Samantha Slattery was surprised when she first learned that Fulbright candidates begin working on their application as early as nine months before the deadline. The application process, Sam says, “seemed intimidating at first, but I think the Office for Prestigious Awards and Dr. Rebecca Stark-Gendrano did such a great job of walking me through the process that I don’t know what I was worried about in the first place.”
All the work that Samantha put into crafting her application was well worth it when she received the good news that she was awarded the Fulbright Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant to teach English in Indonesia during the 2015-2016 academic year. Finding out the Friday before spring break was just the icing on the cake. “It was an awesome way to begin the last spring break of college,” Sam recalls.
Sam’s experience teaching in South Africa inspired her to apply for a Fulbright ETA and she looks forward to living abroad once more, to “viewing things with a different cultural lens,” as she put it. For instance, Sam elaborates, “when things are different and become challenging, it’s good to appreciate and embrace those moments as a chance to learn new things and grow. I think my placement will force me to live out of my comfort zone. I’ll be living in a rural, predominantly Islamic town, without many modern amenities, but this will give me a chance to really focus on teaching and building the relationships I make there.”
In Central Java, where Sam be will teaching English in a high school, residents speak Bahasa and Javanese, so Sam sees this as an excellent opportunity to “learn a new language and bond with the people by being so completely immersed it in.”
For students interested in pursuing the Fulbright fellowship, Sam recommends finding a mentor familiar with the Fulbright process and what the Fulbright is looking for. She explains, “I had two professors who gave me good advice and feedback for my essays. Reaching out to Fordham alumni who had already received and completed the Fulbright Scholarship in East Asia also helped. They are the ones who have already successfully completed the application process and have the best insider knowledge!”
A recent Pre-Departure Orientation delivered by the Department of State also helped Sam feel ready and excited about her time abroad. “This was a great opportunity to get to know my fellow ETA winners going to Indonesia before leaving the US. I learned so much at the orientation about important topics such as safety, cultural norms, what to pack, what not to pack, US relations in the East Asia Pacific, etc. The Department of State also did a great job of providing all of the ETAs with teacher training, where we learned different teaching methods and received teaching materials.”
Sam looks forward to traveling with her family and boyfriend when they come to visit her in December and seeing more of Indonesia and some neighboring countries, but anticipates that her journey will reinforce her belief that “no matter where we are in this world, we share a common humanity and solidarity, wanting the same things for our family and loved ones. Even though we come from different cultures, backgrounds, and areas of the world, we can all come together as people. Human emotions and experience are universal and I’m really excited to share that with a group of people I hope to call my family.”