Apply for the ICWA Fellowship Program

Apply for the ICWA Fellowship Program


What would you do with two years to study anything in the world?

ICWA advances deep knowledge of global cultures and affairs. We achieve that by supporting fellows for two-year immersive programs of independent research and writing abroad.

We will announce new fellowships in January 2025.

About the Fellowship

Jessica Reilly in Honduras during her fellowship studying the effects of climate change along the coasts of Mexico and Central America (2015-2017)We are looking for promise, curiosity and enthusiasm in candidates, and consider whether they are ready for the rapid personal growth the fellowship makes possible. Extensive professional experience in a proposed area is not always necessary; fellowships are aimed at developing local knowledge and writing skills, not necessarily awarding research or reporting opportunities to those who already possess them. Strong candidates propose compelling fellowship topics.

  • Candidates must be under 36 years of age at the time of the due date for the initial letter of interest.
  • US citizenship is not a requirement but candidates must show strong and credible ties to US society.
  • Applicants must have excellent written and spoken English-language skills and must have completed the current phase of their formal education. (We do not accept applications from currently enrolled undergraduate students.)
  • We expect candidates to have the necessary language skills to allow to them to carry out their proposed projects. That means enough language proficiency for them to be able to function in the local language within a few months of arriving in country.

A proposed fellowship must hold the promise of enriching public life in the United States by advancing the understanding of foreign countries, cultures and trends. Public service, social activism or contribution to wider knowledge in the United States is our ultimate purpose, from a belief the public benefits from the wisdom and experience fellows acquire.

Given our interest in achieving wide geographic distribution over time, we generally are less inclined to select projects in countries where we currently or very recently have had fellows. We are naturally drawn to areas of the world and topics that are less well understood and are relevant to the United States. Candidates are encouraged to browse ICWA’s archives to see the kind of projects that the institute has supported.

  • Fellowships are not scholarships. We do not support degree programs at universities, the writing of books or research projects aimed at answering specific questions in a particular academic discipline.
  • While we expect candidates to design projects of topical interest, fellowships are not aimed at covering news events. We do not send fellows into war zones or places where intense security concerns prevent them from interacting with the local population.
  • Fellowships are not for freelance journalism. Fellows are expected to spend their time researching and writing dispatches for the institute, although research may sometimes later be used for articles and books with permission from the executive director.   
  • ICWA weighs all proposals with no restrictions on topics or regions.

This is a writing fellowship. Fellows are required to produce monthly dispatches made available on our website and email to institute supporters and other interested parties, including family, friends and professional associates of the fellows. Fellows work closely with the executive director, who serves as writing coach, editor and mentor.

While many fellows go on to pursue political or social causes at home and abroad, the purpose of a fellowship is to learn about other societies, not to change them. Fellows are not permitted to engage in overtly political activities during their fellowships. The institute does not accept any government funds. Fellows must preserve that independence in letter and in spirit.

Fellows should not expect to return to the United States during the two years of their fellowships. ICWA fellowships are immersive; a vital component of the fellowship experience is remaining without interruption in the area of study for the duration of a fellowship.

ICWA provides full financial support for its fellows and their immediate accompanying families. Fellows do not receive salaries; the institute gives them sufficient funding to cover their expenses, enabling them to fulfill the purposes of the fellowship and allowing them and their families (if accompanying the fellowship) to live in good health and reasonable comfort. “Full financial support” does not mean unlimited financial support; fellows are expected to live and spend modestly.

Those interested in applying for an Institute of Current World Affairs Fellowship should send an initial letter of interest and resume or CV in English to the institute via email. (Post is also accepted.)

In your letter of interest, tell us what you would do if you had a two-year, self-designed fellowship overseas and why you’re the right person to carry it out. There is no fixed length for the letter of interest. Please indicate your age, as applicants must be under the age of 36 at the time the letter of interest is due.

The strongest applicants will be invited to submit a more detailed application.

Selected fellows are expected to depart for their fellowships within six months of their selection.

We are unable to respond to all applications but will consider all those that fit our fellowship requirements.

For applications via post: 
Institute of Current World Affairs
1818 N St. NW, Ste 460
Washington, DC 20036


A core ICWA value is deep immersion, so most fellows remain in one country for the duration of their fellowships. Applications for multiple countries may be considered; generally in such cases, fellows remain in one region where the experience and culture transcend borders. If you are interested in being a fellow in more than one country, you should explain why that is essential to your project in your letter of interest.

While we will consider all possibilities, we prefer not to have fellows in locations where other ICWA fellows are currently working or have recently completed fellowships. Please consult our current and former fellows pages before proposing a fellowship.

Shortly after the submission deadline. Letters of interest are considered following the application deadline. Those selected will be asked to submit more detailed applications. Applications are not considered on a rolling basis.

Final decisions are made in November about applicants who submitted letters of interest in May.

ICWA fellowships are designed to support people early in their careers, hence the age limit of 35. You will not be considered for a fellowship if you are 36 or older at the date the letter of interest is due.

Yes. ICWA fellowships are designed to have an impact on the future of the United States by supporting future leaders, but they are not restricted to US citizens or residents.  However, your country of study should be outside the United States.

We do not accept applications from current undergraduate students. Students completing post-graduate education are welcome to apply, provided that they will be finished with their degrees and able to begin their fellowships within six months of their selection.

ICWA fellowships are not focused on the production of a final product but rather the transformation that results from immersive experiences. Fellows are required to write monthly dispatches reflecting their experiences and sharing their perspectives, and deliver a final fellowship report talk, but no other final product is requested.

ICWA fellows are not permitted to return to the United States at any point during the two years of their fellowships, which are meant to be completely immersive. Of course exceptions are made in extreme circumstances.

The amounts vary, and the institute does not guarantee it will fully fund any project. Working with a fixed annual budget, ICWA strives to allocate its funds as equitably as possible, taking into consideration the areas, cost of living, purpose and scope of each fellowship.