Take the links above for some photos from Christina Aguila’s time in Indonesia.
Looking back: Where did the last 8 months go?
With only 2.5 more weeks of my grant left, I’m starting to get anxious and excited about returning home. Looking back at an old blog about acclimating and achieving my goals, I’m surprised to learn that I’ve come a long way from the culture shock slump I found myself in 7 months ago.
Personal Blog from October 8,, 2013:
“It’s been 3 months already and I’m still learning to adjust. I’m not feeling very accomplished. I seem to have missed the ‘honey moon phase’ of the culture shock experience. I’m having less than the awesome time that it seems my fellow ETAs are experiencing here. As a secret bule, or secret foreigner, [Note: Christina is Filipino-American] I’m not going on the wonderful excursions that I see others participating in, no dressing in cool traditional outfits, no encounters with exotic animals, no invitations to the mayor’s house. No one is writing news articles about me or asking me to interview on radio stations. I am not treated like a local celebrity as some of my ETA friends. These things have not been a part of my experience in Indonesia, and it is sometimes difficult for me to relate to my fellow ETAs’ experiences here.
“My experience teaching English to international students feels quite useless here, and I’m no natural in an Indonesian classroom. Indonesian schools feel quite inefficient and disorganized by U.S. standards. I don’t feel confident communicating in Indonesian, I’m in a constant state of cultural confusion, and I haven’t started the long process of applying to graduate school. I feel busy, but unaccomplished. Whether I am accomplishing my personal or professional goals, or improving my cultural awareness, it would be nice to feel that I am moving forward. But right now I am feeling quite stuck.”
At my orientation we discussed the culture shock curve and how each ETA would have different experiences of ups and downs throughout the grant. After 1 month at my site, I concluded that teaching in Indonesia was a lot more challenging than I expected it to be. I started my program feeling very ambitious, and I was quickly deflated when I realized that things were not so simple. Even though I have tutoring experience and I prepared myself with many classroom ideas, what worked for me in a U.S. classroom did not necessarily work in an Indonesian classroom. Although people at my school are eager to help, cultural misunderstandings and an inefficient system make it difficult to work at my school. Digital resources are unreliable, the school often has blackouts, and student discipline is handled differently than in the U.S. Before coming to Indonesia, I knew that the environment would be challenging, but I still could not prepare myself enough for it. I’ve learned to accept this situation. After all, I am the first ETA at my school and the first American many people at my school have met. They are still learning how to work with me as I am still learning how to work with them.
Though at times I felt I was far from achieving much, I did reach my main goal of getting accepted to graduate school during my grant. I applied to a Fulbright ETA grant because I felt that a Fulbright program would give me valuable insights for graduate studies in my field of international development. It was challenging to apply to grad school while still figuring out how to live at my site. It can be extremely frustrating dealing with unreliable internet, and people at your site may not understand the stress and pressure of applying to grad school. At the time I applied, I was constantly balancing my current duties as an ETA with finishing my applications. People at my site didn’t understand why I was always tired or so busy. With that said, it is possible to apply to graduate school during your grant as I and several other ETAs in my program did. In order to successfully apply to graduate school while making the most of your grant, I strongly suggest that incoming ETAs gather as many details as possible about their applications and programs in advance of their departure. Consider bringing brochures from the schools you want to apply to in case your internet is not reliable. Completing the GRE, requesting references, and knowing the programs you want to apply to prior to your departure will make the process much smoother.
Besides achieving my goal of getting accepted to grad school, this 9-month grant has been full of other accomplishments and opportunities that have been personal, professional, big and small. I went from zero Bahasa Indonesia to a good conversational level of Indonesian. I tried yoga classes for the first time. I’ve become a more confident person in unfamiliar situations. I volunteered at an English camp at a church in my community. I closely mentored 10 students to compete in a Fulbright English and creativity competition. I encouraged students to participate in their first English competition. I exposed teachers to ideas for being more creative and resourceful in the classroom. I facilitated an American – Indonesian pen pal exchange for my students. I’ve had some special opportunities to meet the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, attend consulate events, and have Thanksgiving dinner at the Chargé d’Affaire’s home. Lastly, I’ve become a part of a large and close network of bright and driven Fulbright Indonesia ETAs.
