Fulbright U.S. Student Program

Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

Fulbright-National Geographic competition is currently on hold.
Updated information for the 2019-2020 grant year is forthcoming, please check back.

The Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and storytelling in one, two, or three countries on a globally significant theme. This Fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society. Storytellers publish stories on the Fulbright-National Geographic Stories blog.

The wide variety of new digital media tools and platforms has created an unprecedented opportunity for people from all disciplines and backgrounds to share observations and personal narratives with global audiences online. These storytelling tools are powerful resources as we seek to expand our knowledge of pressing global issues and build ties across cultures.

For the 2018-2019 competition, the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship will accept proposals to undertake an in-depth examination of a globally relevant issue. Multi-country projects will compare and contrast how an issue or set of issues is experienced across borders. Utilizing a variety of storytelling tools - including text, photography, video, audio/podcasts, public speaking, maps, graphic illustrations, and/or social media - Storytellers will share their stories, and the stories of those they meet, and publish their work on National Geographic platforms, including a dedicated program blog. Stories deemed by National Geographic to be of interest or merit may be considered for publication on other National Geographic platforms.

In addition to receiving Fulbright benefits (for travel, stipend, health, etc.), and materials and reporting special allowance, Storytellers will receive instruction in story-telling techniques, including effective blog writing, video production, photography, and other relevant training by National Geographic staff prior to their departure. National Geographic will also provide editorial mentorship for Storytellersduring their Fulbright grant period. Storytellers will provide material for the National Geographic website on a frequent and ongoing basis throughout their grant term.

The National Geographic Society believes in the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to change the world. The broad themes of this year’s competition fall under National Geographic's three lenses: The Human Journey, Our Changing Planet, and Wildlife& Wild Places.

Eligible Countries

Applications will be accepted for Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowships in any country to which there is an active Fulbright U.S. Student Program with the exception of China. Click here to see which countries are eligible.

Fields and Qualifications of Applicants

Candidates from all fields are encouraged to apply.

Preference will be given to candidates with demonstrated experience and talent in storytelling. Candidates must have completed at least an undergraduate degree by the commencement of the Fulbright award.

Digital Storytelling Aspect of the Fellowship

There are many definitions of Digital Storytelling. For the purpose of the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, it describes the practice of using digital tools to tell a story. Storytellers may produce stories that may utilize or combine text, photography, video, audio, graphic illustrations, and/or social media for the purpose of producing content suitable for a National Geographic blog. Their stories may also be disseminated through National Geographic Society and Department of State online platforms and associated social networking sites. National Geographic will provide training for participants and National Geographic editors will mentor and support Storytellers as they produce stories throughout their grant period. Applicants should highlight their experience with digital storytelling as it relates to their proposed project and need not be an expert in multiple digital mediums to be selected.

Application Information

All application materials, including academic transcripts and letters of recommendation must be submitted in the Embark Online Application and Recommendation System by October 9, 2018 at 5pm Eastern Time. Hard copy submissions will not be accepted.

Please review the instructions thoroughly before beginning the Embark online application as the application components are distinct from the general application. Because of grant start dates, Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers are not eligible for Critical Language Enhancement Awards.

Please carefully review the following as the requirements differ from those of the traditional Fulbright grant:

Applicants must select “Fulbright-National Geographic Fellowship" for Question 3 on the Preliminary Information page and for Question 23 on the Program Information page. Applicants must select “Academic” for Question 24, Grant Category, on the Program Information page.

Email us if you have questions about the Fulbright-National Geographic application.

Current and Previous Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers
2017-18 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers

Toby Cox
Kyrgyz Republic

Toby Cox is interested in the diversity in Islam and Muslim identity across cultures. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, she will explore the story of Islam in the Kyrgyz Republic by examining the development of its religious identity - its roots in Tengrism, its history with Islam, and its history as a post-Soviet country. Through interviews, she will learn more about how these collective experiences impact the religious identity of individuals and the multidimensional Kyrgyz identity. She will use writing, photos, and maps to offer insight into the religious landscape of the Kyrgyz Republic, simultaneously shedding light onto the diversity of Muslim identity. Ms. Cox studied Foreign Affairs and Middle Eastern Languages at the University of Virginia and is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Jordan and the Kyrgyz Republic. 


R. Isaí Madriz

R. Isaí Madriz is an entomologist and zoologist studying aquatic insects of freshwater rivers and streams. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, he will tell the story of deglaciation of the Northern Patagonia Ice Field in Chile, focusing on its vanishing aquatic insect diversity through images and stories of exploration, science and human connections. He will combine hiking, bikepacking, and packrafting to transect unexplored areas and secluded fjords in search of some of the rarest insects on the planet. This low carbon approach will utilize renewable energy sources to capture never before seen footage of remote glacial outlets and hidden valleys of wild Patagonia. Mr. Madriz will document the largely unknown endemic aquatic insect fauna of this vital region before Aysén’s biodiversity is transformed forever.


