Month: August 2017

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