Christina is a Fulbright ETA in Manado, Indonesia. She graduated from UCSD with her B.A. in International Studies-Political Science. She will pursue her Master’s in Public Administration at NYU Wagner School of Public Service.
Month 1: First Impressions, and Why am I Here?
I can’t believe it’s already been over 1 month since I left for Indonesia. I sure don’t feel adjusted yet. There’s a lot to learn. There are moments that I find myself reflecting on my reasons for being here and the things I hope to achieve during my time in Indonesia.
I graduated from UCSD in 2012 and completed my undergrad in International Studies – Political Science. After graduating, I worked in D.C. arranging a professional international exchange program. It seemed I was taking all the right steps towards a career in international exchange and development. When I applied for the Fulbright ETA, I was already working, but I have always wanted to live abroad and fully immerse myself in a new culture. After all, how can I continue working in an international field with little experience abroad? I have been very fortunate for the opportunity to do summer- and semester-abroad programs, yet I still have little experience compared to that of my classmates and colleagues. I wanted an experience abroad that would expose me to life and reality in a developing country. I knew that a Fulbright ETA in Indonesia would be an ideal opportunity for the experience I am seeking, personally and professionally. As an English Teaching Assistant, I would have a first-hand look at education in developing countries, which has become an area of growing interest to me. After being offered the Fulbright grant, I knew that this was an opportunity that I had to accept.
So why Indonesia specifically? Indonesia is a large and diverse country. It is often cited as the country with the 4th largest population in the world. With my interest in international development, I think it is crucial for me to see the reality of a majority of the world’s population. Being such a large country, Indonesia is an ideal case to observe. I am also interested in culture and diversity. Indonesia, as a modern state, is an incredible example for bringing together many different ethnic, religious, and cultural groups from across the world’s largest archipelago. Such diversity adds to the rich culture of Indonesia. But this diversity also creates lots of challenges to maintaining a cohesive Indonesian identity. Although I have only been in Indonesia for one month, I am starting to see the challenges of having so much diversity across a vast number of islands.
When I arrived back in Manado from orientation, I wanted to show off my new Indonesian language skills. I realized that every time I spoke to teachers at my school they would tell me how to say the phrase in Manado malay, although they could understand my Indonesian. Manado malay is the colloquial language in my region of North Sulwesi. Manadonese people are very proud of their language, and this is their preferred way of connecting with others. Learning bahasa Indonesia will help me in practical terms and will make be feel confident about getting around, but I feel I will not be able to personally connect with people through bahasa Indonesia as much as I would like to. Because Indonesian is the national language, not a language of the home for Manadonese, it does not carry the same significance in developing strong personal relationships with Manadonese people. Every Indonesian who has gone to school has been educated in Indonesian, but many cultures across Indonesia still have a different mother tongue language. Bahasa Indonesia is the result of trying to linguistically unify a diverse country for the purposes of practical communication.
I am also beginning to see the problem with services here. Services in a developing country are already a challenge to attain. How much more of a challenge can it be to provide services to hundreds of islands across a distance larger than the continental U.S.? Blackouts are common in remote areas of Indonesia. Even here in Manado, a regional capital, there are blackouts almost every day. Homes cannot handle large usages of electricity like in the U.S. It is quite uncommon to have a microwave or oven in an Indonesian kitchen, and these luxuries are only available to the wealthy. Access to internet and good plumbing can be difficult as well.
