The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The program operates in over 160 countries worldwide. Over 2,000 grants are given to graduating seniors, recent alumni, and graduate students to conduct research, carry out creative projects, pursue a year of postgraduate study, or teach English abroad.

VCU’s National Scholarship Office (NSO) is sharing spotlights on past Fulbright recipients.

Name: Laura Booth
Degrees: Bachelor’s in Social Work (2018) and Master’s in Social Work (2021)
Fulbright Program: Student Research, 2019
Country: Argentina

What program/country did you choose and why?
“I chose to explore the experiences of siblings of children with cancer in the northwest region of Argentina, with a Fulbright research grant. My career goals involve a focus on familial experiences of childhood cancer in diverse populations and I recognized the importance of continuously expanding my cultural awareness and language skills. I contacted researchers in several Latin American countries and made the strongest connection with a researcher living in Tucumán, Argentina.”

What made you want to apply for Fulbright in the first place?
“A professor in the School of Social Work at VCU recognized my interests in research and childhood cancer experiences and brought the opportunity to my attention. With the support and encouragement of the NSO and several professors, I determined that I was capable [of] crafting a successful application. Also, I knew that whether I was selected as a grantee or not, the application process would be an excellent experience in preparation for my upcoming grad school applications.”

In what ways did your Fulbright program inform your future goals?
“I had always been interested in the research aspect of social work, but didn’t always feel capable or experienced enough to actually participate in or contribute to that research. Both the application process and completion of the Fulbright program contributed to my self-confidence in my potential to work with researchers and contribute to studies that may inform pediatric oncology social work practice.”

How did the NSO help you during the application process?
“The NSO provided important program information, quick responses to questions or concerns, group workshops, and one-on-one assistance and support throughout the application process. Their extensive knowledge and experience with the process was always comforting, as was their constant encouragement and problem solving capabilities. I was also incredibly grateful for the professional panels they organize for each applicant to provide insight and identify areas of improvement from several informed perspectives.”

What did a typical day look like?
“During the week, I would wake up and either walk or bus to the children’s hospital, where I carried out my research and volunteered with a foundation providing assistance to families of children in cancer treatment. In Argentina, it is common to go home for lunch and a nap between noon and 4pm, during siesta, then wake up, have some toast and coffee and wrap up any work before preparing for a late night dinner. Due to occasional strikes and many national holidays, I often had free time to travel and explore other cities in Argentina, which is encouraged by the Fulbright commission.”

What advice would you give to prospective Fulbright applicants?
“My advice to prospective applicants is to contact the NSO early, even if you haven’t decided yet, so they can work with you to figure out the best fit and plan based on your experience and goals, and connect you to all of the tools and resources available. Also, do not be afraid to ask for support from your professors or anyone working in your field of study. If you find yourself struggling to find an affiliation, it may be helpful to compile articles on your area of interest, from the regions you are interested in, and contact the authors directly to see if they are interested in supporting your project.”

VCU’s National Scholarship Office (NSO) assists students and recent alumni with the application process for the Fulbright Program and other esteemed awards. To learn more about external funding opportunities, schedule an appointment with a member of the NSO staff.

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