Project: Negotiating National Identity through Social Media
Location: Quezon City, Philippines
Timeline: November 2012-August 2013
Hello, I’ll be blogging here!
It wasn’t long after I graduated from UCSD that I realized I was at once crossing a milestone and hitting a roadblock. Maybe they were one in the same—the milestone and the roadblock. Either way, I was fresh out of school, and desperately cultivating some justification for myself that I was putting my Anthropology B.A. to good use at my new finance job. It’s not such an uncommon story, and I—like so many others I know— decided I wanted a little bit more. I thought that the 9-month long Fulbright student program could make a good transition experience to grad school, while also improving my university prospects, and giving myself a tool for real social impact. Most important of all, I would get the opportunity to travel back to my roots in the Philippines.
But first I had to come up with a project. As a senior at UCSD, I completed a thesis by combining anthropological and literary perspectives to analyze American and European cultural influence on Filipino literature and consider their effects on Filipino national consciousness. I’ve had a curiosity about my split racial identification (Filipino and White American) since my teens. That, coupled with my love of literature, is what originally paved the way to my senior thesis topic. After graduation, I began blogging, and I also managed my father’s business Facebook page. For these projects, I began reading the book Socialnomics, when I started to wonder how transferable the concepts I had researched for my thesis might be to the new literary revolution (of sorts) via digital media. Over the past year, during the application process, this conjecture has turned into a full-blown, all-consuming passion. And now, after actually receiving the grant, I am more anxious than ever to land in the Philippines to meet Filipino bloggers, attend their regional gatherings and national conventions, and interview them on their writing inspiration and mediation process to try to contextualize Filipino national consciousness as it is represented and even negotiated in Filipino blogs. For this project, I am lucky to be affiliated with the University of the Philippines at Diliman, where I will receive guidance from anthropology department and communications department faculty.
Advice for Applicants
It was a long road (after surmounting the post-graduation roadblock) from deciding to go for the Fulbright, to coming up with a solid project, to tediously building and then finessing my application — all of which would have been much more tedious and less successful had it not been for my advisors, friends, family and Zoe, our UCSD Graduate Fellowship Advisor. In the end I came up with three points I learned that I think are the most important to pass along to those applying for the grant:
1. Let your previous experiences be your cornerstone. Choose a research topic that builds on your previous studies and accomplishments, and then don’t forget to point out this fact clearly on the application. The board wants to know you have the tools to deliver. I noticed while meeting other students at the Fulbright information sessions that many applicants were unclear about what their projects would be, and even what their most prominent interests were, and even which country they wanted to apply to. It’s not an uncommon problem to have! If you’ve had success on a certain topic (a thesis, awards, etc.) think of that as your cornerstone to build upon. You’ll then have every reason to be confident in your current abilities and future success with the project.
2. Show clarity of purpose. One website (http://www.uvm.edu/~lvivanco/gradsch.html) advises showing “clarity of purpose” in preparing an application, and I found this was the advice I came back to most when I got scrambled during the project proposal. Making your reason for study concise, understandable and relatable is the best way to win excitement and support for your project. Remember that an important part of your project purpose is your end goals. Show how the Fulbright experience, while an accomplishment in itself, will still only be a step toward your ultimate destination (grad school, a business start-up, a novel, etc.)
3. Be patient, prepared and diligent. The application process is like a slow Monday at work, drawn out over a year. I started my application process by attending the UCSD “Prestigious Scholarship” informational meeting 1.5 years before my submission deadline, and it really was a continuous project from then on. Probably, I spent a good few months fleshing out my project, and making sure it was both relevant and manageable. Leave plenty of time to work out the technical details, like arranging the right university affiliation, and having others check your application and statements for even the most minute punctuation mistake. Also, your application strategy (personal statement angles, letters of recommendation) may change several times by your own choice or by external factors.
Now that I have the grant and I am preparing for departure in November, I am confronting my expectations (and fears) for carrying out the project. Although I have previous experience living abroad in England and Ireland, I feel fairly unprepared to take up residency in the Philippines—mostly for the potential language barrier and unfamiliar economic disparity. As a sort of baby step, I decided a 10-week volunteering and Spanish-learning trip to Guatemala might help acclimate me to the experience of being language-less and culturally disoriented. The small adventure ended up being very helpful, simply because I came away physically unscathed (contrary to my mother’s infectious worries) and emotionally fulfilled for the experience, and I know I can expect the same from the Philippines.
We’ll see how everything actually pans out! I’ll be sending updates on my project and experience to this site. So, until next time, paalam!
Shelley graduated from UCSD in 2010 with a B.A. in Sociocultural Anthropology, and a Literatures in English minor. She welcomes questions, opinions, and general chit-chat. You can visit her online at her travel blog: shelleyderailed.wordpress.com