Abby McBride
New Zeland

Sketch biologist Abby McBride once harbored aspirations of becoming a Victorian-era naturalist explorer. Adapting her career goals to the 21st century, she now travels globally to sketch wildlife and write multimedia stories about science and conservation. In New Zealand, home to the most diverse and endangered seabirds in the world, as a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, Ms. McBride will report on extraordinary efforts to reverse centuries of human-caused harm to penguins, prions, storm-petrels, shearwaters, shags, gulls, gannets, mollymawks, and more. Through art and digital media she aims to convey a visceral sense of the beauty, fascination, and importance of seabirds, which are quickly disappearing from seas and shores worldwide. Ms. McBride is based on the Maine coast and has degrees in biology and science writing from Williams College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Lillygol “Lilly” Sedghat

Lilly Sedaghat is a multimedia storyteller and artist studying waste management in Taiwan. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, she will travel the island to discover how the Taiwanese interact with their waste management system and document innovations in plastics and electronics recycling. Using blog posts, photo galleries and the Instagram campaign #MyWasteMyWay, Ms. Sedghat seeks to inspire people to think more about how their consumer choices affect the environment and spark a global discussion to reevaluate the way we perceive and dispose of waste. Ms. Sedghat received her B.A. in Political Economy at University of California, Berkeley and is an avid Taiwanese milk tea drinker and “b-girl” (breakdancer).


Destry Maria Sibley

Destry Maria Sibley is a freelance multimedia producer and educator based in New York City. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, Ms. Sibley will document the oral histories of Los Niños de Morelia, a group of child refugees, including her grandmother, who fled the Spanish Civil War and settled in Mexico. As she interviews this now-elderly population and their descendants, Ms. Sibley will develop a podcast series and website dedicated to their stories. Her hope is that by discovering their pasts, we might have something to learn about the futures of the millions of children who have been rendered refugees in our own time. Ms. Sibley studied at Amherst College and the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, most recently completing a Master’s in Data Visualization and Narrative Non-Fiction.

2016-17 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers

Christina Botic
Serbia and Croatia
Shifting Cultural Landscapes of Former Yugoslavia: Charting the Impact of Mass Migration

Christiana Botic is a Serbian-American documentary photographer and filmmaker who, while traveling to Serbia to document her own family history, learned that, like many families in the former Yugoslavia, it was influenced by migration and impacted by the creation of borders. She will travel to Serbia and Croatia to document the impact of mass migration of Syrians and other refugees/migrants on the cultural landscape of these two countries, divided by the EU border. Christiana plans to travel the Balkan Route and create an interactive map featuring stories of those who are moving through or residing along this path. Currently based in New Orleans, she received her BA in Screen Arts and Cultures from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Lauren Ladov
Seed Stories

Lauren Ladov is a local food systems advocate and educator based in Atlanta, who received her BA from Emory University with a dual focus on Film and Media Studies and Philosophy. Through partnerships with local farms and nonprofits, Lauren facilitates food education programming, manages community gardens, and develops training and multimedia resources for educators. In working with youth in urban gardens, she witnessed how growing food has the power to heal communities, both physically and spiritually. For her Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling project, she will share stories of the seeds sown in India by connecting with those striving to create sustainable, community-centered food systems. This project will produce educational media materials and platforms to engage and empower youth as advocates for future generations of seeds, farmers, and diverse ecosystems.


Tim McDonnell
Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda
How Climate Change Is Fueling a Food Crisis in Africa

Tim McDonnell is a digital multimedia journalist based in New York City. He will document how a changing climate is compounding longstanding problems with food insecurity and rural poverty in Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda. These three countries are all exceptionally vulnerable to climate change, but host unique challenges and opportunities as a result of their distinct political and environmental climates. His reporting will address science, technology, economic development, public health, and other stories at the intersection of climate change and agriculture, using video, blogging, and other digital reporting tools. Tim has a BA in English and Ecology/Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona and is currently Associate Producer for Climate Desk, a collaboration of Mother Jones, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Slate, The Atlantic, Wired, Grist, Newsweek, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which produces multimedia journalism on climate change.


