In this episode, Emily interviews Dr. Caitlin Kirby, a graduate student at Michigan State University and former Fulbright fellow in Germany. Caitlin has been greatly financially challenged on the Fulbright, namely by: 1) the large amount of money needed to move and settle into her new city and university, 2) the high cost of housing relative to the stipend, and 3) the additional expense of bringing her husband with her. Caitlin and the majority of her peers are supplementing their Fulbright income with prior savings. Fortunately, Caitlin and her husband grew their net worth in advance of starting the fellowship through house hacking and savings goals.
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00:00 Caitlin: We’re paying about €1,025 a month for a furnished apartment with all bills included, which is the norm in Germany, and that’s 85% of my base stipend.
00:18 Emily: Welcome to the Personal Finance for PhDs podcast, a higher education in personal finance. I’m your host, Dr. Emily Roberts. This is season six, episode 16, and today my guest is Dr. Caitlin Kirby, a graduate student at Michigan State University, and former Fulbright fellow in Germany. Caitlin details the financial challenges she experienced on the Fulbright, namely the large amount of money needed to move and settle into her new city and the university, the high cost of housing relative to the stipend and the additional expense of bringing her husband with her. Caitlin and the majority of her peers supplemented their Fulbright income with prior savings. Fortunately, Caitlin and her husband built up savings in advance of starting the fellowship through house hacking and savings goals. This episode is valuable, not just for future Fulbright fellows, but also anyone facing a career transition or move. By the way, we recorded this interview in February, 2020, and I’ve included an August, 2020 update from Caitlin after the interview. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Dr. Caitlin Kirby.
Will You Please Introduce Yourself Further?
01:25 Emily: I have joining me on the podcast today, Caitlin Kirby, and we’re discussing something that I haven’t had the opportunity to before, which is actually the Fulbright fellowship, super exciting, that is as a PhD student. And Caitlin will also be telling us in the second half of the episode about how to prepare for financial challenges that you don’t even know you’re preparing for, like the Fulbright. So Caitlin, I’m really excited to have you on the podcast. Dave, thank you so much. And will you please introduce yourself a little bit to the audience?
01:53 Caitlin: Yeah. Thanks. I’m glad to be joining you. I am a PhD candidate at Michigan State University in Environmental Science and Policy. My dissertation looks at environmental decision making in cross cultural spaces, and I also engage in science education research in university classrooms.
02:13 Emily: Yeah. How did you decide that you wanted to do the Fulbright? I guess maybe my own bias coming into this is that I really think of it as something people do after undergrad while not yet enrolled in a graduate program, but you know much more about this. So how did this come on your radar and why’d you decide to apply for it?
02:31 Caitlin: Yeah, so the program you’re thinking of is probably primarily the English teaching assistant program, which is primarily students who have graduated undergrad and not moved on to a graduate degree program. And then a smaller subset of the Fulbright is study and research grants for graduate students. I have always enjoyed international travel. Like I said, my dissertation is looking in cross cultural spaces. I did some research in South and so it was always something that was kind of on my radar. And actually I was thinking about doing it for a post doc. And in my last couple of years of grad school started looking at the application requirements and figured out that it was going to be simpler to apply as a graduate student, so I did, and here I am.
03:18 Emily: And is this, I know it’s playing into your dissertation, but is this kind of you taking like an extra year or is this really not extending your time to degree at all and it’s just going to go right in with your overall plan?
03:31 Caitlin: Yeah. So a little bit of both. I actually defended my dissertation in October, so it’s kind of an extension of my dissertation and degree time. Although I probably would have graduated in May anyways and now it’s August instead.
Financial Support Provided by Fulbright
03:47 Emily: Gotcha. Well, congratulations on already defending. We’re recording this in February, 2020, so for the listeners reference. Okay, so what financial support does the Fulbright give to you?
