Photo via Telemundo

For over 70 years, Fulbright scholarships have boosted the academic exchange between the United States and most countries around the world. Argentina became one of those countries in 1956 after joining the program and, since then, more than 8,000 Argentines have made their way to the US to study Masters’ degrees and professionally develop various research projects. At the same time, a sizable number of students in the United States have also come to the country to do the same. In fact, Argentina is the 10th country of choice for American students and the favorite in Latin America.

The Bubble spoke to Fulbright’s Executive Director in Argentina, Norma González, to learn more about how the program works, the process to apply and the degrees that Argentines choose the most, among others.

Indicating that two thirds of the scholarships Fulbright provides are for Argentines to go to the US and that the other third is for Americans who come to the country, González explained how the number of scholarships for Argentine students have continued to grow throughout the years.

Argentina’s Fulbright program receives US $1.2 million from the US government every year, which allows it to grant roughly 60 scholarships. In 1993, the program started reaching agreements with different institutions – the national government being the most important one – which enabled it to increase that number to 120. Two years ago, it had a landmark moment when it reached a much larger cooperation agreement with the national government, which provided funds to considerably increase the amount to roughly 1,000.

“500 of them are three-week training courses for primary and high school teachers, directors and officials. Moreover, we grant 250 others to undergraduates, who go to the US for seven weeks in January and February and attend university courses related to the majors they are studying in the Argentina,” she explained.

González clarified that “these scholarships are not technically Fulbright,” but said that “they help us build a base so those people will eventually apply to the Fulbright program in the future.” She also emphasized on the fact that the grant covers all of the students’ expenses: “Transportation, housing, health insurance, books they need for their courses.”

The executive director then outlined the different kinds of scholarships the program provides:

  • “The Fulbright scholarships in Argentina, same as in the rest of the world, give their selected applicants the possibility to do a Masters’ or a PhD in any discipline they want to, except for medicine, psychology or any other that involves contact with patients.”
  • “It also offers research grants. Students go to wherever they want, whenever they want – within the period of a year – to do a three-month long research program.”
  • “We also have programs for young English teachers who go to the US to teach Spanish for a year and at the same time continue their training, taking English courses.”
  • “Finally, we bring graduates or postgraduate students [from the US]. They undertake research projects, take classes or work with an NGO. And we also bring people with that same profile and place one in each province of the country where, besides doing their research projects, the work as language assistants in English courses.

Going to a small city in another country can be a cultural shock for American students who were born and/or raised in big cities. That’s why I asked González how these scholars usually adapt to the Provinces they are sent to. “They do great,” she said.

“They usually adapt quite well. The smaller the place, the better, as Americans then become the attraction of the place. Last year there was a girl from New York who went to the province of Formosa. She was in shock because every time she walked down the street people would come to talk to her. Even the governor had her for lunch, she was famous,” she said.

When it comes to the degrees Argentines like to go for, she said that changes every year.

“When I started [working for Fulbright] about 20 years ago, biology was popular. Lawyers always make a high percentage, though. Unfortunately, right now there are few scientists and math students. There are always lots of lawyers, political scientists, economists… we also have a lot of people who study humanities, social sciences… There are more engineers than before, but what kind of engineering they choose changes depending on the time. It’s highly unusual for math students to apply for Master’s degrees, but there are a lot more who apply to the research grants.”

So, how and when people can apply? González explained that “taking into account the different kinds of grants we provide, application periods take place during different months throughout the year.” Applications for the Master’s degree, for example, takes place between February and April, while the application for research grant scholarships take place during the middle of the year.

She also recommended potential applicants to follow the Fulbright commission on social media for updates and news or regularly check their website or the US embassy’s website to always receive the most recent information.