Its not about the ending, its all about the journey – my Fulbright’s “(roller coaster)” story part one

Tell you what?! Let me quote myself (wait, can I do that??), well, anyway… “Applying for Fulbright scholarship will put you to an emotional roller coaster for a full year!”.

To begin my story, I need to make a confession that I made a stupid mistake that might cost me a fortune when sending my application to a wrong address, with only one day left before the deadline! but the luck still on my side and I still manage to send my application before the deadline. Moral of the story: no matter how good your application is, flawless essays, and completed all the required documents… if you send it to the wrong address, none of it will matter!

In this part one, I will share my preparation for applying the scholarship and share few tips and tricks that might help (specifically on how to write study objective, personal statement, and work/writing sample).

wait… I’ll start the story few weeks earlier before the deadline.

It took me several days just to finish the application form, needs a pair of good eyes to get it done without a single error detected. I would recommend to ask few friends to check your application before you submit it, small mistake like grammar or typo might’ve cost you the chance to get shortlisted.

There are items for checklist on the application, but here I’m going to focus mainly on the essays. Writing study objective and personal statement maybe were most difficult part of the application, i did change and revise my essays for almost 7-9 times before I finally satisfied with the result.

Study Objective (SO) and Personal Statement (PS) are written in 1 page max, single space, with 11 or 12 font. In this section, applicant must be able to explain in detail but concise the area of study they will choose and explain the reason to pursue the specific major. It’ll be better if the applicant is able to elaborate further the specific major that they choose and how it is relate, support and contribute to future career, educational background, and their expertise. There will be a mentor to help applicants to shape their essays before it is submitted to the university. From my experience, the SO is best structured into three parts; the first part is the explanation of area specific of study and the specialization (if any), the second part encompass the main reasons (it is recommended to write three reasons in three different paragraphs) why you want to pursue the specific field of study, what purposes does it serve to study your proposed major? last part, is explaining your future objectives and how your study plan will help you to achieve them.

Personal Statement (PS) to me is slightly more difficult to write than SO. Its about telling about ourselves in a professional way, but at the same time keeping it honest, objective and fair. The main part of PS is to explain the “why”, but also the how, and what. Writing a script about how we equipped ourselves and fit as a candidate plays an important part of PS. Applicant should also be able to elaborate “How they fit into the criteria”, it can be related to the educational background, area of interest, working (and organizational) experiences, and future career plan. The tricky part is to not repeat what has been written on your resume, so you have to built a comprehensive and solid argument (narratively) of your potential and motivation to continue study in US and how its related to above-mentioned elements. My mentor helps me to organize the essay by fragment it into several different parts: describe your (relevant) education; pointed out your practical experiences on particular area of interest; current and future career plan. The last two parts are the real challenge, since all applicant must elaborate significant factor(s) that have influenced their educational and professional development and argue on how long you have had these practical experience regarding your proposed field of study and why more education is still needed in that area. Quoted from my mentor “PS is supposed to give the reviewers more background about who you are as a person.  They want to know your personality, attitude, background, and strengths.  They want to know what you will contribute to others and how others can help you”.

I might’ve mentioned few tips and tricks for SO and PO (and maybe you can find it elsewhere how to write SO and PO), but I found very little source how to write a writing or work sample. It certainly will help if you do have a published paper or journal , but if you do not have it, you need to write something that should be considered appropriate to meet the scholarly requirement in terms of content and language specific. Writing or work sample is very important part of the application, since it will show the glimpse of your work and how it is relevant with your SO and PS. I put my own personal project of Regional Innovation System in South Kalimantan. I bring lots of effort to write an excellent timeline on how my interest, expertise, experience and all relevant things (such as trainings, scholarships and seminars that i received and attended) are aligned and supporting my SO and PS on my work sample. Writing the essay was a difficult task, require lots of energy, focus, determination, and also all the help you need (special thanks to my dearest friend Zahra Matthews for helping me with my writing).

