Friday, August 28

I Was Awarded A Fulbright Graduate Program

I was awarded the Fulbright Graduate Study & Research Program.
2 weeks ago, I wrote about leaving the jungle school. I didn't have time to write about why I was leaving because it has been a hectic 2 weeks since then. Today, I'm finally able to find a breather to write & share. So, here it is... The reason I'm leaving is to pursue a masters degree in the US sponsored by the Fulbright Scholarship Board.

In this blog post, I'll share about how I got the scholarship & encourage you to do the same. Seriously, if a mere teacher in the middle of nowhere can do it... ANYBODY can.


1. Figure Out What You Want

I'm sure that for many of you, this is the first time you've heard of Fulbright. I only found out about the Fulbright sponsored programs from an American official who visited my school. After her visit, she urged me to apply & I gave every one of the programs serious consideration.

Most teachers I know went for the International Leaders In Education Program or the Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program. These programs are very difficult to get into & only a handful are selected each year: 5 and 1 respectively. However, I wanted something more. If I were to travel all the way & spend so much precious time there, I wanted a piece of the US to come back with me. So, I decided on the Fulbright Malaysian Graduate Study and Research Program which involved pursuing a Master or PhD.

I had no confidence in applying for it because I could find no precedence of a teacher receiving the graduate study program. Instead of giving up...


2. Find Out What It Takes & Let Someone Judge Whether You Have It

 
I signed up for this.

I really didn't believe that I'd get this scholarship because I was just a teacher working in the middle of the jungle. Furthermore, I figured that applying for this would cost me a lot of time, effort & money (cost of international assessments like TOEFL & GRE, flights to KL to take the tests & attend interviews). I really didn't want to waste my time or get my hopes up too much. So, I wanted to open myself to be judged by the people who were: 1) already accepted into the program. Or, 2) part of the vetting process. Only if they thought that I could get it, I would apply.

I asked around in social media for people who might know people who were part of any Fulbright program. From those people I gained wonderful insights into the Fulbright psyche & learned about how they applied for theirs. Through them, I got connected to people who got accepted into the program that I wanted to apply for. Furthermore, through these guys, I got connected with people working within the embassy & eventually got to sit down with someone who I didn't realize was one of the interviewers for the program!

To be honest, I got a lot more help from past Fulbrighters than I expected. These guys were really eager to help & all of them went above & beyond for little ol' me. I can never repay their kindness. But, I can always pass it on. Thanks, guys. I really hope that I'll make you proud!


3. Give It Your Best & Never Give Up!

Not sure if you'll get it? Thinking that there's probably a 50-50 chance? Just go for it. Seriously. I was told that so few people apply for this that even a teacher from the middle of a jungle in Sarawak could get it. What the heck does that guy have to offer? HAHAHA!!! Seriously, go for it. You'll never know until you try. All those motivational books you've read. What's the point if you don't step out of your comfort zone?

Even if you fail the first time. Apply again the next year. You'll be better prepared for it. One of my fellow grantees failed twice before getting it the third time. She must have nerves of steel for doing it a third time. What excuses have you? Do you want it or not? Or are you happier to be complaining under the blanket of self-pity.

View the latest Fulbright programs. There may be one that'll be relevant to you.
If I've convinced you to give the scholarship a serious thought, you might want to learn more about the intricate details & processes of applying for this scholarship. I'll write a blog post about it soon. Will link it up here when it's ready.
I've also written some tips for TOEFL & GRE. They might give you some insights from the perspective of a Malaysian.

Check out the latest Fulbright fellows. There may be someone you know... Ahem.
My mind is blown as I prepare to leave for Teachers College of Columbia University. I can hardly believe that this opportunity is given to me. I really really thank Jesus & all the people who have supported me along my journey as an educator. I have many good friends, family & colleagues to be thankful for. Without you guys, I am nothing.

I really miss my students & I deeply pray that they receive all the best that life has to offer. I've been telling them for years to aim high, go places, achieve great things & then come back to bless your community. I'm glad to be able to walk the talk.

I hope that my departure will spark something in the hearts & minds of my students... that a person is never confined to his/her surroundings. I hope that my departure will inspire future generations of teachers to strive for more real impact in their work instead of pursuing "paper impact" for promotions & awards: an act which I deeply despise.

I'm looking forward to coming back in 2 years & doing something great for Malaysia. I want to base myself in Sarawak to serve the people of Sarawak who have been neglected for decades. I somehow still believe that I can make a difference for my state & it's people. We shall see what the future has to bring. Despite the current circumstances, I am hopeful. We, the people, shall prevail.

Update: I wrote about my interview experience.

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