Seeking for opportunities, striving for the best
By Billy Nathan Setiawan
As I am packing my stuff and getting ready for the next incredible adventure, I am once again reminded of how lucky I have been in the last six years. Being able to visit (and stay in) four different countries in five occassions through scholarships is indeed one of the greatest achievements one could accomplish. It all started back in late 2007, when our beloved head of department and senior lecturer, Ms. Risa and Ma’am Wiwik, encouraged students to apply for Indonesia English Language Study Program, a scholarship funded by US Department of State. As a fourth semester student who was eager to explore new things, I was triggered to apply. Although I heard some voices telling me that it would not be easy to get one, I was striving to send the application and go through the selection process. In the end, I managed to be one of the successful candidates and was placed in University of South Carolina, USA, for a two-month intensive English program.
Being abroad for the first time opened a new perspective for me. Interacting with people from different countries, learning their language and culture had shown me how beautiful the world is. I then became addicted to going overseas for academic purposes. Within the next few months, I attended conferences in Thailand and Czech Republic (through full and partial sponsorship). Even after I graduated from BINUS I still kept updating myself with information about scholarship. In 2012, I received a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant grant to teach Indonesian at University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA for eight months. It was definitely a new experience for me to teach and share my language and culture at a US university level. I was kinda surprised to see how the people there were very enthusiastic in learning our culture. It was an honor for me to participate in promoting our culture.
And now, as I am ready to start my MA program in Intercultural Communication at The University of Manchester, UK (through another scholarship, this time from Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education / LPDP, Ministry of Finance of Indonesia), let me share some tips for those wanting to apply for a scholarship. These might sound cliche, but I found them pretty useful 🙂
1. Know yourself, know your strength
Before starting the application, it is important to ask ourselves these two simple questions: “who am I?” and “what am I good at?”. Knowing ourself and our strength will help us show off in our essay application and interview. In this case we wouldn’t have to try so hard to become someone else just to fit the scholarship requirement.
2. Know the type of scholarship we are applying for
Scholarship providers/institutions usually require the applicants to have certain qualities that correspond their needs or goals. The most commonly basic quality that they usually look for is how we can give positive impact to our surrounding. Some scholarships might address specific fields of study as well. Thus, it is helpful to read the requirements carefully and find out what they are looking for. Then we could try to match them with our personal attributes/qualities. Again, we don’t have to try so hard to be someone else to fit in the requirements.
3. Start writing the application, NOW
One of the requirements is that we need to write some essays that might look “scary”. Some could be very general, such as “how do you see yourself in 5 – 10 years”, while others might be more complex like “What makes a good leader? Based on your own experiences as an aspiring young leader, which skills and qualities do you think will help you the most? Which skills do you feel need to be developed further?”. Whether it is simple or complicated, it is very important to get it started as soon as possible. Trust me, once we write the very first word or sentence of the essay, ideas would flow and we could finish the essays earlier than we expected 🙂
4. Make good impressions during the interview
The interview session is not as scary as people generally think, as long as we are well prepared. Giving good impressions is very important. I remember in one of the interviews, I was scheduled as the last candidate to be interviewed. But then I showed up first before anyone else in the group. It pleased the interviewers, as it helped me lessen the nerve I had during the interview. During the interview, interviewers usually confirm what we have written in the application. It is useful to read our application once again the night before the interview, highlight the main points, then we are ready to answer the questions. Some questions might be very tricky, so make sure we focus on the goals of applying for the scholarship. Last but not least, smiles would help! 🙂
As I have seen so many wonderful things and benefits during those scholarship programs, I believe that each of us has that opportunity too, to achieve higher and higher. I used to be a rather timid student lacking confidence. I have heard people talking about impossibility. However, through hard work and the belief in myself, in what I am capable of, I am confident that I could accomplish more things.
To wrap up, I would like to quote myself, that opportunities are not rare, as long as we are willing to seek and strive for them.
* A few more about Billy:
1. English lecturer and BIPA instructor, BINUS University
2. Recipient of Indonesia English Language Study Program scholarship at University of South Carolina, USA, 2008
3. Grantee of Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA, 2012 – 2013
4. Awardee of Master’s scholarship at The University of Manchester, UK, from Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education / LPDP, The Ministry of Finance of Indonesia, 2014 – 2015