I survived my first year in the US!
It feels like yesterday when I just landed on The Land of The Free after a very long journey; literally by the distance and by the story.
A couple months before my undergraduate commencement in February 2015, I reopened a life map I made on the first day as a college student. “GOING TO GRAD SCHOOL” was written there. Although I kept the door open for job or grad school, I did more preparation for grad school application. The plan was neatly organized; taking IELTS preparation course, applying for Indonesian government scholarship, and then applying for universities in Europe because honestly, it had always been my dream place to study abroad.
We can have a plan and do the best for it, but the rest belongs to God. I got failed at my first attempt and I realized that I did not have enough ammunition to shoot. I had a full-time job at that time, so I needed to equally split my time and mind for work and grad school application. Sleep time and weekend were the things to sacrifice. Therefore, after much thought and consideration, I decided to leave my job because I wanted to put extra effort in pursuing grad school.
I got my gun fully loaded for the second fight. I had applied for the university, prepared Q&A lists for interview, did interview simulation, even known every detail of the program I applied for. My confidence vanished when one of the interviewers asked me if I got Letter of Acceptance (LoA) or not. I replied that I was waiting for it, but the interviewer discouraged me saying that the previous interviewee had been admitted to the same university with the same major.
A month later, two new e-mails came. The first was from the university, saying that I got ADMITTED. However, the second one, from the scholarship, announced that I was REJECTED again. Speechless. Half sad, half happy. I turned to be more sensitive, quieter, and hopeless. I overdosed taking my own aspirin; trekking to four mountains within a month!
Life must go on. After living in sorrow, I collected my shattered dreams. I tried to apply foreign government scholarships such as Australian Awards Scholarship, New Zealand Aid, Fulbright, and Chevening. All my journeys ended at the earliest step except in Fulbright. I got an interview invitation at the beginning of August 2016. I didn’t set a higher target because I was thinking that Fulbright selection process was more competitive than Indonesian government scholarship. All I did was the best I could do.
An e-mail came, saying “Congratulations that you have been officially nominated as an ALTERNATE CANDIDATE…
.” Did my journey happily end? No, being an alternate candidate didn’t guarantee us to be an official Fulbright grantee. There were still multiple steps to do and we might get failed before going to the United States. First, we needed to resubmit revision of essays and other required documents based on the format given by Fulbright. Then, we must achieve required minimum score of TOEFL and GRE or GMAT. I knew nothing about GRE because I never dreamed to continue my study in the US, but I had to prepare it within one month and a half. What would happen if we didn’t pass the test? Our candidacy status might be withdrawn. However, we could take the tests as many as we wished (but with our own funding) before the deadline. Thank God, I could continue my journey.
Next journey was more nerve-racking. It was submission plan step. We selected 4-5 universities and put them in a preference list. Again, we could apply for other universities as many as we wanted but the application would not be covered. I put Texas A&M on the first place above three other universities. We had to get admittance for Fall 2017. If we didn’t, we would lose our Fulbright scholarship and we had to reapply for the next batch. In February 2017, I got a rejection letter from the third university. It made me hopeless. Two months passed without any notification from the others and I was about to give up that I couldn’t go to the US and changed my plan to get a job.
The first day of May 2017, a new notification popped up in my phone, “Congratulations, you are admitted to the MS program in Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University…”
I got admitted to the campus of my first preference! After all the blood, sweat, and tears to go to grad school, I finally landed my dream on the US. Being a Fulbright grantee is a very precious experience I ever had because it’s not just going to study but also building network and friendship with people from all around the world.
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. This powerful quote from Paulo Cuelho always echoes in my mind. If you have a dream, you’re working hard on making it come true and giving positive vibes to others, you will get the results. Sometimes our journey will have ups and downs, but that’s how the universe makes us to be stronger and more respectful.
Mifrokhah is a masters student in the Department of Civil Engineering