Getting two recommendation letters were also intense. Fulbright requires all the applicant to provide two recommendation letter, but I got four (just in case). My first recommendation letter was from the Institution that provide me a Business Intermediary training (VDI GmbH, VDE e.V. in Berlin, Germany). The second letter was from the Head of South Kalimantan Research Council (He is also one of the Dean in Universitas Lambung Mangkurat). The third and fourth were my supervisor at my office. Bottom line is, I was trying get recommendation letters from several different sources; academic, work, and professional.

Am I done after i submitted my application? well… its far from finished, its just tip of the iceberg and the beginning of the roller coaster ride that all applicants will experience for the next 12 -16 months! its fun, thrilling, bring lots of excitement, frustration, at some point maybe depression…. just wait until the second part of this post, its gonna be LEGEN… (wait for it, hopefully I’m not too lazy to write my blog, coz the school starts in Monday, and I’m so not prepare for school, and I also a big fan of HIMYM, thanks Barney)…DARY!!!

 

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I Promised Myself (part two- AAI *end)

It was around late November 2015, i received an email confirmation that I am one of the applicant that is eligible for the next round of the AAI scholarship.

The next step after documents review was IELTS and Interview.

I remember, i did not put lots of effort for IELTS since my last test was more than enough, but I prepare myself for the interview. I dedicated my time reviewing my application, writings, and some other details on my resume and making sure there will be no room for an error.

IELTS test went well as expected. The interview was a little bit intense! I was asked why I’m interested in social venture, community empowerment and business incubation for small medium enterprises. I remember I was one of the applicant that being interviewed slightly longer than others. The referees were also asking about my track record (grades and activities) when I was in undergrad. One of the referee was asking about my grade on Introduction to Microeconomics (i got an “F” for that subject, because I was skipping the final exam for national debate competition). However, after I explain the reason why I failed the subject, they nod and showing their appreciation. Some other questions were around university choices and the major I choose, pretty standard but it requires great amount of practice to be able to answer the question systematically,  calmly, and the most important, confidently.

Long story short, on February I was shortlisted as the recipient of AAI scholarship with University of Melbourne and University of Sydney as my future destination. I was sooo excited, thrilled, and challenged. Lots of emotion involved considering I failed last year and getting back on my feet was a little bit tricky!

However…. after considering my options and few other things, I decided to decline the scholarship (this part of the story will be shared later)

I Promised Myself (Part two – AAI)

I woke up in the morning with a target of applying for scholarship. on the top of my head, I was planning to go to Australia. With lots of confidence, I was applying for the scholarship and bluntly choose a master program by research.

I don’t have any problem preparing all the required documents, my IELTS was more than enough. However, I made a serious mistake during the process! I was unaware and reckless choosing a master program by research. I thought… since I am a researcher, I don’t think it will be a problem… I was wrong!

The application required all master by research and PhD applicants to write a research proposal and present it in front of the juries. My proposal was standard and I thought it was solid enough for me and I believe I can defend my proposal, but again, I was wrong!

During the interview, the Juries asked lots of detail and comprehensive questions about my research proposal. They made me think deeper about what is the real problem on my research, tearing up my research method, and by the end of the interview, they were asking me to apply again next year but choose master by coursework instead.

I feel devastated after the interview, my confidence was crushed! I left the building and feel disappointed to myself, how can I screwed up this huge opportunity!

It took me an hour to realize that I was this close to get the scholarship! I have two options, give up and feel sorry for my self or stand up, fix my mistake and apply again for the scholarship… With the smile on my face, I take a deep breath, and I said to myself… “I choose the second option”!

I promised myself (part one)

It’s been a while since my last post, not because I’m too lazy to write something (well kind of), but also I was preoccupied with lots of works, assignments, family chores, and many more, but here I am now.

I wrote “my dreams” and break it into several parts coz it’s too long to be written in one post. this part, I’ll share the stories about life before I left to the US for pursuing my master’s degree.

