Tips For College Freshmen

Posted September 9th, 2015 at 11:02 am (UTC-4)
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Hello All!

My name is Larry Stansbury and I am a Learning English Summer Intern for VOA.11244834_1594053074169994_1982938691_n

Many of you will be starting your freshmen year in college soon.  You may worry about not fitting in or not making friends. You are moving to a new place where you know no one. You have to begin everything again. In this blog, I will help you know what to expect when you are a first-year student at an American college.

I began my freshman year in college in the fall of 2014. I noticed many new problems with being 12 hours away from home (I was born and raised in Maryland). When you are a college student, you have the freedom to share your thoughts and opinions in class, and explore new interests and materials. The things you thought you hated might be things you love now. Most of all, you have much more independence than you did at home. Here are some tips for making your freshmen year a success:

  1.  Join a club: When I was school, there was an activity fair. At the fair, someone from every student club sits at a table. They have signup sheets to persuade freshmen to join the club, and make their year fun and exciting. When I was a freshman, I walked around each table to see if there was like a publishing club for me to join since I was a communications major. I saw a newspaper club table and I immediately signed up.
  2. Be prepared for loads of homework: In high school, you had to write a 3-5 page essay but in college, your professors require their students to write a 10-20 page essay of reading materials. Be prepared to stay up all night writing essays from a reading assignment or studying hard for tests and quizzes. DIANA DELGADO
  3. Push yourself to improve: If you go to a college that the professors make you do a 5 page essay of a reading, that’s too easy. Make the essay a little longer. You sometimes have to push yourself to make yourself better. Even if English is not your first language, volunteer to ask or answer questions in class. That way, the professor will learn who you are and give you a better grade for taking part in class discussions.
  4. Don’t just say it, Do It: You may notice that you keep reminding yourself to sign up for something. If you say to yourself that you are going to do this or that, don’t just say it, do it. When you see an advertisement of a club or event that you’re interested in, sign up immediately. This was my motto when I was a sophomore in high school. It helped me to overcome my shyness to get involved in journalism.
  5. Choose to transfer if necessary: If you do not feel happy at a school for many reasons, you can choose to transfer. Many students tend to feel homesick because they are far away from home. Another reason to transfer schools is that the school doesn’t offer a particular major. When I was at New England College, they didn’t offer my major, which was journalism. I applied to transfer to a school that accepted all my credits and I was accepted. An advantage of transferring is that it is easier to get accepted as a transfer student. You have shown that you can make it through a year or two of college.
  6. Have fun: Everyone says “college is the best time of your life.” So make the best out of four years in school because it goes by quickly – within a blink of an eye.
  7. Go to all the orientations: this will help to prepare you for what the school has to offer and you get to meet new people. Also, if you haven’t yet chosen whom to share a room with, this is a great chance to meet a possible roommate.Michael Cassidy, Mason Masters

You did everything you could to get to college – you’ve gotten good grades in high school, scored well on standardized test scores and been accepted to your top choice college – so enjoy and cherish all the hard work you’ve done in a journey of successful college career. Don’t forget to be determined in your freshmen year. Take advantage of the chance to learn as much as you can and make the best of your freshmen experience.

Good luck at your first year!

Larry Stansbury



Words in This Story

communicationsn. an academic discipline that deals with processes of human communication. The discipline encompasses a range of topics, from face-to-face conversation to mass media outlets such as television broadcasting

major – n. to have (a specified subject) as your main subject of study

homesick – adj. sad because you are away from your family and home

transfer – v. to stop going to one school and begin going to another

credits – n. a unit that measures a student’s progress towards earning a degree in a school, college, etc.

Now it’s your turn. Write to Larry about how your first year of college or university. What advice would you give to a new student?


Jill produces TESOL-related content for VOA Learning English.

A Taste of American Culture

Posted July 30th, 2015 at 11:45 am (UTC-4)
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Hi everyone,

I am Triwik, a summer intern at VOA Learning English. Living in the United States has been an exciting period of my life. As a student at Ohio University, I have been introduced to many interesting parts of American culture. Here are a few!


Triwik (far left, wearing white scarf) during Halloween party in Athens, Ohio.

Triwik (far left, wearing white scarf) during Halloween party in Athens, Ohio.