Aside from the language and environmental adjustments, I am making many personal adjustments to the culture here as well. My experience here will be quite different than some of the other “true bule” ETAs in my program. Bule is an Indonesian word referring to a foreigner. I was told by Indonesians that the word bule actually originates from referring to a color that is faded. As a Filipino-American, I completely blend into Indonesian society. Indonesians, Filipinos, and Malaysians look very similar. The only time people recognize me as a foreigner is when I open my mouth to speak poor Indonesian or when I am speaking in English. I don’t get noticed like other bules, and certainly do not receive the celebrity-like attention that some of my fellow ETAs receive. I hear the attention for some of my friends can be overwhelming because Indonesians are so curious about them. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about unwanted attention or people following me home because they find me peculiar. I can be incognito until I talk to someone. My challenges as a foreigner here are different. Many people assume that I am Indonesian and are surprised when they realize I cannot speak their language. I get many different reactions, anything from a laugh attack, to being completely spooked, to unfriendly looks…Even when I try to explain that I am American, people continue to ask where I am really from. I can’t expect everyone to understand here, but it does wear on me having to convince people that yes, I really am a foreigner as much as anyone else from America. Because people often think I am Indonesian, I am conscious about being judged as an Indonesian for something that a person from here would know, but I am not aware of, such as what constitutes appropriate clothing, how to eat, how to address people, etc. I might be doing something against social norms that I am not aware of, and unfortunately I do not have the apparent excuse of being a bule. People may not pardon me in the same way they would a Caucasian-looking foreigner.
Sometimes I am surprised that in such a diverse country, the concepts of mixed race and identity are not understood as they would be in the U.S., but I suppose the concept of foreigner is a stereotype here just as racial stereotypes exist in the U.S. Although it can be annoying to convince people again and again that I really am an American, I realize that I am in a unique position to educate and make others aware. I have the privilege of introducing my students, teachers, and other Indonesians to the conversation about racial diversity and identity. For those who are open to learning, I hope that I can show that a person’s identity (in my case being American) is more than just your race and appearance. Through my interactions with others, I hope that Indonesians can see how Americans are just as diverse and mixed as the people here. During my year here, I am happy to take on the special role of educating people on the reality of American identity and how being American means different things for each person. As a “secret bule” (foreigner in Indonesian disguise) I can get the real price for goods at the market instead of the bule price. I can also see Indonesian culture in its most genuine form because people will not treat me differently. My familiar appearance makes some people feel more comfortable talking to me when they otherwise may be too shy. I guess it makes me more approachable for some. To others I’m suspicious, or perhaps I seem arrogant by speaking in English. This is all part of my privilege of being a secret bule in Indonesia.
Tomorrow I will be leaving for Russia, embarking on an exciting nine-month-long cultural and linguistic immersion. While this summer was a time for me to unwind with my family, take my GRE, and start on graduate school application forms, it also included preparations for my upcoming trip. There were numerous forms to be filled out, items to purchase, and logistics to work out.
The Fulbright program requires that each grantee complete many forms, providing information about their health, emergency contacts, travel itinerary, host country contacts, and bank account. In addition, final college transcripts must be sent to the IIE to confirm one’s graduation. [Note from FPA: IIE is the Institute of International Education, the private company that manages the US Student Fulbright Program for the US Department of State.] Luckily, I had few problems completing these requests. Nonetheless, I needed to expedite my graduation from UCSD to send my final transcript on time. [FPA explains: If you complete your bachelor’s degree the June before your departure, you have to submit a request to get your degree confirmation earlier than the other graduates. This can be a bit complicated.]
Furthermore, I got to correspond with my contacts in Omsk to figure out where I will be staying and what I may need to bring. I found out that will be living in a dorm for foreign students, providing me with most of the necessary amenities like bedding and cable Internet. Understanding that Western Siberia sometimes has extreme winter weather, I knew I had to pack multiple pairs of long underwear, hats, gloves, mittens, sweaters, parkas, and boots. I had some of these things already, but many of them I had to hunt for in New Mexico department stores filled mostly with summer clothing. Other logistical issues included purchasing flight tickets that comply with the Fly America Act, choosing a bank and credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees, buying an international SIM card, and exchanging some rubles before my departure.