I saw my friends continuing their study abroad and left me wonder, why am i not do that? what am I afraid of? am I too comfortable with my life now? am I not ready for a new challenge? am I afraid to fail?

I keep questioning myself, and not doing anything, until 2014…

It was a fine bright afternoon, after lunch time if I can recall, when the secretary of the research institution that I worked for telling there is an opening for scholarship to Germany. I was surprised when he told me about the scholarship, given the beau racy in Indonesian’ government institution that usually prefer relatives or family for something big like this. Anyway, long story short, I get the scholarship fair and square (I won the first place on the competition).

But that’s not the part of story that I wanted to share, it’s about the feeling, the adrenaline, the excitement that rushes through my veins…it’s the exact same feelings like the first time I went to Australia, now after 10 years finally I can fulfil my promise that I made a while back that I’ll go to Europe one day!

After I returned from Germany, I was trusted to several responsibilities and projects in my provinces (I’ll get back later to tell the whole story), but the excitement never stopped! Inside my head, I promised myself that I’m going to pursue my master abroad! Australia was my first option, but somehow at the last minutes, my heart chooses US for my next destination

my journey, my adventure

it was start with curiousness… i’ve seen so many good friends enjoying their new adventure abroad, either studying or short course. I keep questioning myself, when is my turn?this simple question emerges in 2013 and keeps haunting me. the first step i took was asking people, friends, browse the information online. then finally i had my chance, i was chosen by my institution representing them at national business intermediary training hosted by the Indonesian ministry of research and technology, supported by business and technology centre.

I was the first winner at the business model development’ mini competition and granted a place to attend the expert intermediary training in Berlin, Germany. I went there on august 2014. that was my second journey after Australia back in 2004/2005.

After i went back from Germany, I was thinking; “this is fun”, suddenly all the great memories from the first time i went abroad flashes back… i said to myself, I have to do it again, and soon!

I decide to continue studying and applying for scholarship. i was applying for AAI scholarship (Australia), i applied on 2014, but i was too confident and resulted me making an error. in short i apply for master by research instead of master by coursework or combination (this part of story will be shared later).

then, on 2015 i decide to re-apply the AAI scholarship together with Fulbright. it was a long exhausted year with all the interviews, tests (IELTS, IBT, GRE, GMAT), and all the writings, but it was worth everything!

it was a a great Thursday afternoon, when me and some folks are ready to go to karaoke i got the email from Fulbright, i was shortlisted! and few weeks after that on a nice Friday evening, with perfect weather and I am ready to procrastinating for the whole weekend, then the email popped up says, I got shortlisted for AAI scholarship with Melbourne and Sydney University are the most probable destination.

so I was in dillema situation of choosing the sponsor (i’ll share the story later), but in the end I choose Fulbright. then my new adventure has started!

Love you paris (part 2)

Guess what?! i can’t find any place to crash…. all hotel near the central of paris are too expensive, at least i shut pay around 350 Euro per night, i walked around Champs-Elysees try to get free wifi (a cup of coffee at the cafe) to get all information, but none available… i took Hop on Hop off to get myself to the most famous places in paris, such as Eiffel tower, Champ de Mars, Opera Garnier, Louvre-Pyramide, Louvre-Pont des Arts, Notre-Dame, Musee d’Orsay, Champs-Elysees, Grand Palais, and Trocadero. i must says, 1 day visiting those 10places is certainly not enough, but good price though (29 Euros for whole day).

well…lets forget it for now…its Saturday night! and I’m spending my lovely evening at the most romantic n beautiful city on earth “Paris”… i start my Saturday night with some style…. going around expensive boutique (of course not to buy-sadly) and spoilt myself with a nice coffee shop around that area…lots of beautiful girls hanging’ around and some beautiful boys also (i can’t believe i say it, but yes they’re pretty boys) with the beautiful and awesome dress!