Before I arrived in the U.S. in July 2014, I knew about Halloween from TV and the Internet. Athens, Ohio (where I study), is known as one of the scariest places in the United States. Many visitors come to Athens to celebrate Halloween. So, I felt lucky to be in Athens for the holiday.

Last year before Halloween, some student organizations on campus held events like pumpkin carving and painting. You need to remove the pumpkin seeds before carving the pumpkin.

On the day of Halloween, the city of Athens blocked the main street for the event. Last year, I dressed up as a Japanese horror character called Ju-on. I used white face powder, eyeliner, dark eye shadow and red lipstick to paint my face. For the costume, I wore a white scarf to cover my head and arms. My face painting successfully scared many people!

Thanksgiving & Black Friday

Triwik during Thanksgiving day

Triwik during Thanksgiving day

Last year, I got the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving with an American family in New Jersey. I even helped them preparing the food. We had the traditional Thanksgiving dishes like roasted Turkey, cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese and green bean casserole. I felt right at home, as the family was nice and warm.

The celebration continued when the family took me shopping on Black Friday. Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving. On this day, big stores offer major discounts. People rely on these discounts to buy gifts for the upcoming Christmas holiday.

On Black Friday, we all woke up at around 4 a.m. and packed breakfast and lunch before driving to a mall in Philadelphia. We were on the road by 5 a.m., and shopped for whole day!

Fourth of July Celebration

This summer, I was lucky to be in Washington D.C. to see the Independence Day celebration on the July 4th. The celebration started with a parade along the Constitution Avenue, followed by a free concert in the National Mall area and fireworks show around the Washington Monument.

American Football Games

I have watched American football games on TV before. But I wanted to experience the real games at the stadium. I went to my first American football game last summer at Ohio University. An American friend was kind enough to explain the rules of the game.

After watching the game, I still could not understand why Americans call this game “football.” The players only kick the ball a few times during the game, not the whole time like the European football. It should instead be called handball!

Karaoke Bar

Most Indonesians, including myself, like singing karaoke — an activity in which people sing the words of the song. We have many karaoke places. We can reserve our own room – small, medium or large, choose our songs and sing in front of our friends.

It is different here in the U.S. When some friends took me for a karaoke, I thought that it was a karaoke like the one in Indonesia. But it was not. It was a karaoke bar. We requested a song to the disc jockey or DJ – a person who plays the songs. We had to sing in front of everybody. At the beginning, it was awkward singing in public. But it was fun.


The parties in the U.S. are very different than those of in Indonesia. Back home, the host will serve all the food and drinks and the guests will sit in the living room. The host usually does not permit the guests to be in the kitchen.

In the U.S., it is usually a potluck party in which the guests bring food or drinks to share. The guests are usually allowed to be in the kitchen and free to get food and drinks. I feel that parties in the U.S. are more relaxed and less formal because the guests don’t have to sit all the time!


*Do you have any questions about American culture for me? I will try to answer them! Leave us a comment below

Words in This Story

carving v. to make something by cutting off pieces of the material

costume n. the clothes worn by someone to look like a different person

scarf n. a long cloth worn around the neck or shoulders

scared v. to cause fear

right at homeexpression. feeling as if one belongs; feeling accepted.

packedv. to put something in a bag

bar n. a place that serves alcoholic drinks

awkward – adj. not easy to deal with



Looking For An Internship? Here Are Some Tips

Posted July 20th, 2015 at 4:38 pm (UTC-4)
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Triwik at VOA Learning English

Triwik at VOA Learning English

Hi all!

I am Triwik, an intern at Voice of America (VOA) Learning English in Washington D.C. I am also a student at Ohio University (OU) in Athens, Ohio. This is my first time working in the U.S. It has been a great experience to be able to work in an American working culture.

It was not easy to get an internship, especially for summer, because many other students are also applying for the same positions. I started applying for summer internships in December.

I first got an internship offer in March, but the company wanted me to start working in April. I declined the offer because I was still busy with my spring semester in April. It was disappointing, I kept hoping that another good internship opportunity would come my way.

The good news came in April. VOA Learning English contacted me and scheduled a phone interview with me. I practiced doing an interview to prepare myself. The real interview went well — and they offered me the job!

Are you trying to get an internship? Here are some tips that might be useful.

* First, you need to ask yourself: What kinds of internship do want to do? When do you want to do it? Where do you want to do the internship?

