Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, to reach for the stars to change the world – Harriet Tubman
It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well
This post will mostly talk about things that you should know when you are called for the interview. I wrote it in narrative style so that you could see in what context I am writing this post. In terms of the process of the application form, you could read the post that I have written about this here (Fulbright: The First Stage – Application form – in Q and A session)
After several weeks waiting for the outcome of my application, finally, I had the call from AMINEF that informed me that I would be included as one of those selected applicants to be interviewed. My feeling was so happy and thrilled but in the same time, I was nervous too. I was wondering what the questions be like, who were the interviewers, how the atmosphere of the interview would be, what the things the interviewers want to know about me were, how many the interviewers would be involved and where they come from as well as who they were were questions that were sounding in my head before I faced the interview session. I received notification about the place and time of the Fulbright interview two months after I received the call. The interview was held in AMINEF Office, Jakarta.
There are several important things that I had to bear in mind before the interview. These are not like preparation but more of the things that should be put as the concerned things. I understood about all these things after I follow the interview session. They are:
1. Contact the AMINEF officer that I would attend the interview session
This was an important thing for me to do because if I did not clarify my willingness to attend the interview, AMINEF would not accommodate the transportation and costs for attending the interview. Since I came from Padang, West Sumatra, AMINEF provided two tickets for me (Padang-Jakarta and Jakarta-Padang). These accommodations arrangement had helped me so much to travel from Padang to Jakarta.
2. Get to know the place of the interview before coming to Jakarta, especially for me who was not staying in Jakarta
To know the place where I would face the interview was important. This would help me easily to navigate myself from the place where I stayed for a night to the destination or the place for attending the interview. AMINEF informed me that the place would be at AMINEF office in Balai Pustaka building (now in CIMB Niaga building). I stayed in Borobudur hotel for a night and in the following day I had prepared myself to go to AMINEF office to attend the interview session. Since I came from Padang in West Sumatra, I thought that it might be useful for me to know the place in order to avoid the traffic jam and busy times. If I came late to the office, then, it would be a miserable thing to do.
3. Plan ahead for the place where I would stay in for a night
As I have told earlier, the place for sleeping a night before the interview was important. Why? It could help me to get relax and I could have time to prepare myself before the interview. I realized that the interview was the second stage where I had to do my best so that the interviewers could consider me to be one of the selected applicants. Other friends of mine who were also invited to attend the interview went outside from the hotel where they stayed and were looking for fun a day before the interview. I thought that this thing was okay as long as they could prepare themselves for tomorrow. However, what I did was a different thing. I searched online about the things that I might do for the interview and read online trustful websites that explained about tips on how to have the successful interview. These things were so helpful for me since nobody else taught me how to do this but myself. Besides, I had an American friend who explained about culture of American in interview session; therefore, his explanation had helped me in some ways to reach the better feedback and outcome from the Fulbright interview. For you, the point was that the place was important because you could make yourself relax and ready to face the interview in the following day. During the free time before the interview, you could use it for things that I did.
4. Learning about interview skills and strategies online (how to dress and build personal appeal)
There were hundreds of websites that talked, explained or described about interview and how to win it as well as how to impress the interviewers published in Internet. Some wrote about well-tips and some did not, let’s say, superficial. What I did when I stayed in Borobudur hotel was searching for that information. I learned and learned about the general situation of Fulbright interview and how to succeed in it. Skills and strategies were only theories, the most important thing about interview that I could understand from my experiences and from my lecturers as well that the purpose of interview was to know me personally and to seek for the truth whether the things that I had written in the application form was true to the real condition or just a “fake”. Therefore, all I did was to convince the interviewers about this. About skills and strategies? Once again, these were only theories. “The best thing you could do was showing the best thing from yourself” I said to myself.
5. Building self-confidence and honesty
Self-confidence and honesty were crucial. But, how to build these two things within ourselves? For me, self-confidence was built since I was in college. Failures and so many handicapped in my life as well as limitation in terms of “financial condition” had shaped into a person with strong eagerness to succeed. Since then, I knew my ability and competence. I always tried and tried for new opportunities to expand my ability and potential. Besides, self-confidence without honesty was not a good idea to do. Honesty was essential in life. A person who is honest can work with anyone and the steps for him or her to get successful life is not too far because everyone trusts him or her. At this point, I grew up my self-confidence when I was going to be interviewed. It was not easy but I must try to do it. When the interview session was started, then, honesty become an important thing to do. I answered all questions from the interviewers as honest as I was. After that, let’s see what happens!
6. Learning how to speak English well without completely sounding like the native speakers of English
I am not an American and not an English but an Indonesian. It meant that I would not be able to speak English as native like. However, I could write as they way American people write and I could understand them well although I had to do some efforts to understand some vocabularies and accent. When I was being interviewed, I applied all things that I had learned about English pronunciation to the way I spoke. I believed that they could understand me and tried to understand what I was saying in the interview because they were two American and two Indonesian. They had a huge experiences about selecting people for Fulbright scholarship. Therefore, all I did was speaking as the way I spoke in English to the best as I could by relating it to English pronunciation but I also tried to sound natural without sounding like the native speakers of English. The point is be yourself.
7. Understood the materials that had been written on the application form
In some ways, I was thinking about what types of questions that would be asked. In some websites that I have read, I found that the interviewers would not ask questions that were not related to the application form. The questions were always about the application form. Everything that I had written on the application form was also asked in the interview. The interviewers seemed to eager to know about the truth of what I had written on the application form. Generally, the questions were in the form of “why” and “how” as well as “when”, “what”, and “where”. All these questions words were also related to the application form. Since I was the one who wrote and filled in my application form; therefore, I was the one who knew the answers of questions that the interviewers would ask about it. The point here is that the interviewers normally ask questions that were related into your application form. If they did ask you about things that were not in the form, then, that’s a good moment for you to answer it personally but be careful, answer the questions by providing relevant, general and true answers only.
8. Learning how to behave well when I would be asked by the interviewers
Behave well was crucial in the interview session. I realized that I would be interviewed by scholars from the United States and Indonesia so I thought that the interview would be formal. I wore blue shirt and black dress pants. I typically looked like an officer in a private company but that was good I thought. To make good impression about me was also important because this was one of the ways to behave well in the interview. If I did somethings “bad” in the interview room, that would create certain reputation and assessment among the interviewers. Before and after the interview was conducted, I always sit when the interviewers let me to sit. Then, after the interview was done and before I left the interview room, I shook their hands and smiled in order to the interviewers to show that I was happy to be interviewed and be ready to the next stage. Mbak Isye told me that I had to prepare for the TOEFL-iBT and GRE Test. What I am trying to say here is that the mood and the way I think about myself and about the interview itself will personally influence my performance when I was being interviewed.
For my friends who are on the list of being interviewed, good luck! I hope you could prepare for yourself as I did above!
This writing is intended for Indonesian students who might be interested in pursuing higher studies (M.A or Ph.D) in the United States under the Fulbright scholarship. In Indonesia, this scholarship is organized by AMINEF (American Indonesian Exchange Foundation). Once you are admitted in this scholarship program, you will be taken care by IIE (Institute of International Education) in New York. If you are selected, you will have to do two things: First, pursue your study seriously and get good grades at the school in which you are enrolled in; Second, be active to take part in cultural activities on campus or in the United States to promote cultures of your country. This second thing is compulsory; therefore, it is expected that you need to do cross communication with American students to expand mutual understanding of two different countries. This is the main aspect of being a Fulbright scholar.