04:01 Caitlin: Yeah, so it is different for every country. I am speaking about Germany Fulbright grant. Although I also looked at a lot of the Western European ones. They get a lot of applications as well, have a lot of grants and are fairly similar in that they are relatively expensive places to live. Hopefully this is generalizable across a lot of those spaces. My understanding from folks that I’ve heard from who are in spaces that have lower cost of living is that the stipend is a little bit more generous in those spaces.
04:34 Caitlin: What Fulbright does provide in Germany, if you are a graduate student or an English TA, you get €850 a month. If you’re a PhD candidate, so you’ve passed your comprehensive exams, then it goes up to €1,200 a month. So if you are a PhD student and you can wait until after comps, I think it’s worth it.
04:58 Emily: Yeah, that’s a big raise, surprisingly.
05:01 Caitlin: Yeah and €850 is actually the lowest, I’ve seen for countries in this area. Other countries in Western Europe range from about €1,300 to €1,500 a month. These stipends are not posted on the actual application website. You have to go to the Fulbright website for each individual country to find those, and sometimes they’re not available and sometimes they don’t include all the details.
Financial Challenges of the Fulbright
05:26 Emily: Yeah. So I understand that you have encountered some financial challenges based on that stipend and also maybe a lack of clarity up front about exactly what was going into this whole package. So can you explain a little bit more about what you’ve found?
05:41 Caitlin: Yeah. There are some challenges that are specific to my situation and then some challenges that some other Fulbrighters have also experienced. I would say sort of summarizing those across from what I’ve seen from others and for myself is that the three really primary challenges are that you need a lot of savings at the beginning to cover your first couple of months and some initial expenses. Then number two would be that housing is really kind of the make or break factor in how far your stipend goes. And so if you can look ahead of time when you’re deciding what institution to work with at the cost of living in a city, maybe try and find one that’s not so high. And then the third thing would be, think about any extenuating circumstances that might make it more costly for you as an individual.
06:33 Emily: This actually sounds like really good advice for anyone approaching any financial or location transition whatsoever, so people going into graduate school, going to a post doc, going to your first job, so I really want you to expand more on each one of those points.
#1: Expected and Unexpected Upfront Expenses
06:48 Caitlin: For the initial costs,, or the one-time costs when I arrived here in Germany, first of all, like everything else in academia, the Fulbright stipend model is built on reimbursement. So you buy everything ahead of time, and then after you get your bank account in your country, they will reimburse you, which for Germany can also take a long time. It’s a very bureaucratic country. A lot of the Fulbrighters in Germany were paid late, like two or three months after their grant had started, and it was really inconsistent across different fellowship recipients. Or sometimes they were paid in consistently. So having that initial savings is really important to be able to get you through.
07:34 Emily: What kinds of upfront costs were you experiencing?
07:39 Caitlin: Yeah, so moving costs in general, right? You have to get your travel, which Fulbright covers some of, and sometimes again, depends on the country. My flight was covered and then they provided an additional, like €150 for other expenses, but I decided to fly out of Chicago, which was far away, so I needed hotel and transit and it didn’t really cover all that. Then once we arrived as well, there was a lot of traveling around the city that we had to do to get everything settled. I’m saying we, because I came here with my husband, and that transit was eventually covered by my university pass, which I also had to pay about 300 euros to enroll at a university. And some folks will have to pay tuition as well.
08:29 Emily: Wow. That is a lot, and it sounds like it’s quite variable too. Going into this situation, it sounds like actually you’re in contact with other people doing the Fulbright. And so is there like a network already of people that you can tap to find out, okay, what are all these expenses, or does the program make it really, really clear once you have a host university?
08:51 Caitlin: It was more hearing from other people that I got this information. I don’t remember how I was contacted about this initially actually, but there was a Fulbright Facebook specifically for folks in my year. And some alum had joined that as well. I believe the Fulbright did actually connect me with these social networks. So they are very good about getting you in contact with alumni and folks that you can engage with, and then beyond that, it’s kind of up to the folks in each cohort to decide what to share and how often and all of that.