Here in the U.S., many internship opportunities are available during the summer, from May to August. Some of them are available during winter in December and January. I decided to do an internship in summer because I have no classes during summer.

It is good to know what companies that you want to work for. At the beginning, I wanted to do an internship at VOA. I checked its website and found the vacancies.

It is better to apply for an internship that matches your interest and future career. I actually got another offer from a different organization. But I decided to take an internship at VOA because it fits my future career in communication.

There are two types of internships: paid and unpaid. The competition to get paid internships might be higher. I myself did not care much about this. For me, the experience of working in the U.S. is more important than the money.

* After ensuring yourself on the internship that you want to do, you should start looking for information on internships.

You can look into the websites of the companies. You can also get the information from social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.

* Prepare a solid cover letter and résumé

Generally, future employers will ask for cover letter, résumé or curriculum vitae (CV) and sometimes work samples. The cover letter is usually one-page long. In it, you should tell them the position that you apply for, the reasons why you are applying for the internship, your expectations after taking the internship, and your availability. The résumé (or CV) has information on your educational background, skills and work experience.

It is always good to ask a native English speaker to read your cover letter and résumé. Since English is not my first language, I went to the writing center on campus to have my cover letter and résumé checked by native speakers.

* Apply to as many as internships you can

This will increase your chance of getting accepted. I applied for more than 10 positions in various organizations around the U.S. It is also good to apply for internships as early as possible. Some employers post summer internship positions as early as November.

* Prepare for the interview

Prospective employers usually interview applicants through phone or Skype. Some of them will ask for your availability or give you an interview schedule for you to choose from. You can practice doing the interview with friends. I myself like to practice in front of the mirror.

Make sure you know your prospective employers well. At the end of the interview, interviewer usually asks whether you have some questions. You can prepare one or two questions. It could be about the employer itself or the application process.

*Don’t give up!

Other than the skills and preparations, it takes efforts, strong motivation and determination to get an internship. The most important thing is to never give up. Keep on trying and think positively. If you don’t get an internship today, you might get it tomorrow.

Have you ever gotten an internship? Share your experience here. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have! I am happy to help. – Triwik


Words in This Blog

decline v. to say no to something

prospective – adj. likely to be something in the future

Four Challenges of Living in the U.S.

Posted July 9th, 2015 at 2:43 pm (UTC-4)
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Triwik at Grand Canyon, the United States

Triwik at the Grand Canyon in the southwest state of Arizona

Hi all,

It has been almost one year since I first arrived in the United States in mid-July 2014. Even though this is not the first time I have lived abroad, I have had to deal with some challenges and interesting things while living here.


The biggest challenge is adapting myself to the four-season climate. I only experience dry and rainy seasons in my home country Indonesia. I arrived in the U.S. in a city called Tucson, Arizona, during the summer. It was very hot and dry. The temperature reached close to 40 degrees Celsius every day. Of course, it is also hot in Indonesia, but the average temperature during dry season is usually below 34 degrees.

I later moved to Athens, Ohio, which is much colder than Tucson. Before my arrival in Athens, some friends told me that the temperature during winter could be as low as -30 degrees. I decided to escape from the cold weather by traveling to South America, which has warmer climate. When I got back to Athens, however, it was still cold. The lowest temperature I have ever experienced was -14 degrees.

The temperature also fluctuates. In fall or spring, the morning temperature could fall below 0 degrees, but it could be up to 15 degrees in the afternoon.

I need to prepare different clothing for almost each season. In summer, I can just wear T-shirt and shorts. But in winter, I need winter jackets, sweaters, scarfs and boots to keep myself warm.


Back home, I eat lots of fruits and vegetables every day. We have different types of oranges, mangoes and bananas and vegetables — such as papaya leaves, cassava leaves, spinach and water spinach. The prices are cheap. In my family, we always cook and eat fresh food. I recalled my mom was angry when she saw me eating chicken nuggets. “They are not real food,” she said.

When I first came to grocery stores here in the U.S., I was amazed by the amount of frozen, canned and preserved food on the shelves. I noticed that sometimes there is only one section for fresh fruits and vegetables and the rests are filled with frozen food. Fresh fruits and vegetables here are quite expensive. A bag of chips is cheaper than a bag of oranges.

