Michaeljulius Idani, who will receive an MFA in fiction from the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop in May 2022, is the winner of a Fulbright Study/Research grant in Creative Writing to Sierra Leone for 2022-23
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Award: 2022-23 Fulbright Study/Research Award in Creative Writing to Sierra Leone
Degree: MFA, creative writing, fiction
Could you give me a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?
My project focuses on the lives of liberated Africans from around the world that were diverted to the Crown colony of Freetown, Sierra Leone after the British Empire abolished the Atlantic Slave trade in 1807. The liberated Africans that arrived in Freetown spoke different languages, worshipped different gods, and practiced different customs, but quickly melded into a new people with a shared language called Krio. I’m interested in the oral traditions of this community and what it has in common with traditions across the diaspora.
What drew you to this field of study?
Learning about Black literary traditions in courses I’ve taken at the Iowa Writers' Workshop created a desire to learn more about cultural resilience and the ways communities pass on their histories.
How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?
I hope this research can inform my approach to storytelling. There’s such a rich history of creativity to explore and find inspiration. I hope I can also elevate the stories and voices of influential artists that are hidden in history.
What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright? or What experiences at the UI inspired you to pursue a Fulbright?
Be curious and open to new ideas. Be flexible in your expectations and goals. My willingness to adapt my ideas and research to shifting opportunities and obstacles helped me find joy in the journey of discovery. Taking courses in different departments across the University of Iowa introduced me to students, faculty, staff, and programs that shaped my understanding of my interests and development opportunities.
"Taking courses in different departments across the University of Iowa introduced me to students, faculty, staff, and programs that shaped my understanding of my interests and development opportunities."
Are there individuals (professors, mentors, etc.) you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?
Karen Wachsmuth is such an amazing advocate for workshoppers, and others, navigating international opportunities. Through her, I learned about both the Stanley Graduate Award for International Research and the Fulbright program. I cannot overstate the importance of her support throughout the process.
You were also the recipient of a Stanley Research grant. Do you think that experience in any way contributed to your success as a Fulbright applicant?
The Stanley Graduate Award for International Research was invaluable for my Fulbright journey. It provided the time needed to develop my research questions and proposal. Applying for the Stanley also helped with the Fulbright application process. It encouraged me to have conversations with specialists and recommenders about my ideas, and further refine them. I would recommend that anyone considering Fulbright, also consider the Stanley Awards.
Students are encouraged to begin their funding searches and applications at least six months to one year in advance. Schedule an advising appointment with Karen Wachsmuth to discuss your interest in an international fellowship or begin an application (as a UI undergraduate student, graduate student, or alumna/us).