I also had to apply for my Russian visa. Anyone who has ever done it knows that it is not an easy process. I waited for about two months for my invitation letter from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Upon receiving it, I filled out an application form, took an HIV test, sent these documents to a visa outsourcing company called Travisa, and crossed my fingers. Everything seemed fine, but there were a few surprises in store for me. The Russian consulate in San Francisco requested initially that the rector of my host institution send an additional letter confirming my stay and later that I send my final university transcript. Ultimately, it took another month for my Russian visa to be ready. After several days of packing my entire luggage – including a camcorder and tripod, a few New Mexican souvenirs, and an Apples to Apples board game box – I am finally all set to go!
Hello again, UCSD! I’ve been in Taiwan for almost a month now, and I’m settling in pretty well. Kinmen, my little island home, is about as isolated as you can get while still technically being in Taiwan. It’s sort of like getting a scholarship to go to the US and finding out you’re in Hawaii. You see, Kinmen is about one mile of the coast of China and one hundred miles from main Taiwan. It’s definitely the same country, but it’s remote and it does have a slightly different culture. This is why I got both a Chinese and a Taiwanese visa before I came here. Visiting China during my teaching break in February will be pretty easy. It’s only a half-hour ferry ride away.
Getting to this point has already been quite a journey, but fortunately Fulbright Taiwan has been very helpful. Fulbright arranged our flights, a representative picked us up from the airport, and when we got here our housing was already set up. Fulbright Taiwan also has an unusually long orientation period, so while I have been here as an ETA since August 1st, I haven’t started teaching yet. I just got assigned to a school last week (Sian An Elementary!) and class starts Friday. I must admit, I’m going to miss orientation a bit because it was so much fun being a student again and practicing elementary teaching techniques. Now it’s no-more-training-wheels time, and I am about to start the more official beginning of my teaching career.
I haven’t had any particularly note worthy problems here, just regular cultural adjustment balances. Taiwan is a very nice country – even on this separate island Taiwan’s economic prosperity and focus on infrastructure are noticeable. The roads are smooth and well lit, the public buildings are nice, and the Kinmen government cares so much about elementary English education that they requested sixteen Fulbright ETAs this year. [Note from FPA: There are far more ETAs in Taiwan as a whole.] Besides the occasional language confusion and fight to avoid sunburns in the tropical heat, life here is pretty good.
My name is Arik Burakovsy, and I recently completed my undergraduate studies at UCSD, majoring in Political Science/International Relations and minoring in Film Studies. I aim to pursue a career in American diplomacy, national security, and international law. I am spending this summer with my family in New Mexico, relaxing outdoors and preparing to apply to graduate programs. This fall will mark the beginning of my Fulbright grant in Russia as an English Teaching Assistant.
Besides spending the first four years of my life in Israel, I have almost no experience living abroad. I knew that if I wanted to continue learning about foreign affairs, I had to find a way to spend my gap year outside the United States. My family’s roots in the Soviet Union, my fluency of the Russian language, and my interest in Russian traditions and politics made Russia an ideal choice. It has been nearly a year since I began preparing my application materials for the Fulbright program. The Fulbright application process was unbearably lengthy, including an online application, an in-person interview at UCSD, an interview via Skype with the Russian Fulbright office, and numerous months of waiting for a response. [Note from FPA: While he says it was unbearable, he seems to have borne it well. 🙂 ] Nonetheless, I am now looking forward to my nine-month stay at the Omsk State Pedagogical University in Omsk, Russia.
By teaching conversational English to Russian college students, I hope to foster my interests in oral communication and education. As the world becomes more globalized, learning to speak English is becoming increasingly useful for young professionals engaging with foreign people and ideas. By keeping an open mind, I hope to learn from the university students I mentor about their aspirations, worldviews, and personal experiences in Russian society. I also hope to instill in them an appreciation for public speaking by engaging them in discussions of American civics and government.
In addition, my Fulbright award will include a research project about the impact of youth groups on Russian political development. I plan to produce a short documentary movie about my encounters with youth involved in Russian civil society. I will read about the activities of Russian youth groups, interview young political organizers, and witness community discussions. I plan to eventually screen this film – with subtitles and my own narration – to small audiences in the United States and Russia in order to encourage a cross-cultural exchange.
