Invitation Letter for a U.S. Scholar
NOTE: July is traditionally a summer vacation month in Finland and responses to inquiries about invitation letters may be delayed. Applicants are advised to contact Finnish host institutions well ahead of time to solicit an invitation letter for their application. In case the invitation letter would not be available in time for the application deadline, applicants are advised to contact IIE/CIES.
An invitation letter from the inviting Finnish host institution is required in nearly all Fulbright Finland grant programs for U.S. scholars. The invitation letter is an significant component in the application and its content is an important part of the selection process. When drafting the invitation letter, the U.S. applicant and the Finnish host should discuss the following topics and include them in the invitation letter:
- The timing of the visit (for example: 4 months September-December, or 1 September to 31 December)
- The name of the academic host who will be primarily working with the scholar, as a contact person for administrative matters (incl. pre-arrangements for the visit, meeting the scholar at the airport, and serving as the host during the visit; see checklist below)
- The benefits of the scholar’s visit to the host institution (for research cooperation or teaching for example)
- Long-term benefits of the visit
- Benefits of the scholar’s visit beyond the host institution (for the academic field or society, for example)
- Support services provided by the host institutions (work space, research staff, equipment, as applicable)
- The commitment of the host institution/department to provide and pay for the scholar’s and accompanying family members’ accommodation during the visit in programs in which this is a requirement (this requirement is in all U.S. scholar programs offered by the Fulbright Finland Foundation except for the Mid-Career Professional Development Grant)
The invitation letter is addressed to the invited scholar.
If the Fulbright scholar has lecturing or research duties at two institutions during the visit, it is important to remember that the Fulbright Finland pays the scholar’s travel allowance and monthly allowance only. Host institutions must come to mutual agreement about the sharing of other costs.
Checklist for a U.S. Scholar's Host
The Finnish host university is responsible for taking care of all practical arrangements related to the scholar's visit at the host university and in the host city. Please find below the checklist for hosts to help you with the required arrangements. It is very important to familiarize yourself with the checklist and start preparing for the visit already well in advance before the scholar's arrival to Finland.
While scholars need to have one main host and point of contact, more than one individual needs to be involved and aware of the scholar’s project and arrangements that are required to make the visit a success. Ideally, there will be a hosting team with an academic host, administrative hosts and back-up hosts, who know about the upcoming visit. Individual circumstances may change with short notice, so someone needs to be able to jump in and take over the hosting duties if needed.
Before the Visit
- Appoint the primary and the back-up hosts who will be in charge of planning the visit and taking care of practicalities.
- Arrange a pre-arrival conference call to discuss mutual expectations for the visit and items on this checklist.
- "Pre-assess" the project for feasibility from the local context, and discuss ethical (IRB and GDPR) implications if relevant.
- Provide the grantees a hosting agreement in support of their residence permit application as early as possible, as the application process may take months.
- Helps to organize the scholar’s everyday life: e.g. accommodation reservations, daycare and school for the children, bank-related practicalities, grocery stores and other shops, public transportation, etc.
- Please note that visiting scholars with young children may need to make arrangements for daycare or school as early as February, and will need confirmed information on their housing in Finland to apply for placement.
- Makes sure that the scholar is aware of all the trips, vacations, and other absences that the host may have during the visit. Visiting scholars often approach the host with questions during the summer and Christmas vacations, before they arrive to Finland.
- Provides the academic calendar to the scholar, so that they are aware of the national holiday schedule.
|Make arrangements for the Fulbright scholar’s teaching and research
- It is best to make a schedule for the Fulbright scholar’s teaching and research as early as possible, so that they will be well prepared for their visit. Communicate with the scholar who they should submit to and when their teaching and research material in advance.
- Fulbright scholars have made a proposal for their teaching and research plan when they have filled in their Fulbright application. In case the host university wishes to make changes to the Fulbright scholar’s project proposal, it is best to discuss any adjustments before the scholar arrives to Finland.
