It’s All About the Journey
Even though Justin Rist didn’t receive the Fulbright scholarship he applied for, he said the process has been very beneficial to him in professional connections, communication skills, and application experience. Rist, an industrial and systems engineering major, applied for the Fulbright Germany Research and Travel Award.
The Application Process
Rist heard of the Fulbright Award while studying abroad in Bavaria, Germany after meeting the former Fulbright scholar Dr. Paul Harris. Afterward, Rist began working with Alex Sauer, the Honors College Scholarship and Research Coordinator, and professors in industrial engineering. He was put in contact with Dr. Shulz at FHWS in Schweinfurt, Germany, to design a project that they were both interested in and would work well for his application. This project involved applying data analytics to improve the play of foosball, a popular sport in Germany.
For the application process, Rist had to submit his plan of study, which included a detailed explanation of the research project, a timeline for the completion of the project, and an explanation of the courses or other activities he would do to supplement the research. He also had to take a language proficiency exam, provide a statement about cultural engagement outside of research, and provide letters of recommendation.
Rist needed to show that he was able to complete the project within the grant period, so he formed relationships that could help him achieve it. Two German companies, Holisticon and Leonhart, were willing to provide him and Dr. Schulz with information and funding.
He plans to continue working with Dr. Schulz on the project without the grant while he is getting a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering in the US. Even though he did not receive the scholarship, he still was able to strengthen his research portfolio from these connections and the project.
Creating and maintaining these relationships with professionals and companies in Germany gave Rist stronger communication skills. He said it was intimidating at first to set up meetings with Germans he had never met before, but he was able to gain valuable relationships he otherwise would not have had access to.
Rist said the main communication skills he strengthened were his confidence and initiative. He realized that even though it was intimidating to talk to his superiors, they were willing to take time to help him and wanted him to succeed. For example, he was only able to set up the meetings by himself, so he had to take the initiative and make that connection. As he progressed in the application process, making these connections became easier since he had built up his confidence.
Going through this application process prepared Rist for his graduate school applications. He said they had many similarities, including the letters of recommendation. He was able to use many of his recommenders from the Fulbright scholarship for the graduate school applications since they were eager to help Rist and were already prepared to write another letter.
The tone of his writing was also similar in both applications. He understood how to write about himself in a way that made him an appealing candidate. Even though each application is specific to the program he applied to, he knew how to “brag on” himself in a formal way.
Through the application process, he was able to take his love for sports data analytics, which he thought could only be a hobby, and turn it into a research project. He also had a greater appreciation for Germany and hopes his relationships there will lead to more opportunities to visit the country and work on his fluency in the language.
If you are interested in the Fulbright, or other national prestigious scholarships, please contact our coordinator for scholarship and research, Alex Sauer.
Story by: April Garrett
Last modified: March 5, 2020