But thankfully, there are farmers markets that offer plenty of fresh products. But they are not cheap. I have to make a bit of a sacrifice by spending more money to buy fruits and vegetables for the sake of a healthy life.


In Indonesia, we have public transport, such as trains, buses, minibuses, taxis, motorcycle taxis – locally known as ojek, and rickshaws – three wheeled vehicles. Even though the public transport is sometimes unreliable, as they are not well managed, I can still easily get from one place to another.

Here in the U.S., it is sometimes not easy to do so. Big cities like New York City or Washington D.C. indeed have good public transportation, but some cities are not so easy to get around. For a visitor who does not have a car and driver’s license, getting around can be a challenge. When my friends and I went to Las Vegas, for instance, we had to rent a car to go to Death Valley, located outside of Vegas, due to lack of public transport.

System of measurement

Indonesians use the metric system for measurement, and Celsius for temperature. But the U.S. uses a very different system, and Fahrenheit for temperature. It gets confusing for me. Up to now, I still find it difficult to think in the U.S. system. I downloaded an application on my cellphone to convert everything into metric system.

Despite all the challenges, I enjoy living in the U.S. I have met a lot of good people and experienced different cultures.


Have you ever lived abroad? What challenges did you face while living abroad? Leave us a comment!


Words in this blog

fluctuate v. to change frequently

grocery stores n. stores that sell food and household supplies

preserve v. to prevent food from going bad

unreliable adj. not able to be trusted to provide what is promised

download v. to copy a program from one computer system to another

convert v. to change something into a different form


#TravelThursday: Confessions of a Solo Traveler

Posted June 25th, 2015 at 12:21 pm (UTC-4)
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Triwik at Macchu Picchu, Peru

Triwik at Macchu Picchu, Peru

Have you ever traveled solo?

I love traveling. I mostly like traveling by myself – called ‘solo traveling.’ I have traveled solo in countries in Asia, Europe, North America and South America.

People often ask me why I like solo traveling.

“Aren’t you afraid?”

“Don’t you get lonely?”

Back in my home country of Indonesia, it is not common for a female to travel by herself. My first time traveling abroad alone was in 2010. When I told my mom about my plans to travel around Europe by myself, she was worried.

“What if you get lost? Who is going to help you?” my mom asked.

I had to convince her that I had planned everything ahead and I was going to be fine. I left her contacts and addresses of my friends in Europe so she would know where I was going to stay during the trip.

I traveled around Europe that winter for 18 days. I visited six countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. I saw the Eiffel Tower and – for the first time in my life – snow!

I like to travel alone because it can be hard to find travel buddies with the same interests and schedules as me. I thought that if I just waited around for someone to travel with me, I might never actually go to the places that I wanted to visit.

In 2012, for instance, I decided to travel to the United Kingdom to watch my favorite soccer team, Manchester United, play. I actually asked some friends to travel with me, but they were unsure whether they could go or not. Since I was tired of waiting for them, I decided to go to the U.K. by myself. I was able to watch two MU games at Old Trafford, tour around the stadium and even have a look inside the players’ locker room.

Another reason why I like solo traveling is that I can plan my own itineraries without depending on other people. I can also set my own pace — meaning I can walk fast or slowly without having to wait for someone, or have them wait for me.

I have never felt lonely while traveling solo, because I always meet other travelers from around the globe. We travelers help each other out. When I traveled to Peru in 2014, for instance, a traveler from Iceland gave me mosquito repellent when I was about to go to the Amazon Jungle. The mosquito repellent is useful to prevent mosquito bites. An Argentinean and a Singaporean also kindly took me to the bus stop in Lima when I was about to take a bus at night. A year later, I still keep in touch with the people I met while traveling.

I also write about my travel adventures. So far, I have published two travel books based on my trips around Europe.

My mom no longer worries when I travel by myself. She knows that I can take care of myself. Now when I tell her that I have travel plans, she says, “You will travel alone? Take care!”