Kevin McLean
Malaysia and Ecuador
Looking Up: An Expedition into the Rainforest Canopy

Kevin McLean is an ecologist studying wildlife in tropical forest canopies using motion-sensitive cameras (camera traps). As a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow he will travel to Malaysian Borneo and the Ecuadorian Amazon to survey canopy wildlife in two of the most biodiverse areas of the world. As he collects his scientific data, he will use writing, photos, and videos to provide a view of some of the least-known species in the forest. His research and stories will be made available to the public through a museum exhibit which will highlight canopy wildlife and the conservation threats they face. Kevin studied Earth Systems at Stanford University and recently completed his PhD in Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.


Ishan Thakore
South Africa
Taming Rivers

Ishan Thakore is a multimedia storyteller and global health researcher who uses film and writing to tell powerful stories. His project focuses on the tension between economic development and water resource management, and the trade-offs countries might make for economic growth. He will be documenting stories of people and industries impacted by South Africa’s Orange River Project, and he'll create a series of short films portraying a nuanced look at the individual benefits and costs of large-scale development. Before his Fulbright, Ishan worked as a researcher/fact checker for the television show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. His research experience also includes work with USAID’s Digital Development Team, the Duke Reporters’ Lab, and Structured Stories NYC. Ishan has a BA in Public Policy from Duke University.


2015-16 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers

Ryan Bell
is a writer and photographer who travels the world documenting “cowboy” cultures. He’s ridden with the horsemen of Argentina, Canada, Mongolia, and the American West. For his Fellowship project, “Comrade Cowboys,” Bell will explore rural Russia and Kazakhstan where pastoralists are working to rebuild cattle industries decimated by the fall of the Soviet Union.


Ari M Beser,
a graduate of University of Colorado, Boulder will travel throughout Japan for nine months, from the span of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki until the 5th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. Ari’s blogumentary, “Hibakusha: The Nuclear Family,” will give voice to the hundreds of thousands of people directly affected by nuclear technology (called Hibakusha in Japanese).


Janice Cantieri
, a journalist and recent graduate, will be spending nine months between the Pacific island nations of Kiribati and Fiji. She will use written stories and journals, images, and video footage to tell the stories of the Banaban Islanders, who were displaced to Fiji in 1945, and the stories of those currently facing displacement from Tarawa, Kiribati to Fiji as the sea level rise inundates parts of the islands.


Hiba Dlewati
is a Syrian American writer most recently based in Istanbul. Hiba will be spending nine months moving throughout Jordan, Turkey and Sweden to document and narrate the stories of the Syrian diaspora using multimedia storytelling. By the end of the project, she hopes to produce a film that expresses the frustrations and triumphs of a people without a place, or perhaps, a people of many places.


A Tennessee native, Christina Leigh Geros is a designer, researcher, and educator currently in Jakarta, Indonesia using videographic, photographic, and written narrative to give voice to the Ciliwung River and communities through an interactive website, cartographically registering each story and exposing the relationships between urbanism, ecology, and politics.

2014-15 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers

Ann Chen is a multimedia artist and researcher from New York. In 2014-15, she traveled across Canada, documenting and collectively mapping the geographies and communities along the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project through sound, photography and video. She was also a fellow in the English and Film Studies Department at the University of Alberta during her Fulbright year. From 2015-16, she will be a Collaborative Productions Fellow at UnionDocs, an experimental documentary arts center in Brooklyn, NY.

Filmmaker Daniel Koehler embedded himself in communities in Gaborone, New Xade, and Metsiamanong in Botswana to produce an intimate coming-of-age portrait of two young San men charting a course between tradition and modernity in the wake of relocation from their ancestral homeland. The final documentary, with the working title LOOKING FOR LIFE, will run the spring and fall film festival circuit in 2016. Daniel hopes to continue combining his passions for film and African studies to produce socially significant and compelling documentaries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Erin Moriarty Harrelson, a PhD candidate in anthropology at American University, traveled throughout Cambodia for ten months, exploring the emergence of a post-Khmer Rouge deaf culture. She herself is deaf and used video, text, photographs and drawings to document the lives of deaf Cambodians. During her time in Cambodia, Moriarty Harrelson worked closely with Deaf Development Programme (DDP) and Krousar Thmey to raise awareness about sign language and deaf people through mainstream and social media. In May 2015, Moriarty Harrelson curated a photo exhibition, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh, with Karen Bortvedt, a colleague from DDP. Continuing her work in a different capacity, Moriarty Harrelson recently joined the board of Discovering Deaf Worlds, a non-profit organization based in Rochester, New York that works towards advancing the self-determination of signing Deaf communities by strengthening local capacity in developing countries. Moriarty Harrelson is now writing her dissertation and looks forward to completing it by May 2016.

