Fulbright: Being a Scholar and a Student – An Indonesian EFL Perspective


Studying in the United States, especially as a person who carries the word “Fulbright”, asks me to learn more than what I was required to do. In my understanding, being a Fulbright scholar is not easy. It needs a lot of efforts on the academic scope. Since I am a faculty member in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia, I use this Fulbright scholarship to adjust my professionalism in the field I am dealing with, which is English Language and Literature – Teaching of Writing. Even being a scholar for my field of study needs times and a lot of efforts in order to be a “scholar”. I would assume that it is a moral duty of mine to study seriously and read exponentially in order to be reliabe for calling myself as a “Master” for a specific field. Since I am studying Teaching of Writing (Rhetoric and Composition – part of the big scope of English Studies); therefore, I would expect that most of my times would be spent for reading and writing. For some people, these two things are very boring activities to do, but for me, these two are very enjoyful. A lot of insightful perspectives, theories, concepts, and ideas are sparkling in my mind after reading many wonderful textbooks. Reading the works of other scholars improves the way I think and the way I make decisions dealing with a lot of different things in life. At this point, this is the reason of mine to study in the United States under the name of Fulbright Master’s Student Program. To briefly illustrate the reasoning behind my motives in studying English in the United States, especially as an international student whose first language is not English, I divided several points below to explain my own thoughts dealing with the title “Fulbright Scholar”. What I write here is merely my own arguments. For you, in case you are also getting involved in this Fulbright scholarship, of course, you have your own thoughts that might or might not be the same with mine. You may dislike or argue the following arguments by composing your thoughts, feedback, or comments under this post. If you are not part to this scholarship, I suggest you to read this writing as a way for you to know my own point of view about what it means to study overseas. However, your input is also suggested. 🙂

Understanding the Core Aspect of Being a Scholar versus Being a Student

For some people, being a scholar means you have a Ph.D or you have an approval from the institution where you work in order to enable you to be called as a scholar. To be honest, though, after I read some of the interesting journals and writings in American textbooks, I concluded that being a scholar means you know what you are studying in your field. In my case, I learn English, wish the emphasis on Teaching of Writing. Of course, for English-speaking people, this field of study might sound, “ah…not that challenging”, but for me, it is indeed challenging. Considering my background as an English as a Foreign Language speaker, coming into a society where English is being used all the times give me a new perspectives. English is my language, now. How about being a student? Being a student means you are in the process of becoming a scholar, although it will not make you automatically become a scholar in your field. Being a scholar requires you to have a responsibility over the knowledge that you earn through the process of studying and learning that you do.

Appreciating the Value of Your Times when You are in the United States under the Government Visa

I know that I am under Government Visa. It takes me two years to complete my study in the United States. Frankly speaking, the good thing I have learned so far is to see directly people who come from other countries, such as Japan, China, India, Taiwan, Morocco, Latvia, Turkey, Korea, Nigeria, and many more. Of course, I also talked to many types of American students. I talked to them as friends. It turned out that I found many similarities that I have with them. Then, at this point, actually, I mean that I spend my times not only studying but also having conversation with those folks. I tend to be not too be pushy to myself. I like it in a slow process. If some of them become good friends, why not? Although differences do exist, but those differences are very tiny compared to many similarities that we have. Human beings. Only bad human beings that make harmful actions in the society. Do you agree?

Having times to be in the United States for only Two Years asks you to Make Options before Arriving in the United States: Studying or Learning, Travelling or Sight-Seeing

This is a common question I have from my friends in Indonesia. To be honest, though, I did not travel a lot, for I know that the costs to travel are high. In reality, I can be in the United States to study because of scholarship. Also, considering my purpose in that place as well. I went to Denver for a seminar, Chicago for reporting myself to the embassy, and St. Louis to enjoy some of Middle Eastern styles. How about other places? Well, for these things, I need to be realistic. I know my financial condition so I decided to not travel. Not because that I did not like those places, but more on money. So far, I have studied many things about the United States. From its policy up to social issues. I have come deeper to understand the United States, more than I would know before.

Appreciating the Different Choices that other International Students make regarding their individual circumstances (academic goals, personal habits, times and allocated stipend)

This point is crucial. For me, I came to the United States to study. I learned very much from my Professors and classmates. We shared our own experiences. I learn to see how individual American people have individual history of live that I personally never encounter. Some of them might view me as a stranger because I have different views. However, that would be a good point for them, too, to learn something new from others. I learn from them, the good things, and they learn from me, the good things. We can make our world better, with that attitude. Going back to each and every individual international student, the decision is in their hands. They do, of course, have purposes that they need to achieve while they are in the United States.

Referring back to your own Study Objective in the Fulbright Application Document and to what you had promised at the Fulbright Interview Selection

I never forget this part. I used to view myself how lucky I am to be selected by AMINEF in Jakarta to be a part of this prestiguous scholarship. When I was being interviewed by the panels, I answered all questions as truthful as I could. Then, I am in the United States, then, of course, I need to do all what I said in the interview as real as possible. Even though at some points in my life that missing my family is a big challenge, but I know that at the end, it will end in happy ending. I become a person with a high credibility and professionalism in my field.

How about the following points? If you are a good student, I believe you know what I mean.

Setting your Academic and Personal Goals: Long-Term and Short-Term – Setting Priorities

Writing a Solid and Thoughtful Research Article – Between Grades, Knowledge, and Skills

Deciding what is Crucial, Important, Necessary, and Necessity during your Times in the United States – Contextual Approach

Concluding – It’s All Yours to Decide – What you are doing and reading will essentially be your own knowledge and experience.

