How I started my application is an embarassing story. The department secretary sent around an email to let us know that the application process had begun. I read it, thought the idea was interesting, and then said to myself “I’ll never get one of these,” and deleted the email. My advisor forwarded me the email, not knowing I’d already gotten it, and I figured hey, why not apply.
This is something I’d like to make clear: I’m a doofus. There’s not much special about me, other than that I work hard. I’m no smarter or better looking or well-groomed than anyone else. And despite my own constant self-sabotage, I managed to recieve a Fulbright. If I can do it, you can do it. Apply and see what happens.
Anyway, the first thing I had to do was figure out what country I wanted to apply to. I took French in college and minored in it, so I figured I should go to a French-speaking country. The head of the application program at Drexel suggested France, but all French-speaking people go to France, so I asked her what was the most exotic French-speaking country available. It turned out to be the Ivory Coast. Perhaps I was looking for something a little less exotic.
After reading the country descriptions, I decided on North Africa. My advisor is from Egypt, and he put me in touch with someone in North Africa, who didn’t have room to host someone. But he knew two people who he thought might, and the first one I contacted, Dr. Abderrahim Aatiq, said he’d sponsor me.
Speaking a non-english language was the first thing, in my opinion, that I had going for me: the odds of going to a non-english speaking plalce are much better than the odds of going to England, Australia, or wherever. Everyone applies to go there. The second thing was finding an advisor with whom I could work over there: apparently, they see that as a big plus. Which makes sense.