Mimi Onuoha is a New York City-based researcher and artist who is in the United Kingdom visualizing information about groups of Londoners based on digital data collected from their phones. Her project, which consists of a website and artwork outputs, uses data to explore the stories of how our increasingly networked relationships unfold across on and offline spaces. After the Fulbright-National Geographic fellowship she will continue to examine data's effect on sociocultural systems as a fellow at the NYC-based Data & Society research institute and through initiatives with Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism. She also is a practicing artist whose work will be shown at various exhibitions over the summer.

Los Angeles native Michael Waldrep is a documentary filmmaker, multimedia artist and researcher focused on cities. He spent his 2014-15 grant period in Mexico City, documenting the suburbs of the most populous metropolitan area in North America through writing, photography, mapping and video. He’s currently working toward a physical exhibition of the project, and is building laciudadactual.com to host the research online.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship?
The Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and storytelling in one, two, or three countries on a globally significant theme. Utilizing a variety of storytelling tools—including text, photography, video, audio/podcasts, public speaking, maps, graphic illustrations, and/or social media—Storytellers share their stories, and the stories of those they meet, and publish their work on National Geographic platforms, including a dedicated program blog. In addition to receiving standard Fulbright benefits (for travel, stipend, health, etc.) and a materials and reporting special allowance, Storytellers receive instruction in story-telling techniques, including effective blog writing, video production, photography, and other relevant training by National Geographic staff prior to their departure. National Geographic also provide editorial mentorship for Fellows during their Fulbright grant period. Storytellers provide material for the National Geographic website on a frequent and ongoing basis throughout their grant term.
Who is eligible to apply? Who is the ideal candidate?

U.S. citizens of all ages and from all backgrounds are eligible to apply. Applicants may come from a broad range of fields, a variety of academic and processional backgrounds, and have diverse storytelling experiences. Candidates must have completed at least an undergraduate degree by the commencement of the program but may not hold a Ph.D. at the time of application. The ideal candidate will have a demonstrated talent for storytelling (including but not limited to publications in print, online or multimedia platforms) and an academic or professional background relevant to their proposed project.

Who is ineligible?
Non- U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not eligible. Please refer to the Eligibility/Ineligibility section section for more specific requirements.

Current State Department and National Geographic staff, or persons currently on assignment or who are currently working with grants funded by either organization, are ineligible to apply.

Former National Geographic staff, explorers and grantees are eligible to apply. Employees of the U.S. Department of State, and their immediate families, for a period ending one year following termination of such employment. This provision does not include part-time or temporary employees, consultants, and contract employees of the Department of State, unless such persons perform services related to the Bureau’s exchange programs.

Applicants with a previous association with National Geographic, State Department, or Fulbright, will be judged strictly on the merit of their projects. No special consideration will be given to applicants with previous ties to either organization.

Candidates may not apply to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and the Fulbright Senior Scholar Program in the same competition cycle.

Candidates may not apply for more than one type of Fulbright U.S. Student grant, including Study/Research Special Opportunities and ETA grants, in a given competition cycle.

Will applications for projects in the U.S. be accepted?
No. According to the Fulbright-Hays Act, U.S. citizens and nationals cannot study in the United States through the Fulbright Program. Applications from U.S. citizens will only be accepted for projects outside the U.S. and its territories.
Are Fulbright-National Geographic applicants eligible for Critical language Enhancement Awards?
No. The timing, length and multi-country nature of Fulbright-National Geographic grants do not allow sufficient lead time for participation in the Critical Language Enhancement Award Program.
How long will the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship last?

Consistent with other components of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Fellowships will be awarded for a nine-month academic year, beginning in the Fall and finishing in the late Spring or early Summer.

How many countries can I apply to travel to while on this Fellowship?
Applicants must submit proposals for grants to one, two, or three foreign countries. Applicants may not submit proposals for more than three countries.

For the nine month program, you must spend a minimum of three consecutive months in a country. Therefore, you may plan your time in one of the following ways:

  • 1 country – 9 months in that country
  • 2 countries – 3 months or more must be spent in each country
  • 3 countries – 3 months must be spent in each country
Are there any countries that I cannot apply to travel to?

Yes. Applications will not be accepted for travel, for any length of time during the Fellowship, to China or to countries where there is not an active Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Click here for eligible countries.

Are dependents supported by the Fellowship?

No. Dependent support is not available for Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers

May I submit a project as part of a team?
No. The Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship was created for individuals, not teams or tandem couples. However, if individuals apply to the same country(ies) as other applicants to this or to other Fulbright programs, and if selected, wish to collaborate on a project, they may do so. However, each application will be judged on its individual merit and must stand on its own in terms of feasibility.
Will my work be published by National Geographic?