Here are some tips on how to travel safely as a solo traveler:

  • Keep emergency contacts and addresses, such as the embassy of your country, the police, hospitals, relatives and friends.
  • Make copies of your travel documents like passports and keep them in different places. It is also always good to save them on a flash drive and also email them to your family members.
  • Avoid carrying electronic devices like cellphones on your hands while walking around the streets, in the crowds or public transports. Also avoid listening music through earphones while walking around. It might decrease your awareness.
  • Avoid walking alone in dark alleys at night. This might sound like a cliché, but it is better to be safe than sorry. I always try to get back to my hostel before 9 p.m. for safety reasons.
  • If you get lost, ask somebody who you can trust, like officials at a tourist information center.
  • Trust your feelings. If somebody asks you to go somewhere, but you don’t know if you can trust him/her, then just don’t go.

What do you think about solo traveling? Have you ever traveled abroad alone?


Words in This Blog

travel buddies n. someone to travel with

mosquito repellent n. a substance that keeps mosquito away

flash drive n. data storage device  

alleys n. narrow streets

cliché n. something that is commonly used in books, stories, etc.

hostel – n. an inexpensive place to stay for travelers

8 Insider Tips for Scholarship Interviews

Posted June 11th, 2015 at 1:36 pm (UTC-4)
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Florida State University


Most scholarship programs require in-person interviews to advance to the final selection phase. For two years, I was on a selection panel for a prestigious international scholarship program. I interviewed hundreds of candidates. I would like to share with you how the interview process works from the panelist’s (or interviewer’s) point of view.

Before the interview, the panelists only know the applicants on paper. Many of my co-panelists only looked through the files quickly a few minutes before the candidate walked into the room. When you walk in the room, this is your chance bring your application to life. The interview should transform you, in the mind of the panelist, from a pile of papers into a real person with a compelling story. Here’s my advice for applicants going into the interview:

1.       Don’t be generic. Panelists often interview 10-20 candidates in one day. It can be difficult to remember each applicant, especially at the end of the day. In reality, applicants are often similar in age, background, and study objectives. Your personality and your personal story need to come through in your interview. Panelists probably won’t choose you if they can’t remember you.

2.       Have personal stories to tell. The best way to be memorable is to have a compelling personal story to tell; a story only you can tell. In my experience, the best stories are stories about overcoming challenges. Think carefully about your past. It’s important to have specific stories ready that only you can tell. If a panelist asked you about leadership, have a story ready about a specific situation when you were the leader. Panelists often ask about leadership, cultural adaptability, overcoming challenges, taking initiative, and plans for the future. Keep your stories short and focused.

3.       Convey a strong sense of social purpose. When you apply for a scholarship, you’re asking a government or foundation to give you money. Your sponsor wants a return on investment. They want someone who will spread their values and support their mission for the rest of his or her life. Read the mission statement of the sponsoring organization carefully. Match your goals to its mission.  Most scholarship programs want you to return to your home community and promote reform and progress in your community. Convey a sense of social consciousness if you want to be competitive. Make your study about your community, not you.

4.       Apply to the right program. Many applicants are careless about which programs they apply to. Applicants are often rejected because they are overqualified. For example, applicants with Master’s degrees often apply for Bachelor’s programs. On the other hand, many applicants apply for programs for which they are not qualified.

Read the qualifications carefully for each program. Call the sponsoring organization if you’re unsure. Unfortunately, applicants who did not meet the basic program criteria are sometimes invited to the interview round because of a mistake by the scholarship administration.   Sometimes applicants are not honest in their applications.

5.       Be confident. It’s important to speak at a good volume, maintain eye contact, keep your head up, and have good posture. I was always impressed with applicants who smiled when they entered the room, shook hands with the panelists, sat up straight, and answered questions with confidence and poise. Don’t start with an apology. Don’t be afraid to talk about your accomplishments. But don’t forget to give credit to the people who helped you in your accomplishments.

6.       Know your motivation. Why are you applying for a scholarship? This will probably be the first question you are asked. It is probably the most important.

The most common answer I heard was, “I’ve always been interested in x and it’s always been my dream to study in x.” This is not a compelling answer for most panelists. Why should a government or foundation give tens of thousands of dollars for you to fulfill your personal goals?

A more impressive answer is this: “In my country there is not enough x. The best place to study x is in country x. I want to study x so I can come back to my country and share what I learned about x and develop x in my community.” Panelists are impressed by applicants who have a strong sense of social purpose.

Another warning: never tell a scholarship panel that you want to immigrate to another country. If the panel has doubts about your desire to return home after your scholarship, there’s a good chance they will choose someone else.

