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The Government of the United States plans to award 80 Fulbright scholarships to Afghan students this year, including 77 for Master’s and 3 for Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degrees.

With an aim to increase the number of scholarships every year after more than 20 years of suspension, the US government has awarded scholarships to around 485 students under the Fulbright program since it was relaunched in 2003, which includes 89 female students.

Darren Thies, Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer, in the US Embassy in Kabul, said “This year we plan to have 80 scholarships awarded, 77 would be Masters Students and 3 would be Doctoral students. The Masters program is between 1 and 2 years, more commonly 2 years and Doctoral program is 5 years.”

He said the employment rate for Fulbrighters has been recorded at 96 percent, and the vast majority of the students have returned to Afghanistan after completing their studies.

According to Mr. Thies, the employment rate for the other academic exchange programs implemented through the US Embassy in Kabul has been similar. “For our other programs it is very similar, Humphrey is about the same, and Foreign Language Teaching Assistance and Afghan Junior Faculty alumnireport nearly 100 percent employment.  Most of the people that are unemployed usually don’t stay that way very long. When someone gets back, sometimes they don’t immediately get into a job, but for most part people find very meaningful employment in a few months and we have a list of actual organizations where people work and I think you will find that very impressive,” he said.

He said there are a number of very notable Alumni with many of them are working for government ministries, international organizations, UN, other embassies, many of them in the private sector as well, Banks and some to the universities.  Worldwide, the Fulbright program has produced 31 heads of state and more than 53 Nobel Laureates.

“Basically they all find some kind of job that suits their skills, so we find them to be great resource for the country and that is why that we do the program  -because we are helping these individuals but really the end result is that these individuals come back and help Afghanistan. And so helping them get into some of these high level jobs is away we can help magnify the impact of the program. I can list a few notable Alumni such as the Minister of Agriculture AsadullahZamir, he is a Fulbright from 2004.  We also have a deputy minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Nasir Andisha, and there is a newly appointed deputyin the ministry of defense ShoaibRahim,” Mr. Thies said.

In response to a question regarding the share and contribution of female students in the program, Mr. Thies, said “We have sent at least 89 women in this program and we are trying every year to recruit more qualified applicants among women, and our goal is obviously to make it represent the population.”

Providing an overview regarding the program, Mr. Thies, said “the Fulbright Program is one of the most prestigious scholarships worldwide, and it is not just a scholarship but it is considered a fellowship because the whole impact of the program is not just academic. The cultural aspect of it was originally conceived by senator J. William Fulbright as a way to help prevent conflicts like World War II for example, whichprovided the motivation for this program.  His idea was that if people understood each other across cultures and had mutual respect and understanding, that wars like thatwould be less likely to occur.  There was a very practical goal initially, but also it is a broad program and each individual gets a different impact from it.More specifically, I can say the scholarship is for a Master’s degree for most our applicants and we have a few slots for the doctoral students. “

Several other scholarships and exchanges are also implemented through the US Embassy in Kabul, under the Professional Development Scholarship Programs,the Humphrey Program provides scholarships for Afghan citizens to take Master’s level courses at a US university for 10 months and participate in professional development activities, including an internship with a relevant professional organization.

Under the Junior Faculty Development Programscholarships are provided for Afghan citizens to participate in a 10-week professional development course in the US, where they will improve their skills as instructors, teachers, or professors.

Foreign Language Teaching Assistance scholarshipsare provided for Afghan citizens to take Master’s level courses at a US university for one academic year while teaching Dari or Pashto at their host university in the US. The program is designed for English teachers, and the goal is for the teacher s to improve their English and teaching methods through the coursework and training in the US.

Study of the US Institute scholarships are provided under the US Culturaland Academic Exchange Program for the Afghan citizens to participate in short-term undergraduate and master’s level courses in the US that will deepen the participant’s understanding of United States’ society, culture, values, and institutions.  Applications for this program are due by December 21st.

Scholarships are also provided in American University of Afghanistan, American university of Central Asia and small Opportunity scholarships under the Bachelor’s Degree Scholarship Programs.