Man Jadda Wajadda – he who gives his all will surely succeed. Through this Arabic phrase, I finally reached my dream to study in the U.S. After a long selection process, on August 2, 2011, I went to Atlanta, Georgia as a Community College Initiative (CCI) student.
This was how Andreas started his story of studying in the Community College Initiative (CCI) program. He had written in to talk about his year studying in Madison, Wisconsin, which he called a “once in a lifetime experience.” According to Andreas, he got this opportunity by adhering to a simple formula: “Dream + Effort = Reality!” But the “Effort” part of that formula wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds. He explained:
I knew about the CCI program from my best friend who got this scholarship. After seeing my friend’s pictures in the U.S. on Facebook, I told myself that I had to go the U.S. too. I began to search for as much information as I could from Google and my friend.
I realized my English was not good enough, so I took an English course for three months, three times a week, as my preparation for the TOEFL test. Although I had taken the course, I failed the TOEFL test two times. I had to get minimum score of 500 to apply for CCI program, but my score was just 417 and 473.
Then, I tried another way to improve my English. I bought a TOEFL test preparation book and forced myself to answer 10-20 questions each day before my next TOEFL test. Finally, my effort went great! I got more than 500 for my TOEFL test.
I applied to the CCI program in October 2010, because the deadline was November 1, 2010. It was a great moment when they contacted me in early December to say that I passed the document selection and they wanted me to do an interview.
For the interview, I still remember, there were four interviewers, two Indonesians and two Americans from the U.S. Embassy. My interview went well, but I still had to wait for the final selection. I had until April 2011 to find out that I was selected as one of the finalists for the CCI program.
Andreas cautioned that not everyone who puts in this type of effort gets selected for the program.
All the Fulbright grantees had a pre-departure orientation in Jakarta in May. There, I met the other 49 CCI finalists. As I know, there are hundreds more who apply CCI in Indonesia every year, and only around 50 who got chosen.
I think the CCI program prefers to choose people who do community service and who work at non-profit organizations. I can say it’s quite difficult to get this scholarship for some people. We have to translate our high school and university certificates into English, fill out the application form, take the TOEFL test, write interesting essays, and do an interview after we get selected. Some of my friends have tried couple times for this scholarship, but they failed. Fortunately, I just tried one time and I got it. So, I think, to get this scholarship is also about preparation and opportunity.
Andreas started his year in the U.S. in Atlanta, Georgia, where he met other CCI participants before they all headed off to their final destinations in the States.
I met Leo, Gui, Vitor, and Lucas. My new great friends were from Brazil and they gave me the Brazilian flag.
Also, my new Indonesian friends, Irni, Hanna, Erni, Anta, Razid, Mela, Hestin and I did a “Dangdut” singing and dancing performance at a cultural event. I felt happy to meet new people with different background and I felt proud to be an ambassador of my country, Indonesia. Then, all the students got a chance to take tours of the Coca-Cola Company, CNN, and Stone Mountain.
After three days in Atlanta, it was time to head to his host college in Madison, Wisconsin. Andreas called it a “beautiful city” filled with “lovely people.” One person in particular stood out.
Studying abroad has been a dream of mine since I was a child. However, as an orphan who working at 16 years old, back then, I felt that I was dreaming too high. But, I was wrong!
When I just landed at Dane County Regional Airport, Tammy Manthe, my mentor mom, her husband and two children came to the airport to welcome me. Can you imagine how happy I was to have a new, complete family?
There is no dream too high to achieve. Moreover, dreaming is free, and as long as you believe, your dream will come true.
What strategies have you followed when applying to schools or scholarship programs? Tell us about them! Leave a comment below, or submit your story using this form.