Fieldwork at a Bloggers’ Summit in the Philippines
“You influence people who read your blog or tweet. You are an authority, whether you want to be or not.” –Jason Cruz, presenter at iblog9
Cruz’s statement above sums up the recurrent theme at the iblog9 Bloggers Summit in Manila, Philippines: that bloggers are the digital influencers in today’s growing online society. Iblog, a free event now in its ninth consecutive year, was modeled after a similar (and now defunct) conference in the U.S. The event is intended to cultivate positive interaction and support between bloggers at all experience levels. I attended this formal blogger gathering not only to establish contacts and conduct interviews with attendees, but also to gain a better understanding at how blogging is organized in the Philippines.
The summit prepared two days full of presentations from notable bloggers, social media professionals, and other experts in the digital field (for example, a lawyer presenting about how the law affects blogging). The first day operated around topics for bloggers, marketers, businesses and entrepreneurs curious about the commercial potential of blogs. The second day branched to everyone interested in blogging.
The best way to describe the event is fun, techy, and inclusive, and the best way to illustrate my point is the live tweetwall that organizers screened during Q&A sessions. Throughout the day, participants—both in attendance, and viewing through livestream—were encouraged to express their impressions and tweet their questions, tagged #iblog9. After one provocative presentation, “How Blogging is a Lot Like Dating,” in which the presenter likened his blogging experiences to his dating realities, the tweetwall that was screened behind him during Q&A began to fill with playful jabs about his dating life, and then on to public speculation about if the girl in question was in the room and who she was. The room was full of laughter for about 10 straight minutes while this continued and the presenter played along.
Beyond the markedly young, urban and techy interrelations being played and displayed at the event, I found the presentations themselves could tell me much about how the blogging community defines itself. Presentation titles like, “Blogging and Social Thought Leadership” and “Bloggers as Digital influencers,” both speak to bloggers’ desire for fame and audience, and also reinforce a consensus that these should be the goals of blogging. Another presentation, entitled, “Understanding the Blogger Psyche,” reinforced shared conceptions of the blogger identity: opinionated, passionate, and critical.
I interviewed many bloggers (novices to 10 years’ experience), blog group organizers, and social media professionals in casual conversations to gauge their conceptions about the possibilities that blogging might offer them and society in general. Everyone was more than willing to work with me, and many offered to extend their involvement further.
At the end of event, we all walked out of the auditorium with a notebook full of useful scribbles, a handful of new friends, and an iblog9 t-shirt designed after the Philippines flag.
My name is Rachel (Sky) Brown, and I’m a fourth year undergraduate student at UCSD majoring in Third World Studies and minoring in Literature/Writing. I graduate in a month and will be starting my Fulbright scholarship as an English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan on August 1st. As my major suggests, I’m very interested in international travel with an emphasis on studying culture. Since I have a few months before my Fulbright begins, for now I’ll just mention how and why I ended up here.
I’ve always been interested in living abroad. For me, studying culture is studying people – it’s how we interact, what ties us together, makes us unique and ultimately defines our species. The more places I can go to observe and experience this, the happier I am.
Over the 2011-2012 school year, I spent time as an unofficial ETA at a girls’ high school in Rwanda and later did a semester abroad at the University of Ghana, Legon. [Note from FPA: Just to clarify, this was not an ETA position affiliated with Fulbright.] It was difficult being away from friends, family, and my home country, but I adjusted and enjoyed myself quite a bit in both places. I knew that I wanted to live abroad again. While I adored my time in Africa, I’ve always been fascinated by Asia as well, and when I heard about the Fulbright ETA program and all the places they worked I decided to try applying.