- It is important to keep in mind that Fulbright scholars are not usually familiar with the Finnish university practices. They may be unfamiliar with how teaching is arranged in Finland, for example. As the Fulbright scholars plan their teaching, they need to be aware of all practical details such as: when do the terms begin and end in Finnish Universities, how much information their courses should cover, what is their students’ level of knowledge, what is the grading system in Finland, etc.
|Inform the scholar about the services the host university provides
- Has the university published a guidebook for visiting teachers/researchers? Check with the department’s international coordinator, HR, International Staff Services or International Office.
- Find out what kind of guidance is available to the Fulbright scholars and/or the host at the university’s Exchange Services?
- Does the university arrange an orientation for the visiting scholar at the beginning of the semester? Find out and inform your guests about the time and place.
- Does the university provide courses on the Finnish language/culture/history for visitors? Find out and inform your guests about the details.
- Send an Information package on the host university, department, and city.
|Arrange an apartment
- Is the university’s central administration or the host department in charge of arranging an apartment for the visiting scholar?
- It is best to discuss available apartments (size, location, amenities, etc.) well in advance with the scholar, as well as find out what the scholar’s wishes and needs are regarding their accommodation, so that misunderstandings can be avoided.
- Send photos of potential apartments if possible.
- Find out who the scholar should contact in case they have problems concerning the apartment.
- Sometimes the host university may wish to complement the visitor's grant by offering extra compensation. Please note that if the Fulbright scholars receive extra payments and benefits from the host university, there will likely be tax implications.
- The main focus of the visit should always be the Fulbright project and the residence permit has been granted for that purpose.
|Arrange a workspace
- Make sure a workspace and equipment are available by the time the Fulbright Scholar arrives to Finland.
|Send an announcement about the scholar’s visit
- Inform staff at the university, faculty and the department.
- Inform other relevant contacts in the scholar’s field of study.
After the Scholar's Arrival
|Arranging for the scholar’s arrival
Picking up the scholar from the airport or train station, is a warm welcoming gesture.
In addition, by taking them to their apartment, hosts can ensure that everything is in order at the apartment.
There may also be immediate questions about where to get groceries for breakfast, how does the dishwasher or Wi-Fi work, etc.
|Orientation to the university
- Introduce the scholar to the faculty and staff and discuss the Finnish working life and working culture of the host department.
- Organize a campus tour around the department and the university, library, language center, gym, etc.
- Advice on the practicalities of the university and the department: meetings, printers and photocopies, bills, travels, etc.
- Make sure the scholar has: keys, staff ID, library card, photocopy card, username and password for the university systems, email address, telephone, etc.
- Find out if the practicalities can be taken care of already before the scholar’s arrival (e.g. filling in the necessary forms via email)?
- Inform the scholar about events at the university and the department throughout the visit.
- Consider organizing a tour of the new home community and pointing out places that the grantee will need during her stay. Explain how the public transportation works, point out grocery stores, bank, dry cleaning place, libraries, your favorite restaurants etc.
|Additional help and guidance on practicalities
- Opening a bank account, buying a travel card, telephone subscription, tax form, etc.
- Make sure the scholar has the contact information for the nearest health clinic.
- In some universities Fulbright scholars are entitled to occupational health care. How about in your university?
- Find out who advises the scholars on health care-related issues and be sure to communicate this also to the scholar.
Integrating the Fulbright scholar into his/her new academic community
- Connecting Fulbright scholar with the important local academic and professional contacts
- Setting up a presentation and a welcome coffee as an opportunity for the visitor to introduce his/her project and specialization to colleagues, e.g. Fulbright Dialogues
Make sure the Fulbright scholar and their family enjoy their visit
- The visiting scholar, and possibly also their family, arrive to a foreign country. Their first and most important link to the Finnish society is their host university. What happens after work, or during the weekends and holidays? What can you do to make sure the visitors enjoy their stay?
With support from the USAStudyAbroad office of the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright Finland Foundation organized a Workshop on Best Practices in Hosting U.S. Students and Visiting Scholars on August 20, 2019. Guidance on host responsibilities and newly generated ideas for welcoming U.S. scholars and students are now available here: Workshop on Best Practices in Hosting U.S. Students and Visiting Scholars. Thank you to all the partners and participants for a productive workshop, and let us know if you come up with new valuable practices!