Yes. Storytellers will be instructed in digital storytelling techniques, including effective news story/blog writing, video production, and photography, by National Geographic staff prior to their departure and will receive editorial direction and mentorship throughout their Fulbright grant period. Storytellers will be required to provide material for a blog on the National Geographic website, on a frequent and ongoing basis throughout their grant term. In addition to the blog, National Geographic will determine how the submitted material is used on its platforms. Stories deemed by National Geographic to be of interest or merit may be considered for all National Geographic platforms. In addition, Storytellers will have the opportunity to develop further content for use by National Geographic and the Department of State.

Will I be permitted to publish in other media outlets while on my Fellowship?

National Geographic will retain the “Right of First Refusal” on all materials produced by Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers during the period of the award. Storytellers will be required to first propose all stories to National Geographic, including those outside of the topic area of the Fellowship. If National Geographic declines to publish a story, Storytellers may request approval to propose stories to other media outlets.

Who funds this Fellowship and what level of financial and in-kind support will be provided?

Funding for this Fellowship is provided by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, through the cooperating partner organization implementing the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Institute of International Education (IIE). All Storytellers will receive standard Fulbright Program benefits, including funds for travel, a living stipend, and health benefits as well as a modest professional allowance for materials and reporting expenses. Living stipends will be calculated based on host-country cost-of-living indices.

In addition, National Geographic Society mentoring draws from a range of experts in many disciplines, including researchers, explorers, regional specialists, and storytellers. The mentoring program for this fellowship is an extended version of the Society's storytelling bootcamp, as part of the dedicated Fulbright Pre-departure Orientation, in which experts in photography, videography, writing, social media, exhibits, and public speaking share best practices and tips for effective communication of complex science. There are also opportunities for consultations with National Geographic's scientists, educators, explorers, photographers, cartographers, writers, and filmmakers.

What does the application process consist of?

All applicants for the Fulbright-National Geographic Fellowship are required to submit an application electronically to the Institute of International Education. See Fulbright-National Geographic Application Components.

When will decisions on awards be finalized and announced for this Fellowship?

Finalists will be notified of finalist status in Spring 2018. Storytellers are required to participate in an interview as well as a mandatory pre-departure orientation, both of which will be held in Washington, DC. The dates for the interview and the pre-departure orientation will be provided in early 2018. Storytellers depart for their overseas programs in Summer or Fall 2018.

Why did the U.S. Department of State and National Geographic create this program?

The Department and National Geographic created this award in recognition of the growing importance of digital storytelling and their organizations’ related goals for international exploration and understanding. This award gives U.S. Fulbrighters a unique opportunity to examine pressing global issues and share insights with a broader public around the world.

How is the Institute of International Education (IIE) involved with this Fellowship?

The Institute of International Education (IIE) is the U.S. State Department’s implementing partner for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. IIE will publish the application materials and receive all applications for this Fellowship, administer the selection process in partnership with the U.S. State Department and the National Geographic Society, and provide planning and administrative support to Storytellers before and throughout the duration of their fellowship.




I am a....

Current U.S. Student

United States citizens who are currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs are eligible to apply.  All applicants enrolled in U.S institutions must apply through their home campuses.  Find the Fulbright Program Adviser on your campus.

If you are an undergraduate student you would be eligible to apply in your senior year.  If you are a graduate student you are eligible to apply to most countries as long as you will not have a PhD degree on the application deadline.

Non-U.S. Student

If you are a non-U.S. citizen looking to applying for a Fulbright grant to study in the United States you will apply to the Fulbright Program for Foreign Students in your home country.

U.S. Citizen but not a Student

If you are a U.S. citizen, hold a bachelor’s degree, and do not have a PhD degree then you could be eligible for certain awards within the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.  Please review the program summary for the country where you would like to apply.


The Fulbright U.S. Student Program welcomes applications in the creative and performing arts.  Arts candidates for the U.S. Student Program should have relatively limited professional experience in the fields (typically 5 years or less) in which they are applying.  Artists with more experience should consider applying for Fulbright Scholar Program.

Creative & Performing Arts projects fall under the Study/Research grant category and are available in all countries where Study/Research grants are offered. 



U.S. Professor

If you are a U.S. citizen and a professor at a U.S. institution and are interested in applying for a Fulbright Scholar Award you will need to apply through CIES.

Non U.S. Professor

If you are a non-U.S. citizen and a professor interested in applying for a Fulbright Scholar Award to the United States you would need to apply through the Fulbright Commission or U.S. Embassy in your home country.  Find out more information on the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program.