Since I could only apply for a Fulbright in one country, I took a while deliberating. The reason I chose Taiwan in the end was that I reviewed their website and decided that it looked like the best program fit for me. My personal criteria were: 1) in Asia, 2) working with younger children (junior high/elementary), 3) with my main capacity as an assistant rather than a full teacher (I need some more practice) and 4) with a substantial orientation period. Taiwan seemed like the best option for me, and since all I have ever heard about Taiwan has been about its hospitality and unique culture, I decided it seemed like the perfect place to start.
Then I applied and waited and waited and got the good news last month. For now I’m trying to wrap up college, learn a little Mandarin, and prepare for another big move. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes. The most recent news I’ve gotten is that I have been placed in Kinmen, a small island with a population of about 85,000 that is owned by Taiwan and located off the coast of China. I’m excited to see what it’s like.
[Note from FPA: Wes is likewise at the recommended stage. He’s applying to develop a method of conveying natural disaster information via smartphones in Taiwan.]
Seeing as I’ve only made it to round 2, this is a guide about how to reach round 2 of the application process, namely how to be recommended. I’ve yet to hear official word about whether my potential host country’s Fulbright committee would like to give me the grant. Also, this is a list of tips you can use that aren’t mentioned on the website or by advisors. There are obvious things to keep in mind, such as starting early (early summer), taking advantage of your resources (Zoe, previous advisors/mentors), and so on. You will have those tips hammered into your mind from the information sessions and the website. Instead, these are some tips you may not have thought of. In no particular order, here they are.
Have your proposal torn apart, over and over, by multiple people. One of the best ways to write a strong proposal—or any persuasive writing, for that matter—is to hand your writing to the harshest critics. Over and over. The harshest critics will magnify the weaknesses in your paper and pinpoint your mistakes. Zoe, as much as we appreciate her, is a harsh critic. Don’t let her kindness fool you, she holds several degrees in Linguistics, knows a thing or two about grant writing, has a black belt in editing, and she will tear your paper apart. Find these kinds of people, and use them like your life depends on it. Professors, advisors, mentors, bosses. If you have friends that you know are great writers, use them too! You have no idea what your reviewers’ backgrounds will be, so mold your proposal so it is clear to as diverse a set of people as possible (well, within reason, of course). When you hand them your proposal, don’t just hand it to them. Do two things. First, tell them “Don’t hold back; give me everything you’ve got.” Second, actually give them the prompt itself so they know what they’re looking for. Afterwards, look at their edits, decide which changes you believe make sense, revise your proposal, and go back for round 2. I went through over fifteen revisions before I clicked that “Submit” button.
Use the “Application Tips.” On the Fulbright website, you can find a page called “Application Tips,” which provides you a list of questions you ‘should’ address in your proposal and personal statement. They’re more like ‘have to’ address questions, if you ask me. Before you even start outlining your proposal, go through this list, and answer—in writing—all of the questions. Writing it out will force you to articulate the answers. Afterwards, group the questions into categories. For example, “Where do you propose to conduct your study or research?” and “Why does the project have to be conducted in the country of application?” can definitely go into the same category. Then, based on these categories, start outlining your paper while constantly checking back to make sure you are addressing the questions in each of your paragraphs. I would go as far as to say each of the categories can even be a paragraph. Someone should be able to read your proposal, and then answer all the questions on that list themselves.
Get friends and family involved. Talk about your project to friends and family. You are already aware that the committee reviewing your proposal will most likely not be experts in your field. Chances are you know plenty of friends and family that aren’t experts in the field either. Tell them about your project and see if you can get them as excited about your project as you are. This will also help you gauge what kinds of technical jargon you should exclude, and ways to explain your project in non-expert terms. I would recommend getting to a point where when someone asks, “What’s your project?” the conversation ends with them saying something like “Wow, that’s really interesting.” The next step after that is to try and talk with professors both in and outside of your field, and have them say the same thing. Your proposal should convey this same sense of passion. If you aren’t even excited about your project yourself, then clearly something is wrong.