7.       Smile. A good way to build rapport with the panelists is to smile and have a sense of humor. You aren’t the only one who is uncomfortable. Panelists get bored and tired, especially if they interview a lot of unqualified applicants. A light sense of humor, when used appropriately, is often appreciated and can help you stand out. If you can make the panelists smile, there’s a good chance you can take control of the interview and steer the conversation toward your strengths.

8.       Be lucky. Most applicants are ranked as average. They are not highly qualified, but they’re not terrible. Let’s say there are 10 applicants. The panelists will probably remember the best two applicants and the two least-qualified applicants. Applicants who are ranked in the middle have to be very lucky to be chosen. Panelists probably won’t spend too much time debating why number 3 is better than number 8.

There is also the luck factor in who is on your panel. Each panelist has his/her own biases and preferences. I remember a few times when my highest-ranked candidate was another panelist’s lowest-ranked candidate. Scholarship selection is not a science. Some panelists are friendly and ask easy questions. Others are aggressive and will grill you with tough questions.

Scholarship decisions are sometimes random and unfair. But, you can increase your chances of being lucky by being persistent and well prepared.

The Bottom Line

The best scholarships programs are very competitive.  Some scholarships are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in college expenses. They are potentially worth millions of dollars in future lifetime earnings. Don’t expect it to be easy. Most applicants fail the first, second, and even third time. Keep trying. Learn from each experience. Never stop improving your skills, especially your English. The people who get the scholarship are not always the smartest—they are hardest working.


Adam Brock

Tips to get a scholarship abroad

Posted June 10th, 2015 at 1:47 pm (UTC-4)
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Students throw inflatable globes into the air as they celebrate graduation during Harvard University commencement exercises. (AP Photo)

Students throw inflatable globes into the air as they celebrate graduation during Harvard University commencement exercises. (AP Photo)

Hello everyone,

I am Triwik, an intern at VOA Learning English. I am also a graduate student in Communication and Development Studies at Ohio University, here in the United States. I got a scholarship for a two-year master’s degree from Fulbright. The Fulbright scholarship is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.

It is a challenge to get a scholarship abroad. But it does not mean that you cannot get it. Here are some tips that might help you get a scholarship abroad.

* The first thing to do is ask yourself: what program do you want to do?

Do you want to do a non-degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctoral degree? It is best to choose a program that matches your career.

My first scholarship was a non-degree scholarship to help me improve my journalism skills. Then I realized that it was not enough. After getting my undergraduate degree in Indonesia, I felt the need to increase my research skills by obtaining a master’s degree.

* After carefully choosing academic program that you want, you should start looking for information on scholarships. You can get the information from social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe to newsletters or join mailing lists. For information on scholarships sponsored by the US government, go to

* After you choose the scholarship program, it is time to get busy on the application. This can be very time-consuming.

Scholarship providers usually ask you to fill-out application forms. They will also ask for a motivation letter, which states the reasons why you apply for the scholarship; a resume or a curriculum vitae, which lists your educational background, working experiences and skills; a proof of language proficiency score and reference letter(s).

A reference letter is a letter provided by a person who can give vouch for your character and skills. For my master’s degree, I asked for reference letters from my former lecturer and employers.

As for the motivation letter, it is good to have a native speaker to check the grammar and the organization of the letter. I asked for an American colleague to check my mine.

*  The next step is strengthening your language ability.

If you are a non-English speaker who decides to study in an English-speaking environment, you will need to take English tests like TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language testing System). You can borrow study guides at the library or get them online. There are some websites that provide free test samples. To improve your speaking skills, you can ask your friends to practice English. I used to speak to myself in the mirror to practice my English. I was pretending to have conversations with somebody. It helped me a lot.

* There are some stages in scholarship application, from administration process to interview. In an interview, interviewers usually ask about your academic background, skills and work experiences; the reasons why you apply for the program; your chosen program/university, your future goals after finishing the program; your ability to handle issues/problems, and your strengths and weaknesses.

As for the number of interviewers, it depends on the program that you apply for. When I applied for journalism training in Germany, there was only one interviewer. But when I applied for master’s degree in the United Kingdom and the U.S., there were three interviewers – two Indonesians and one non-Indonesian.

* Send as many applications as you can to increase your chance in getting a scholarship.