09:26 Emily: This actually sounds very familiar to what I understand is the experience of many international students coming to the US — the place where they get the most information from, is the network of students from their country already at that university or who are coming in at the same time, which can be truly an amazing resource in many ways. However, if that group doesn’t already have the correct information or the best information, then it can kind of be passed along and not like optimized. It’s probably 80% awesome and then 20% maybe someone else could give you better information, but like that is really the best go to resource.
10:05 Caitlin: Yeah.
10:06 Emily: Not being paid, that is reimbursed for two to three months sounds really long. Were there any other kind of upfront reasons why you needed to tap savings or expenses that you wish you’d known about in advance?
10:22 Caitlin: Yeah. This one is perhaps unique to Germany in that when you get an apartment in Germany, when they say unfurnished, they mean like unfurnished. There are no light fixtures, there are no cupboards, there’s no kitchen sink. So your choices are to come and basically furnish a whole apartment, which I know another married grantee did this year, or you can pay a premium to get a furnished apartment, which are much less available and so much more expensive than —
10:58 Emily: Wow, so it’s typical to bring in your own appliances and like all of that? Do people move that stuff when they move from place to place?
11:06 Caitlin: There’s a reason that Ikea is a big deal here because you can just kind of pack it up and take it with you or you can sell it to the person who’s renting your apartment next, which so then if you’re renting an apartment and they’re offering the kitchen, then you can pay like 1200 euro to, I’ve seen up to like €4,000 to keep the kitchen in the apartment
11:28 Emily: Wow, that is a lot of upfront costs. Anything else to add to that list?
11:34 Caitlin: Some bureaucratic stuff in general. I think most Fulbrighters would be aware of this, but maybe not necessarily how much of it or how much it might add up. So passport photos, the passport itself, some places have expensive visa applications and then myself coming in as a married grantee, there’s extra documentation that we needed around our marriage certificate, getting that translated, paying for my husband’s visa, that kind of thing.
12:02 Emily: It’s a lot of costs. It’s a lot of costs you’re listing. Are you being completely supported by the Fulbright in this year or is Michigan State supplementing at all?
12:11 Caitlin: You’re not allowed to really have significant other income. It’s up to 450, I don’t remember dollars or euro a month is allowed as a Fulbright grantee. And that again, may be specific to Germany that amount, but still the fact that you’re not supposed to have significant outside sources of income holds true. I did receive an award in the semester that I was awarded the Fulbright, from Michigan state. I got some money from them as an award for receiving this fellowship that I then tucked away and said, okay, that’s going to supplement when I am on my Fulbright.
12:52 Emily: Yeah. That’s a great thing to have upfront going into this process.
12:56 Emily: Okay, so we’ve talked about upfront expenses. Sounds like you need massive amount of savings to undertake this. What was the second point that you were going to make?
#2: Cost of Living and Housing in Your New City
13:06 Caitlin: Yeah, housing is definitely the biggest factor in how far your stipend is going to go. That’s again where you might want to consider, because as a Fulbright grantee, you decide which institute you’re going to work with or which university you’re going to attend, and if you somehow have a choice between some different costs of living areas, you might want to choose one that’s a little bit easier on the wallet. Then the other thing that sort of made housing more difficult for myself as an older grantee, and a married grantee is that there’s not really shared housing options available as a married couple. We had to get our own apartment, and that makes it a lot more expensive. It’s a lot more reasonable if you’re able to share space, but a lot of graduate students might not be able to, or might not want to for a variety of reasons.
13:57 Emily: So when you’re talking about sharing space and that not being available to you as a married couple, are you still talking about having like individual bedrooms or is it like a dorm situation or what would other people do if they were single?
14:11 Caitlin: Yeah, so they’re called veh has in German, or WG is the abbreviation for it. And it’s basically everybody has their individual bedroom in an apartment that’s shared with people.
14:24 Emily: Okay. And you can’t share a bedroom then as a couple?
14:28 Caitlin: It’s just extremely rare, so rare that on the websites where you can like search for these housing options, there’s no option to have a couple, or like a male/female mix going into these rooms. So it’s a little bit of a cultural thing.
