Developing Your Project
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Despite the large number of fellowship opportunities at Yale in economics, politics, science, medicine and the arts many students assume that the application process is too difficult and maybe not be worth the trouble. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it takes time to come up with a feasible project, to research the country, and to meet with faculty advisers, the process can be tremendously rewarding and manageable when broken down into steps. This section will try to shed light on the mysteries of Yale fellowship applications and will offer advice from past fellows on developing a project idea.
In This Section
Similar to writing a good essay, creating a working project idea requires that you find a topic that interests you. (A bad topic or boring project will never end well.) You are going to put a lot of time into this idea, so do not settle for something that only interests you peripherally. Start by talking to your faculty advisor, searching the world wide web, attending lectures, meeting World Fellows or simply chatting with friends about places you would like to visit or research you would like to accomplish. Many of the most successful projects were concocted during such informal brainstorming sessions with students or fellowship advisers. One student, Ben Siegel (Barry Fellow '04), even got the idea for his project while attending a film at The MacMillan Center!
Once you know which field you would like to pursue you must try to narrow down your project idea. Too broad a project will leave you without a clear plan of action and a lack of focus in dealing with host organizations. On the other hand, too specific an idea may not be feasible and may limit your opportunities. You must remain flexible enough to adjust to the exigencies of working in a foreign destination or for organizations that normally do not welcome interns.
Past fellows have mentioned time and again that the resources most underused were the ones provided by their departments and faculty at Yale itself. Search the Yale and the World Web site to make faculty contacts. Oftentimes you will find Yale professors researching the very topic of interest in a country abroad. Imagine Alex Rabin's (Barry fellow '05) disappointment when he discovered that there was a Russian Yale Medical School professor working on tuberculosis in Saint Petersburg only upon his return. Also both Barry fellows and other Yale students have done projects around the world and may have substantial contacts in international and local organizations. Barry fellows are always happy to ask questions or help you find a host organization to work with.
Once you have located a region and a topic of interest, it is time to make contacts in the target country. While many developing countries have poor infrastructure, most important non-governmental organizations and research institutes have websites and email addresses. Some organizations like the World Health Organization or Unite for Sight have excellent internship programs. Other projects may require more extensive research and emailing. Be sure to send out MANY emails and don't give up until you get a response! Too many students give up after they fail to hear from an organization within a couple of days. Be patient but also stay aggressive and look up related sites and organizations.
It may be helpful to prepare a resume (CV) in order to prove your legitimacy to the host organization (you will need a resume for the application, so you might as well do this now.) Undergraduate Career Services has walk-in sessions and resume workshops to help you along in this process. Again, fellows have mentioned that a clean and well-organized resume can be central to securing that desired foreign internship or volunteer experience.
Once you have a concrete project and a willing host, it is time to prepare your application essay. The fact that you have made contacts and have written documentation (save and print all email correspondence!) will go a long way toward convincing the fellowship panel of your exciting idea. You must now begin to research your destination. Knowing basic facts about the language, culture, region, and safety will allow you to get a head-start in preparing for problems before you arrive at your destination. Check out books from the library and cast your net wide on the internet to search for relevant information. Show your essay to the OFP Barry fellowship adviser, Tim Stumph, and your writing tutor. They will help you identify weaknesses in your arguments and better organize your thoughts. While you may think that style does not influence the committee, a cogently written essay will go a long way in convincing the fellowship panel.
Addressing some of the safety concerns before you go into your Barry fellowship interview will go a long way in convincing the panel that your project is not only creative but also responsible. Especially for those interested in health-related projects, such as tuberculosis or AIDS, you will need to review safety instructions with a member of the Yale Office of Environmental Health and Safety and consult the Yale Health and Safety Web site. It may seem premature to start worrying about safety while you are still preparing a fellowship essay over winter vacation, but this information will be invaluable later on!
Finally, as you develop your project be sure to read fellowship reports and contact alumni. As mentioned in the introduction, the Barry fellowship is unique in the way that it builds ties between alumni, fellowship office advisers, Yale World Fellows, and our sponsor, Thomas Barry himself. As you begin writing your proposal, visit the Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs at 55 Whitney, 3rd floor, and pursue as many alumni contacts as possible. Past fellows may have traveled to your target country or have worked with similar organizations. Use this vast pool of knowledge and don't hesitate to ask!