It took me two years to get a master’s-degree scholarship. In 2012, I applied for three scholarships and I did not even get one. I sent five applications in 2013. To my surprise, I got accepted for two of them. I chose the one in the U.S. because I felt that I would learn more in the U.S., especially in the field of communication.

* Other important keys are strong motivation, determination, hard work and a never-give-up fighting spirit.

If you fail in getting a scholarship this year, you can always send other applications next year. A wise man once said that failure teaches success.

I always try to learn from my failure. When I did not get a scholarship in 2012, I improved my English ability, revised my motivation letter, and strengthened my professional skills.


So, what are you waiting for? A scholarship could be within your reach. Feel free to ask me if you have any questions.


Want to study abroad? Try to get a scholarship!

Posted June 8th, 2015 at 2:34 pm (UTC-4)
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Hi everyone!

My name is Triwik and I am from Indonesia. I am currently studying for a master’s degree in Communication and Development Studies at Ohio University in the United States.

Many people ask me: “Do you pay for your study out of your own pocket?”

No, I don’t, because I received a scholarship. It means that I do not have to pay for the tuition fee. I also get a monthly stipend. I want to share my experiences in applying for scholarships abroad to all of you.

Triwik at Ohio University, United States

Triwik at Ohio University, United States

Studying abroad has been my childhood dream. It is not cheap to study in a foreign country. Therefore, I tried to get a scholarship to fund my study. My first experience applying for a scholarship was in 2011. I applied for a scholarship to do a two-month journalism training program in environmental reporting in Berlin, Germany.

To apply for the scholarship, I had to write a motivation letter stating the reasons why I wanted to apply for it. I also attached a resume, which listed my educational background and work experience.

The German embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, later invited me for an interview. The interviewer asked about my motivations in applying for the scholarship and my working experiences in dealing with environmental issues.

I got the scholarship! The German government paid for my round-trip airfare, accommodation, and transportation costs in Germany. It was a great opportunity to meet environmental experts and journalists from Asia, Africa, and Europe.

I later decided to apply for a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree. I wanted to increase my skills in communication and media. Since English is not my first language, I had to take either TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) tests to prove that I could function in an English-speaking environment. I decided to take IELTS because the scholarships that I applied for required an IELTS score. I took the IELTS twice. My first IELTS score was 6.5. It was actually not bad. But I decided to take another one to increase my chance in getting a scholarship. The second time I took the IELTS, I got a 7.

In 2012, I applied for scholarships in the United Kingdom, Australia and Denmark. An institution in the U.K. invited me for an interview. However, I did not get the scholarship. I was very disappointed because I was one step closer to studying in the U.K. The disappointment grew even deeper when I did not get the scholarships in Australia and Denmark.

I did not give up. In 2013, I applied for five scholarships. One of them was a program to study in the U.S. funded by Fulbright. The Fulbright program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. I sent the application forms, a motivation letter, and a resume. I also attached three reference letters from my employers and a former lecturer.

Fulbright invited me for an interview in Jakarta. There were three people interviewing me. They asked about my motivations in studying in the U.S., my chosen program and universities and my goals after finishing my study. A few weeks later, Fulbright offered me the scholarship!

But the process did not end there. I still had to take the TOEFL iBT (internet-based TOEFL) and GRE (Graduate Record Examination) tests to enroll in universities in the U.S. The GRE is an admission test for graduate school.

I studied hard for the tests. I had to juggle study and and my work at The Jakarta Post, an English-language daily newspaper based in Jakarta. I usually studied in the morning because I had to work in the afternoon. I also bought the TOEFL iBT and GRE study guides, which were expensive. I took the TOEFL iBT test twice because the first score was below the required standard. The second score was much better. The entire process – from sending application, doing an interview and taking English tests – took about eight months.

No pain, no gain. After going through the long process, I finally received an offer from Ohio University to do a two-year master’s degree in Communication and Development Studies. Fulbright paid for my flights, tuition and health insurance. It also gave me a monthly stipend.

Besides being able to study abroad for free, I also have the opportunity to work in the U.S. as an intern at Voice of America. I am excited to learn more about the media in the U.S. and on how international media works. I hope that this internship opportunity will enhance my communication skills and build a network that will be useful for my future career.

So, if you really want to study abroad and get an internship, go for it! If I can do it, you can do it!