14:47 Emily: Yeah. Interesting. I mean this point is also super super applicable to anyone moving anywhere. Rent, or your housing expenses more generally, is most likely going to be the largest expense in your budget. It’s very difficult to change once you — I mean, you can change it maybe after a year or something, but once you sign that lease, you’re locked in for a little while. It’s so important to put really the bulk of probably the research that you’re doing into that housing choice. And it does sound like yours was further constrained by bringing your spouse along with you. Anything else you wanted to add about the housing cost?
15:22 Caitlin: I think that about covers it, but just to give an idea, we’re paying about €1,025 a month for a furnished apartment with all bills included, which is the norm in Germany, and that’s 85% of my base stipend. I do also get, I think I didn’t mention that I get some dependent support for my husband being with me. It’s about €270 a month, so not a huge amount. That really has been, that was the biggest shock to me, I think, because I could see on apartment websites, things that were cheaper, but they weren’t able to fit to our needs.
16:05 Emily: Yeah. And do you have any other source of income right now? You’ve mentioned the Fulbright grant, the additional support for having a spouse and then the upfront award that Michigan State gave you to help a little bit with that. Does your husband have any income right now?
16:19 Caitlin: No. He’s not allowed to have income either, both because of visa issues, and then if he did earn significant income, then we would just say, okay, we don’t need the dependent support from Fulbright. But with visa issues and also language issues, it would be very difficult for him to work. So it’s savings and Fulbright.
16:43 Emily: Yeah. Wow. Okay, well, we’ll get into how you’re making that work in a moment. And what was that third point that you wanted to say about everyone’s unique situation?
#3: Individual Personal Finance Situations
16:53 Caitlin: Yeah, so there’s a lot of difficulties that I’ve had with the Fulbright, but I don’t think overall it’s necessarily an unfair stipend. I think that you need to weigh it against your individual needs. So again, myself bringing my husband, that’s two people living on one income, obviously it’s going to be more difficult. If you have student loans that you’re still paying, some of them are eligible for deferment, depends on who your loan provider is, in some cases. If you have pets that you either want to try and bring with you or need to get taken care of. If you have a lease at home that you need to break or keep paying on or storage for your items, regular bills at home. So our car right now is on storage insurance, which is luckily not very much, but still something to consider. Prescription drugs — there is some level of health coverage provided by Fulbright, but they do not pay for regular expenses like that. And accessibility needs too. Our apartment would not be accessible to someone with a wheelchair. And even though there’s great public transportation, you might need to be closer to the city center than we are. Just all kinds of things that maybe are easily or more integrated into your life before you leave that become very obvious as challenges when you’re on your way.
18:20 Emily: A lot to think about there. Actually going back to your second point, I think I was getting the impression that the Fulbright grant is the same across every country. Is that right? The income, that is, that you would get as the same across the country, or is it actually different depending on which university you land in?
18:40 Caitlin: So for Germany, it is the same across the country. Some other countries vary it depending on what the cost of living is in the city that you’re in.
18:50 Emily: Okay. So in some cases you might have a cost of living adjustment built into your income, and in some cases you might not, and that’s why you were saying, okay, let’s be really careful about, which institute you choose to go to in that case.
19:01 Caitlin: Yes. And Germany did actually announce a few months into the grant that they have extra money for a housing stipend. So folks who are in those higher costs of living situations will be able to receive up to €250 a month. And there is some kind of, I think as an American, maybe kind of ridiculous size requirements and that single people get 200 something square feet for that stipend and as a married couple, you can get a 320 square foot apartment, which is tiny. That’s like a studio with like a hot plate and a toaster oven, right? For us, cooking is really important, so we opted to get a prorated stipend and have somewhere with a full kitchen.
19:47 Emily: Gotcha.