a week before i spent my Saturday night at Prague, Czech Republic (the story will be shared asap), now I’m in paris….its quite expensive, it took me almost 300 Euros just for the plane tickets, and spent another few hundreds for 2 days staying in paris…

i got some souvenirs, taste some nice coffee, meets some new friends…enjoy the evening… i love my life!!

its 10PM, and I’m not sure whether its late at night or not, coz it seems that the city never sleep…more people comes, it gets crowded, some street performance, and some crazy dude hanging out with beers (of course)

i met some australians and (probably, not sure though) koreans, spend the night talking about their experience do backpacking…it was fun…real fun!

its 11.30PM and i still couldn’t find any place to crash, unfortunately some new friends that i met, don’t have spare room, they even bring some tent with them…

finally after sometime, I plan to go back to the airport and decide to stay there during the night, i took a subway, and waiting for the train, but then again, there was a crazy thought, how about i just sleep here? at the subway station…hell yeah! its cheaper, more simple and yet practical!

i can’t sleep!!! its too cold, windy subway! it took me 3 hours to get an hour of sleep…crazy! feel tired, exhausted, but I’m pretty pleased! i met some crazy drunk douche that try to kick me out of the subway, i fought back, thanks got i bring my camera tripod (a big one), after 5 minutes do some trash talk, he took off, and thanks to some officers also help!

its Sunday! after a long exhausted day and night its finally new day in paris, and again I start my day to go to eiffel and decide to take my chance to go to the top of the tower! spent the time on the flea market around the area…beautiful morning, and pretty cold for a summer…

time to go back…another 45 mins back to orly airport…sadly, i have to leave this beautiful city

my adventure in paris just ended, but i do believe its just a beginning of much more interesting starts of my backpacking journey…..

love you paris… (part 1)

its 5PM in the evening and i just finished training’ visit from humboldt university Adlershoff, Berlin and Im rushing back to my apartment to take a quick bath and get my backpack then go to the Schonofeld Airport. I took a budget airlines “EasyJet” and sadly i don’t get cheap ticket, it was EUR288 (not so much for budget Airlines). anyway…It took 45 minutes to get back from Steinplatz to Uhlandstrase, get packed and went to zoologischer garten and took RB7 to the airport.  it was a nice view from my window on the way to the airport.

the plane was on time, im leaving berlin around 9pm to Paris for 1.5hrs flight, and by 10.30 i finally step to one of the most beautiful city in the world, PARIS!! well not yet actually, still at the Orly airport, its around 30 mins drive from the centre of the city.

well it was 11pm and no place to go, so Im staying at the airport, accompanied by 24hrs of free wifi connectivity. trying to get all the information from internet, and it was a good call. finally after a long waiting and surfing all over the world (from the internet)… its 6am in the morning, and im ready to roll! take a bus to denfert rocheau then take the M6 to bir hakiem (eiffel tour) its only 30 minutes then im in eiffel!!!!

lots of crazy feeling at that moment, happy, excited, overwhelmed, enthusiast, its mixed feeling!

the queuing was just crazy! by the time the eiffel tickets are open, thousands of people are just queuing!

the plan was simple, going to the top of the eiffel and take the photos! but its just crazy, it took me 20 mins queuing… (fyi i alreaady got my feet on eiffel area on 7AM!) and it took another 10 mins to get to the top of eiffel, it was scary and yet so excited at the same time.

the one that surprise me a lot is that I met John White, one of the relatives of my australian host family. last time we met was in australia and it was 10 years ago, and now we’re catching up in paris! super cool way to meet and greet!

after eiffel its done, its Louvre and Ponts des Arts!!!

louvre is just amazingly awesome, not so much words for that. summer in paris is pretty hot but still the cool winds are arounds, so perfect summer!!!!

and ponts des arts also just 2 mins away by foot from louvre. the legends were told that if we put our lock in that bridge and throw the key away to the river it will lock our love forever to who ever we wish…. well i did that, locking it and wishing to get my love last forever…

to be continue…paris eiffel