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Institute of Current World Affairs Fellowship

Deadline: 1 August 2013
Open to: Candidates must be under 36 years of age
Fellowship: Full financial support for fellows and their immediate families


The ICWA fellowship program aims to nurture deep expertise in foreign countries and cultures by supporting a Fellow who carries out a program of self-designed, independent study abroad for a minimum of two years. We do not support degree programs at universities. Candidates are encouraged to browse the ICWA archives on this website to see the kind of projects that the Institute had previously supported.

The fellowships amount to a generous investment in the future of the Fellow. A primary selection criterion is whether a candidate is ready for the rapid personal growth that the fellowship makes possible. We look for candidates who are sufficiently prepared to take advantage of the opportunity we offer, but extensive professional experience in the proposed area is not always an advantage. Fellowships are aimed at developing knowledge and professional skills, not awarding research or reporting opportunities to those who already have them.


  • Providers of fellowship expect candidates to have the necessary language skills to allow to them to carry out their proposed project. Candidates proposing to go to China, Russia, Indonesia, India, or Brazil, for example, should have proficiency in Chinese, Russian, Bahasa, Hindi (or another relevant language) or Portuguese. It is too costly and time consuming to start from scratch, so we expect enough language proficiency so that candidates are able to function in the local language within a few months of arriving in the country. Exceptions have been made for unusual languages or situations, but these are rare.
  • Candidates must be under 36 years of age at the time of the due date for the initial letter of interest.
  • U.S. citizenship is not a requirement, but candidates must show strong and credible ties to U.S. society. A proposed fellowship must hold the promise of enriching public life in the United States by enhancing the understanding of foreign countries, cultures, and trends. Public service in the United States is our ultimate purpose, out of a belief that the United States needs the knowledge and wisdom that our Fellows acquire.

Fellowships are not scholarships and are not awarded to support work toward academic degrees or the writing of books or for research projects, meaning focused projects aimed at answering specific questions, usually in a particular academic discipline. Applicants must have a good command of written and spoken English and must have completed the current phase of their formal education. We do not accept applications from currently enrolled undergraduate students.

Duties of fellows

Fellows are required to write monthly newsletters, which are distributed to Institute members and other interested parties, including family, friends and professional associates of the fellows. While the Institute has funded and will continue to fund artists, performers, and others who find various ways to participate in the societies they study, the immediate fruits of the fellows’ learning are communicated principally through writing. Fellows should be prepared to share their experience with a general, well-educated audience, and not only with specialists in their field. Fellows work closely with the Executive Director, who serves as writing coach, editor, and mentor.

Financial support

The Institute provides full financial support for its fellows and their immediate families. “Full financial support” does not mean unlimited financial support, and fellows are expected to live and spend modestly. The Institute provides fellows with sufficient funding to allow them and their families to live in good health and reasonable comfort and to fulfill the purposes of the fellowship.

How to apply

Those interested in applying for an Institute of Current World Affairs fellowship should send an initial letter of interest and a resume to Executive Director Steven Butler, briefly outlining the proposed project and explaining the personal background and professional experience that would qualify them for the fellowship they have in mind. They should describe the activities they would like to carry out during two years overseas and enclose a resume or curriculum vitae. This is a competitive process. The strongest applicants will be invited to submit a more detailed application.


  • August 1, 2013 – For Initial letter of interest and resume. These are preferred by email, however, fax and regular mail is also accepted.
  • September 1, 2013 – For candidates invited to submit full applications.

Fax: 202-364-0498


Mail inquiries to:
Steven Butler, Executive Director
Institute of Current World Affairs
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 615
Washington, DC 20036

The official website.


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