If you are interested in studying in the U.S., you can log on to:


Words in this story

tuition n. the money that we should pay to go to school

stipend n. a regular payment, as an allowance 

eligible n. qualified

enroll – v. register

juggle – v. to do several things at the same time

no pain, no gain – a motto which means that hard work will give you greater value





Five Things That Have Surprised Me About College Life in America

Posted June 3rd, 2015 at 4:51 pm (UTC-4)
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Triwik at Ohio University, United States

Triwik at Ohio University, United States

Hi all!

My name is Triwik, and I am a summer intern here at VOA Learning English. Every week, I will write a blog post here about my experiences as an international student in the United States.

I am from Surakarta, Indonesia. I am currently studying for my master’s degree at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. This is my first time studying in the U.S. I received my bachelor’s degree in economics in Indonesia.

I began my master’s degree program in the fall of 2014. I have already noticed many differences between universities in the U.S. and universities in Indonesia.  It has been a challenge for me studying in the U.S. because Indonesia has a different academic culture than that of in the U.S.

Here are a few things that have surprised me:

*One major difference is class participation. Here in the U.S., students are encouraged to be active and involved in discussions. You are free to share your thoughts and opinions in class. University students in Indonesia, on the other hand, somehow tend to be “passive” as they only listen to the lecturers.

*Second, in terms of lecturer-student interaction, the relationship between lecturers and students in the U.S. is less formal. My professors at Ohio University, for instance, asked me to use their first names instead of using “Professor” or their last names. In Indonesia, it is a different situation. To address your lecturer, you have to call him/her “Mr.” or “Mrs.” It is considered impolite to use only first name.

*As for the clothing, Indonesian students have to dress “properly”—no flip-flops, no shorts, and no sleeveless tops. In the U.S., you can wear all of those in class! One thing that I like in the U.S. is that you can eat and drink in class! I cannot do that in my home country because eating and drinking in class would be considered impolite.

*Writing research papers and keeping up with the readings are the most challenging tasks for me. A professor might assign 100-page of reading materials per week. At first, it was hard for me to do all of the readings. But better time management has helped me keep up with the reading requirements.

*Since English is not my mother tongue, writing research papers in English is not easy either. I went to the university’s writing center for help. The center provides tutors to help students with writing research papers or essays.

It has been nine months since I started studying in the U.S. In that short time, I feel that I have adjusted myself to the active-learning system of American academic culture.

Do you have any questions for me about studying at U.S. universities? Have you studied in another country before? Write to us in the comments section! 


Pirates or Freedom Fighters?

Posted April 21st, 2015 at 10:29 am (UTC-4)
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Photo: Richard Termini for Horizon Theatre Rep

Horizon Theatre Rep 2011 production of Benito Cereno by Robert Lowell, Directed by Woodie King Jr. Photo: Richard Termini for Horizon Theatre Rep

This week’s American Stories features the second part of Herman Melville’s story, “Benito Cereno.” We learned in the first part of the story that the ship Melville called the San Dominick was carrying slaves from Chile to Peru in 1799. This was part of the slave trade that took place in the Spanish colonial empire. The slaves took charge of the ship one night. They asked the captain to take them to a place where they could be free.

In the second part of the story, another ship finds the San Dominick. The captain of that ship came aboard to see what was wrong. He noticed the disorder on the ship.

Reading this story, I felt sympathy for the slaves. They were sold in Africa and brought across the Atlantic Ocean to South America. They were forced to work for the Spanish colonists. Life must have been very hard for them.

So who is at fault here? The sailors who agree to transport slaves or the slaves who want to be free? Are the slaves pirates for trying to take the ship, or are they fighting for the freedom they deserve? Should the sailors take the slaves to freedom or turn them in to continued enslavement?

Jaymes Jorsling and Rafael De Mussa in Benito Cereno - Photo: Richard Termini for Horizon Theatre Rep (Courtesy Photo)

Jaymes Jorsling and Rafael De Mussa in Benito Cereno – Photo: Richard Termini for Horizon Theatre Rep (Courtesy Photo)

This story may remind you of a situation in your country’s history. Write to us in the comments section.



Dr. Jill

Jill produces TESOL-related content for VOA Learning English.



Confessions of an English Learner is a place for you to practice your writing and share the joys and pains of learning the language. We will post a weekly prompt, to give you a chance to practice your writing and to comment on others’ writing.


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