My Fulbright experience at Washington State University

Paulien Decorte was a Belgian 2022-2023 Fulbright Visiting Student Researcher in Communications at Washington State University. Paulien has recently obtained her PhD in Social Sciences in the department of Communication, studying the impact of food media on food-related choices and habits of young adults, aged 18-25.

Q: “Can you briefly describe your grant project?”

Thanks to the grant, I had a 6-month research stay at Washington State University, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, under the guidance of Professor Dr. Paul Bolls, an expert in media psychophysiology. This opportunity was invaluable for my PhD study, which focuses on media psychophysiology of food-related content. Working with Professor Bolls and accessing top-notch facilities enriched my research and broadened my perspectives. It was a transformative experience that will shape my future contributions to the field.

Q: “How did you hear about the Fulbright Program? What motivated you to apply, and what do you remember from the selection process?”

I have known about the Fulbright Program since my bachelor’s degree and I was interested in an exchange then, but I didn’t have enough time to get the necessary affairs in order. I then had one of my best friends completing the Fulbright Program and was very happy with it. So, during my PhD, when I was looking for opportunities abroad to further my research career, I considered Fulbright once again. I remember being quite nervous in the selection procedure, but I reached out to several alumni who gave me great advice. I focused on the goal of my research and tried to make that as convincing as possible during my application.

Q: “What have you accomplished during your time in the USA? What can you tell us about the initial outcomes of your program?”

The purpose of my Fulbright journey was to enhance my knowledge and expertise in media psychophysiology as a research approach. I can confidently say that I achieved that objective, thanks to the valuable guidance and teachings of Paul Bolls, Di Mu, and Yen-I Lee. As a result, I now feel more self-assured as a researcher, and our collaboration has led to a promising manuscript, igniting a desire to continue exploring this field in my future career. Beyond the academic gains, this research stay has offered me so much more. It has provided me with a fresh outlook and a sense of significant personal and professional growth.

Q: “Can you describe a typical day in your life in the USA?”

During my Fulbright adventure in the USA, I have the opportunity to house-sit for another Fulbright family, which starts my day on a positive note. After breakfast, I head to the campus to explore the Pullman campus and visit the libraries to find resources for my dissertation.

At Dr. Bolls’ Media Mind Lab, I am fully engaged in research, analyzing experiment data, working on my manuscript, and contributing to ongoing projects. The hands-on experience has been invaluable, providing practical insights into media psychophysiology. During lunch with Dr. Bolls, we have productive discussions about our research findings and methodologies, which helps me refine my approach and gain confidence as a researcher. I spend the rest of the day dedicated to advancing my research objectives, making progress on my dissertation, and contributing to the lab’s work.

Q: “What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying to the Fulbright Program?”

If you’re considering applying to the Fulbright Program, my advice is to wholeheartedly go for it and not hesitate. It truly is an opportunity of a lifetime that will take you out of your comfort zone and enrich your personal and academic growth in ways you cannot imagine.

Articles are written by Fulbright grantees and do not reflect the opinions of the Fulbright Commission, the grantees’ host institutions, or the U.S. Department of State.