Grab lunch with your references. Since you’ll be asking for three references, I would recommend treating them to lunch before they write your recommendation. Not only is this a nice gesture, you’ll also be able to talk more in depth about your proposal. Unlike a paper, you’ll actually be able to answer any questions they have about your proposal. Your references are writing letters explaining why they believe your project is feasible and worth doing. They should have a thorough understanding of your project prior to writing your recommendation. This is a great opportunity not only for you to help them better understand the project you are proposing and its feasibility given your skill set, but also for you to realize that the fact that they are asking certain questions may indicate what was unclear in the proposal. If these points warrant clarification, make it happen in your revision.
Make your plans crystal clear. This point is mentioned everywhere. However, I want to emphasize that your actual plan should be so clear that upon finishing reading your proposal, there is no doubt that you have thought this through. Personally, I bolded the section of my proposal that was the actual proposal. [Note from FPA: He just put the section headings in bold.] I also did not just explain my plan; I provided a numbered timeline for the different stages of the plan. This shows that you haven’t just vaguely thought about your plan, you have a full plan of attack. While many people will tell you to avoid technical jargon, I believe there is a way to play it to your advantage. By using a little bit of jargon (and explicitly defining it) in your plan, you demonstrate that you are using certain standard methods of practice in your field of research—you know what you’re doing. It may well be the case that when you get as specific as explaining your timeline, you will need to use some jargon to describe what you will be doing at that stage of the project. It shows a depth of understanding of your field of research.
There you have it! I hope this helps you get an edge in your Fulbright application. While these tips won’t apply to everyone, I believe they are general enough that they will help most future Fulbright applicants.
Best of luck on your application process! Get out there and get that grant!
Hello all! My name is Ryan Moran and I received a Fulbright IIE graduate research fellowship to conduct dissertation research in Tokyo, Japan, during the 2011-2012 academic year. Zoe has asked me to write a blog post or two in order to highlight the wonderful experiences that UCSD students can have through Fulbright.
Overall, this has been a really fantastic experience. I got married right before coming to Japan and thus have been lucky in that my wife has also been able to be here in Tokyo with me. Although each country’s Fulbright committee offers different kinds of benefits, the Japan-US Fulbright Program offers support for one’s spouse and/or any dependents one might have. As a fellow graduate student, she has used this time to work on her dissertation while also exploring parts of Tokyo. Although my research is my first priority, we have also tried to immerse ourselves in some of the various cultural offerings available in the Tokyo area. These have included a trip to watch sumo, the annual Nippon Craft Beer Festival, and a weekend trip to the hot-springs town Hakone.
The people who administer Fulbright in Japan have been incredibly helpful. When I arrived in Japan, I had an introductory meeting with the office staff, my supervisor and the Executive Director of the program. At the meeting, the Fulbright staff made it very clear that they were interested and invested in my success. While this is undoubtedly true for all grants, I feel that Fulbright really tries to remove the little worries that I might have so that I can fully concentrate on my research. Throughout my year, my supervisor has very kindly written letters of introduction that gave me access to libraries and given advice on housing and health matters. This has allowed me to really focus my energy on the difficult task of collecting the materials that I will need so that I can write my dissertation.
Although research can feel draining, I think that it is going well. I gained affiliation at Waseda University in Tokyo and have benefited from their wonderful library. In the summer before I applied for Fulbright, I received funding from UCSD’s IICAS and Japanese Studies’ Joseph Naiman Graduate Research Fellowship, which allowed me to conduct preliminary research in Tokyo. This trip allowed me to scout out the archives and figure out where I would prefer to affiliate. Moreover, I think that this trip really strengthened my application as it allowed me to meet with professors and to get a sense of the materials that would be available at various archives and libraries. In my grant applications, I was able to confidently state that I knew I could find the materials that I needed for my dissertation. That trip also provided an opportunity to start thinking about some of the subthemes that I am currently researching.
I hope that everyone has lots of luck with Fulbright this year. The Fulbright coordinator at UCSD is a really great resource for UCSD students. Linda Vong, the previous coordinator, was a great help to me and I am sure that Zoe will continue to offer helpful guidance to all potential applicants.