19:51 Emily: Emily here for a brief interlude. I bet you and your peers are hungry for financial information right now, especially if it’s tailored for your unique PhD experience. I offer seminars, webinars, and workshops on personal finance for early career PhDs that can be billed as professional development or personal wellness programming. My events cover a wide range of personal finance topics, or take a deep dive into the financial topics that matter most to PhDs, like taxes, investing, career transitions, and frugality. If you’re interested in having me speak to your group, or recommending me to a potential host, you can find more information and ways to contact me at PFforPhDs.com/speaking. We can absolutely find a way to get this great content to you and your peers even while social distancing. Now back to our interview.
Making it Work Despite the Financial Challenges
20:50 Emily: So, I’m freaking out a little bit for you when you mentioned the percentage of your income that your rent takes up. How are you making this work? What have you been doing in the years leading up to going on the Fulbright that makes you not freak out right now about money?
21:09 Caitlin: Yeah. So one piece that I do want to say, is that I’m not necessarily unique in that I am having to use a lot of other savings. On the Facebook group, I mentioned that to the other Fulbrighters in Germany, I just did an informal poll and 62 out of 91 responded, so that’s about 70%, said that they would not be able to financially survive without significant additional savings, gifts or income. So —
21:37 Emily: Is that something that the program makes clear earlier in the application cycle or is this something that comes as a surprise once people are really starting to look into the financials?
21:49 Caitlin: I think it’s more of a surprise. They are pretty upfront about what support is provided, like you can go look at the numbers. I was surprised that that many people were struggling with it because I was thinking like, yeah, this makes sense, I’m supporting two people on this income and my savings, so of course it’s going to feel like a, a stressful year. But I was surprised that that many people expressed that they, they had to use significant outside sources. There were like 15% of people who said that they had money left over for savings, so again it’s working for some people.
22:27 Caitlin: Yeah, but not the majority. All right. Yeah, go ahead. How are you making this work?
22:33 Caitlin: Yeah, so I think like with anything else in academia or life, it’s a combination of luck and privilege and decision making. My husband and I were in a low cost of living area, Michigan State University is in East Lansing right next to Lansing, Michigan’s state capital. We were living in Lansing where houses are fairly cheap and we were able to buy a house when I started graduate school, because I had funds, enough for a down payment, from a relative who had passed away. We intentionally bought this house within biking distance from the university, so we sold one of our cars once we arrived, and we ended up having roommates for almost the entire time that we lived there.
23:23 Emily: How large is your house? How many bedrooms?
23:26 Caitlin: It was a three bedroom.
23:28 Emily: Okay. And so you had one or two tenants that entire time?
23:34 Caitlin: Yes. Usually one, sometimes two.
23:38 Emily: I love this strategy. It’s come to be known as house hacking. It’s actually something I’m excited about covering even more on the podcast. Either — well, whenever this is released — maybe in the recent past, or maybe in the soon to be future. But I love the strategy for graduate students. Of course, it’s only possible in relatively low or moderate cost of living cities, where the housing market is something that a graduate student can kind of grasp. It definitely helps to have two incomes, like presumably you and your husband have, and also to have acquired down payment money from somewhere. Those are things that are very, very helpful, although not strictly necessary, but go into the likelihood of house hacking being possible. Overall, has that single tenant paid your entire mortgage, half of your mortgage? How much of a financial boost has that situation given you?
24:31 Caitlin: We were doing it both for personal and financial reasons. Every single person who lived in our house was someone we knew, either friends or family members. So we charged the actual cost to them, of living there, which maybe doesn’t quite work out in our favor because we were also then paying for maintenance costs and that kind of thing, but it was what we decided to do. All of the income that we got from renters, we put into savings or paying off my husband’s student loans, which we had to do at the beginning of graduate school, or IRAs, retirement accounts.
25:17 Emily: What was your husband’s income like during this time? Did his income far exceed yours, or was it similar to what you were making?
25:25 Caitlin: His income was similar to what I was making, similar to a graduate stipend?
25:29 Emily: Yeah. Okay. Not a huge boost there, but good for two people living in a lower cost of living city. Great, so you were beefing up your savings. Anything else that you were doing during that time to help you prepare for this challenging year?
