why I declined my Fulbright

Lol. So I’m officially done! with all of my applications. I was accepted to the Master’s programs in Quebec and got funding to do them from the Fulbright Commission but I declined my grant offer today. When I got the email notifying for the Fulbright, it was like the same thing that happened before with other acceptances; looking at my phone, saying “Oh, wow” and going back to whatever I was doing, thinking, in the absence of emotion, about why I am so unimpressed or unmoved. I’m tired, and I’ve been saying the same thing for months. I haven’t even told many people about the Fulbright because I haven’t really considered it a viable option. I wanted to write (an actually brief) blog post about it, just to sort of formally announce that I got (and have declined) my award.

I don’t want to live in Quebec. Bruh, I literally signed a lease for my apartment in New Haven a day before I got the Fulbright, and would have definitely had to pay my landlords some sort of early termination fee. At the same time, I am so comfortable living in a small city like New Haven, and the prospect of living in Montreal of all places is really intimidating. I didn’t even want to live in Philadelphia, and I’ve been living in the Philly area for four years now. While I do think that living in Montreal and going to UQaM or UdeM would have really helped my French skills, I don’t think that’s necessary anymore considering that I can and likely will be spending time in France or Senegal during my summers and perhaps during a year of my doctoral program.

I don’t want to start a degree I likely won’t finish. Why start taking classes at a program with the understanding that my time in this program will likely never be meaningful? I would be starting a two-year Master’s program without the intention of actually being a full-time student (because I’d need to work to support myself with a living wage since Fulbright only pays for my tuition) or completing my program (because I’d need to find additional funding in a year because Fulbright is only for a year). Logistically, it wouldn’t have been wise given my current financial situation, and while I was willing to make that sacrifice months ago when I was applying, I am not longer interesting in making it now.

I don’t think it’s necessary for my career. I applied for a Fulbright to study Black migrant literatures about life in Canada through a Master’s program in French literature at the University of Quebec in Montreal or the University of Montreal. I did this in order to benefit my career in the chance that I didn’t get into any of my top tier schools. I thought that it would only benefit me to go into a program at Yale or Penn with a Masters in French, because I kind of didn’t expect to get in otherwise. Yet, when I did get in, I began to rethink whether a Fulbright is necessary for my career. I wanted to get a Masters in French literature in order to give myself some more time to perfect my French in time for more advanced graduate work. I found my topic was a fascinating continuation of my undergraduate career and would allow me to have more nuanced research trajectories in a doctoral program. Yet, I don’t know if this is necessary, nor do I think my career is in jeopardy without a Masters.

A Master’s program isn’t a break. I talked to a professor at Yale who told me that she doesn’t think it’s wise to go straight through from undergrad to a doctoral program, and I agree that it’s not ideal, but I also don’t have a lot of options, and I would rather be done sooner than later. The idea of taking a break and “finding myself” however doesn’t make sense here, because in both situations I’d been in school, researching, reading, writing papers. The only difference is rigor, and the rigor would be probably much more different than just the number of assigned pages, considering that my courses in Quebec will likely be conducted exclusively in French and I’ve heard that the French classes at Yale are usually taught in English. Having a Fulbright to conduct independent research and sort of be a person is more in-line with what she was thinking, but my Fulbright is for direct enrollment in a Master’s program, which, to me, seems like work and not a “break.”

I can reapply in the future. If/when I decide to go to Paris to study at l’École Normale Supérieure, I can reapply for a Fulbright. I had this irrational fear that I wouldn’t receive a Fulbright if I reapply after having declined, but I don’t think that’s the case. The committee may be different, and if I get deselected in the future, it likely isn’t because I declined now.

I just don’t want to go. I don’t want to be out of the country and I’ve been wrapping my mind around Yale and New Haven so much that I knew immediately that I wouldn’t take it. I haven’t even looked at the documents that I was sent because I didn’t want to guilt myself into taking it “because it would be stupid to decline,” a thought some of you are probably thinking while reading this. If this makes me stupid, I guess I’m stupid.


Now that I know the process, I’ll be willing to help anyone with their application. I can share my materials with you – contact me somehow and we can talk!

Also this new Little Dragon b*a*n*g*s

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