Insya Allah, I will be a good Muslim scholar. It takes me a great moment to be in Dunya and Hereafter to do good deeds. However, I am still trying. Learning is a never ending effort if we want to be a good person not only for ourselves but also for others around us. Amen. 🙂

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Attending the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Denver, Colorado 2012


Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Denver, Colorado 2012

One of the great activities conducted for first-year Fulbrighter is known as Fulbright Enrichment Seminar. I had an opportunity to join this seminar on March 8 – 11, 2012. All first-year Fulbrighters were selected randomly; therefore, those who could go to this event would have a great time to experience meeting with scholars from other countries. In that seminar, there were scholars who came from, roughly, 75 countries. They brought different perspectives and thoughts to the seminar. However, although there were so many differences that the scholars had, eventually, they were blended as one. They share something in common among them. To me, attending this seminar was absolutely an enriching experience, not only in terms of expanding my horizon but also in terms of widening my perspective beyond the border that I usually have as an Indonesia citizen. In order to share my perspective on this seminar, I would spare a bit of my time to write about this. This would be a way for me to express what I thought as the most important thing from the seminar. I hope that the things that I write here will bring advantages for people who read this post. However, if you are also parts of this seminar, you are more than just welcome to add something to my post by commenting on it. Your comment and feedback would be important for this post and for all people who will read your comments as well.


The scholars who attended the seminar came from different backgrounds, namely countries, as well as from different major in their studies. Some of them studying at universities located in the east, the west, and the mid-west of the United States. This has made the seminar rich, especially when it was viewed through the diversity of thoughts and emotional scene that they personally had. During the seminar, there were a lot of things that all Fulbrighters could learn. I would say that each Fulbright scholar would have a different thing that he or she has in mind after attending this seminar; nevertheless, the most important thing to bear in mind after attending this seminar (in my perspective) is to have the mutual understanding and cross-culture understanding beyond borders become more enhanced. As the head of the seminar had pointed out, Joey Ham, the seminar was conducted as a way for all these bright scholars to engage in world-leaders activities and outgrow international mindset in fostering well-peace relationship among different countries. This statement would seem to be hard to perform solely or individually; nonetheless, the good relationship between countries is actually started from the good relationship between person to person and people to people. As a result, this sort of relationship will eventually transform into a good relationship between countries due to the application of mutual understanding. If the relationship between people is good; the possibility for good relationship between countries will be far from its stake in the future.

Why was the seminar held? In order to answer this question, I would refer the answer to the information mentioned in the book provided in the seminar.

The Denver Fulbright enrichment seminar was one of nine enrichment seminars hosted across the United States by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) as part of its flagship Fulbright program. These enrichment seminars, an integral part of the Fulbright experience, benefit first-year Fulbright foreign students and support the overall mission of the Fulbright Program – to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

The purpose of the seminar was great. As someone who came from outside the United States, the purpose of the seminar really made sense. A lot of students who came to the United States to study met in one place, which was known as Denver Fulbright Enrichment Seminar. It was such a great event for all participants of the seminar to see and understand how similar we were in terms of commonalities that we have, although we came from different countries.

A statement which was meaningful  from the seminar for me is this:

Today, Fulbright is the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange program in the world, supported for more than half a century by the American people through an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress and by people of partner nations. The program actively seeks out individuals of achievement and potential who represent the full diversity of their respective societies and selects nominees through open, merit-based competitions.

From its inception, the Fulbright Program has fostered bilateral relationships in which other countries and governments work with the U.S. to set joint priorities and shape the program to meet shared needs. The world has been transformed in ensuing decades, but the fundamental principles of international partnership and mutual understanding remain at the core of the Fulbright Program’s mission.

The above statements clearly depict the good intention of the government of the United States: to make students from countries around the world be connected in a specific event and in a special circumstance through Fulbright scholarships. Those students might share different perspectives and ideas with American students and international students who came from other countries. This scholarship is not only giving great opportunities for the selected international students but also making good connections for American students to know and have friends who come from the world outside the United States. Because this scholarship is prestigious; therefore, those students who were selected to participate in this scholarship were prestigious students, both for academic background and personalities.

In the seminar, the participants were encouraged to engage in a lot of activities. One of the activities was a panel discussion about the growing minorities in changing the political landscapes in the United States. This panel was conducted by selected speakers in the United States. There was also an activity called as community service. All participants were divided into several groups. My group was the one that went to Montessori School. When my group was there, everyone seemed to be very happy and engaging. I became more welcoming to new friends. Another activity was joining the mock-presidential election. The demographic group in which I was participated in was the democrat. Overall, the activities in the seminar were great. This seminar is not only broadening my horizon but also expanding my point of view in understanding the system of how democracy turns into action in the United States, especially in looking at how the process of presidential election was conducted in the country. This is a great opportunity for me to learn about such a political system, though my field of study is not politics. All in all, this seminar enriches me with something beyond the perspectives that I have as a graduate student of English department.

What an unforgettable experience! To all Fulbright Students who attended the seminar, miss you all! 🙂

Below is the video to the event above. The video was inserted on March 10, 2019 (6 years after the creation of the video). I am sorry for the ‘young’ face over there. 🙂


Credit: The first picture was taken by Antonio Tahhan, a staff of IIE in New York, the United States. Together with Maha Kamal, he worked as a photographer in the event. The text typed in the picture was created by Syayid Sandi Sukandi.

Disclaimer:

This post is solely based on my perspective. It does not represent any formal documentaries of the U.S Department of State or the Republic of Indonesia. This writing is published for the purpose of sharing only. Anyone is welcomed to give his or her feedback in the comment boxes under this post, especially if you are one of the awesome Fulbrighters in the picture above. Thank you. ^_^