25:43 Caitlin: Well, so I knew relatively ahead of time that the Fulbright was a possibility and if I didn’t get the Fulbright, we were going to take a trip to travel around Europe anyway, so we had this designated savings account for a Europe trip or Fulbright supplement and we were able to put $5,000 in that. I was also keeping pretty good track of how much money we were spending, so I knew in general how much we would need to supplement the Fulbright and was able to funnel that away in the months leading up to it.
26:18 Emily: How long did you take to directly prepare for the Fulbright and, or generally going to Europe?
26:26 Caitlin: Hmm, that’s a good question. It has been a goal in my financial tracking account for over two years.
26:37 Emily: Okay. Yeah. That’s a great time horizon. I usually encourage people to think out at least a ahead, like what major expenses may be coming their way, but two years is even better, if you can do it. That’s a great kind of baseline to have to prepare. I forgot to ask, what are you doing with your house right now? Is it fully rented out?
26:55 Caitlin: We sold our house before we left. We didn’t want —
26:58 Emily: Oh wow.
26:58 Caitlin: Yeah. And because I’m graduating at the end of the Fulbright, I’ve been applying for jobs. We don’t know where we’ll land, so it just made sense.
27:05 Emily: Okay, so you’re not planning on returning to Lansing, and you’ve closed everything out there that you need to before leaving.
27:13 Caitlin: Yeah.
27:13 Emily: That’s great. So presumably you also had some capital gains from that sale?
27:18 Caitlin: We did, yeah.
27:19 Emily: That’s awesome. Anything else that you’re doing to make your financials work this year?
27:25 Caitlin: Just keeping track, basically, which is a little bit harder in Germany. It’s very much a cash economy and I like to keep track of my purchases with card, but instead I’m out paying cash and euro and then coming home and converting that and remembering what went to what. Keeping track so that we can then also have some money set aside for travel, since that’s part of the mission of the Fulbright, as well as this cultural exchange.
27:56 Emily: That sounds awesome. Anything else you want to say to another potential Fulbright applicant, regarding the finances of, of doing the fellowship?
28:05 Caitlin: I would say don’t be dissuaded based, based on what I’ve said. I think it tends to be most overwhelming at the beginning and then things kind of level out. You either figure out where to make sacrifices, or there are options for you to earn up to an extra 400 euro a month, which is pretty accessible. I would say that it’s still definitely worth it, if in your situation it’s not going to be too burdensome.
28:36 Emily: I think it’s kind of like with any other life transitions, as I was saying earlier. Having cash in your bank account and your savings account is going to help you so much through that transition, and it’s not necessarily like vital, but it is going to make it a lot smoother. And it’s something that you can then repay out of your ongoing income. Like you said, with the reimbursements coming slowly, that can go right back into refilling the savings for the next transition that will be happening at the end of the year, or whatever. So the earlier you can build up savings kind of for whatever comes your way, as you did, the better okay.
Final Words of Advice
29:10 Emily: Caitlin, I end all my interviews by asking my guest, what is your best financial advice for another early career PhD?
29:17 Caitlin: I would say find a way to enjoy or kind of make a game out of financial management, with the caveat that I understand that some PhDs are not in a position where they can really even sustain themselves. You’re allowed to feel stressed out about it if that’s the situation you’re in, but find what works for you and what interests you about your finances, so that you can keep track in a way that makes sense for you. For example, I do not like to budget out where every single bit of my money is going. Instead I set aside, this is for retirement, this is for long-term savings, this is for this specific short term savings goal, and then everything else can get spent because everything’s taken care of. But if you don’t want to even want to look at a spreadsheet, then make a visualization or make it into a presentation, make it interesting for yourself.
30:18 Emily: I love that tip. I don’t know if this is a widely used term, but I call it the “unbudgeting” method. So for those people who don’t want to be down in the weeds with this category versus this category, as long as you have that high level savings or debt repayment or whatever you’re doing, as long as that’s taken care of and ideally through like automated transactions, so you don’t even have to think about it. As long as you’re paying attention to that balance in your checking account, just spend what’s there because you know you have your big goals already taken care of. And it actually — seems like it doesn’t sound like this is your preference — but in a cash economy, budgeting without putting a ton of spreadsheet effort into it can be possible because you just say, here’s my cash for eating out, here’s my cash for groceries, and just spend that down, and don’t worry about having to keep track specifically because you did it ahead of time.
