Fulbright scholar. 

Hauhart is a professor of criminal justice, legal studies, and sociology. 

Among the many fields of interests he holds, it is safe to say that Hauhart has an obsession with the American Dream, or in his own words, “[Years later] I was steeped in the American Dream, couldn’t think about anything other than the American Dream, I’m totally obsessed with it.” 

This drove him to write a paper in 2015 published in the American Sociologist called, American Sociology’s Investigations in the American Dream: Retrospect and Prospect. In the following year, nothing much had changed about Hauhart’s obsession. He expanded his former paper and pushed it in all directions before he wrote his book, “Seeking the American Dream a Sociological Inquiry.” 

Hauhart sets the scene to his presentation by showcasing images of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in the capital of Ljubljana. The institution had multiple components but Hauhart explained that the two components he was associated with was the research center and its postgraduate school. As he dove into the basis of why he applied to Fulbright, he presented an image of his colleague Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D., eating a lamb leg which was met with the audience’s laughter. 

Hauhart referred to Birkenstein as the “premiere Fulbright representative on campus.” He then jokingly adds, “Of course he’s the only Fulbright representative on campus.” 

Birkenstein was a Fulbright scholar who had the opportunity of travelling to Russia, and because of this experience, always spoke enthusiastically about the Fulbright program. 

After showing an image of Birkenstein’s empty and dark apartment in Russia, his wooden chair, and the television set that displayed nothing but black and white graphics, Hauhart continued in a satirical sense; “Then I thought, ‘Okay, who does not want that experience? You go all the way to Russia so you can sit alone at an apartment.’” 

The second basis of Hauhart’s decision to apply was that he felt some duty towards it. He did not apply to the program out of excitement, but instead, more so the nagging feeling it gave him if he did not.

In 2015 and 2016, Hauhart applied to a program in the University of Bergen in Norway and was named an alternate for both years. At the first year of rejection, he was met with a sense of relief when he found out that he did not get it. It is not like he really even wanted to go. At the second year of being named an alternate, he was less relieved, but leaned more to the fact that he was not really ready for it yet. This led him to his first rule of his Fulbright experience guide: If you do not want to go, don’t apply. 

He then relays his second point: unless you have a very strong connection to a highly popular program or a greatly desired destination, perhaps you should really consider applying for a less popular program. The Fulbright scholar awards has a highly competitive selection, so the chances are higher when you look towards less popular or well-known places to go. According to Hauhart, this not only allows higher chances of selection, but also in building connection with the institution. This ties into the tips and tricks he learned from his other colleague, Arwyn Smalley, Ph.D., who advised his third rule, “find a host institution that really wants you.”  By making the connection with other institutions, or people who have that established opportunity, this gets you into Fulbright. Though it is cut out to be highly competitive, communicating with academies who designed a niche that only you can fit allows for no other person to get your role.

Hauhart began to speak on how the ball to his actual Fulbright trip started rolling. He received an email from an academic in Slovenia who had read not only his paper, but also his book.

 “The only person in the world who has read my paper and my book is in Slovenia,” Hauhart said in disbelief.

 After communicating with this scholar for a while, and even writing a lead article for him, Hauhart took note that the Fulbright applications were coming up, and decided to ask if his Slovene colleague knew of any universities willing to host him. Within a week, Hauhart received a response and invitation from Oto Luthar, a historian and the director of the research center and post-graduate school of Slovenia Academy of Sciences and Arts. 

This leads into his fourth rule: “Make sure the host writes you an invitation letter that makes you sound like the 21st century answer to Galileo.” 

Hauhart explained that the letter is the selling point for Fulbright awards because it is the demonstration that you really have a connection and that the people in the institution really want you. The letter should touch base on everything you will give to, and receive from your host university. Although some parts of his experience did not go exactly as planned, there were aspects of it in which he considered himself extremely lucky. Some being that for his housing situation, he was able to get placed in a studio apartment at graduate housing with a nearby informally connected university.

 He was grateful for the temporal home he was provided, even if the kitchen only had a “mini-mini-mini-mini fridge, no oven and only a two burner stove top.” 

He was also able to have access to free laundry which was an underrated blessing because it was pretty difficult to find laundromats close by.

In re-establishing his appreciation for what he was provided, Hauhart shared, “My father always said, better to be lucky than smart sometimes,” quickly adding, “Not that I’m recommending my father’s philosophy.”

However, the host institution didn’t follow through in all parts of what was promised. Hauhart was under the impression that he would be teaching classes and had submitted two syllabi. When Luthar got back to him asking for two lectures, Hauhart changed the format of the syllabi and resubmitted it. Luthar paid his compliments, but asked for another two lectures. So began the exchange until after writing four lectures timed at an hour and a half each, Hauhart realized that they really only needed two. The school was incredibly small, and since there were not many students, the faculty spots were already filled. 

“But I set grandiose plans,” Hauhart stated. 

His fifth and final rule to his guide of having an excellent Fulbright adventure was to make the Fulbright experience your own. Regardless of the fact that he was only going to be giving two lectures out of the three to four months he was going to be in Slovenia, he decided to make the most of it. He took the opportunity to visit colleagues and contributors of his work, and even visited the ones nearby in Europe. He was able to give lectures to universities and overall had a well-rounded Fulbright experience. 

Graduate students and faculty can apply to be Fulbright Scholars, as well, just like Hauhart did, should they wish to share a similar experience in the future. Students can apply at, and are encouraged to contact Jeff Birkenstein for assistance. 

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