31:09 Emily: Well, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today, Caitlin. As I said, I’m really excited to discuss the Fulbright. It’s a first for me.
31:16 Caitlin: Yeah. Great, and I’m excited to discuss personal finance.
31:20 Emily: Thank you.
August 2020 Update
31:22 Caitlin: Hi, Caitlin Kirby here with an update on what happened with coronavirus and Fulbright. In March, Fulbright programs around the world started sending people home as coronavirus was coming into those countries. For me in Germany, that meant a couple of weeks of sort of confusing communication from Fulbright, followed by eventually them suggesting that everybody go home, followed shortly by all Fulbright programs, worldwide, being suspended. Again, things were different on a country to country level. For Germany, we were given funding for changes in travel plans to head home. As per regular in the Fulbright program, that was only for the grantee and not for any dependents. And then we were also given our stipend through June 30th, which for me meant that I was receiving a month and a half less of payment. For most people that’s when the program was ending anyway.
32:31 Caitlin: And then Fulbright Germany was also able to provide folks with, I think it was a thousand euros just as additional transition funds. This information kind of all came piecemeal, so it was a little bit stressful in the moment. But I did end up then going back to the United States in March. I was fortunate enough to be able to, at least from the research standpoint, work remotely with my research team back in Germany, so I still got to complete a lot of my goals for the Fulbright, as far as research goes, but obviously missed out on the rest of that experience of being in the country, in Germany. I was also fortunate to then be able to start my postdoctoral research position at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln a little bit early, so I didn’t have gaps in funding, which obviously was really helpful.
33:24 Caitlin: Fulbright, in this coming year, again is a little bit country to country. I know some programs have been canceled because of coronavirus. Some programs are starting late, in January, and that is really all that I’ve heard. If you are just considering applying to Fulbright now, I think chances are better that things will be a little bit more normal by the time you start or at least Fulbright will have better contingency plans for what happens if outbreaks do occur so that you’re not sort of waiting week by week, or really day by day to figure out what’s happening at the commission level or with the Fulbright program, overall.
34:08 Caitlin: One other note, if you are applying this year, there is potential for you to have increased competition because Fulbright did offer for folks whose grants were interrupted to be able to reapply in the coming cycle. They don’t have any priority over folks who are applying for the first time or second time, but that is a possibility for folks who are in situations where they’re able to come home and then apply for Fulbright again, which is not for a lot of people I know who were doing the Fulbright, but it’s, again, a possibility.
34:46 Caitlin: If you want a little bit more information about some of the impacts of the changes in the Fulbright program in different countries, there is a group on Twitter called Fulbright Crisis and they have been cataloging some of the difficulties that people coming back from different countries have had, or people coming back in general. Like for example, the health insurance that Fulbright provided was only in the country that your Fulbright was in so when folks were sent back home, some of them did not have health insurance. And some folks were not provided stipends throughout the program. Like once the programs ended in March, some countries were not providing stipends for their grantees. Again, the Twitter handle for that is @FulbrightCrisis and they’re showcasing some of those difficulties if you want a little bit more information about what that has looked like and maybe what that will look like in the future
35:49 Emily: Listeners, thank you for joining me for this episode. PFforPhDs.com/podcast is the hub for the personal finance for PhDs podcast. There you can find links to all the episode show notes, and a form to volunteer to be interviewed. I’d love for you to check it out and get more involved. If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, please consider joining my mailing list for my behind the scenes commentary about each episode. Register at PFforPhDs.com/subscribe. See you in the next episode, and remember, you don’t have to have a PhD to succeed with personal finance, but it helps. The music is stages of awakening by Poddington Bear from the Free Music Archive and is shared under CC by NC. Podcast editing and show notes creation by Lourdes Bobbio.