One of the benefits of Fulbright scholarship is the opportunity to participate in the pre-academic program which is conducted in the U.S. before Fulbright grantees begin their academic journey. Pre-academic program of English for graduate studies may last for 3-12 weeks depending on the grantees’ language proficiency. Grantees are usually placed in universities for English language refinement. The purpose of the pre-academic program is to provide international Fulbright grantees with language skills necessary to thrive in graduate studies in the U.S. This is also an opportunity to interact with Fulbright grantees from other countries.
I was placed at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville for my pre-academic program. What is special about the University of Arkansas is that it has a long and intimate history with Senator William J. Fulbright. He not only attended the University, but he was also the President of the University of Arkansas. There is a statue of Senator Fulbright in front of our building where we studied. Through this program, I learned much about the academic culture of American graduate school by taking some courses on academic writing, academic seminar skills, computer skills, and library research along with the other grantees. In total, there were 25 international Fulbright grantees from participating countries, such as: Afghanistan, Russia, Ukraine, Lesotho, Cost Rica, Colombia, Panama, China, and Paraguay, etc. Interesting! This is a very rich intercultural experience during my international education exchange program. To my knowledge, there is no other program that unites 25 international students at one time, except Fulbright. It is more than just English language refinement training, it is cultural refinement.
This program allows Fulbright grantees to experience the atmosphere of international classrooms in graduate schools in the U.S. Besides, there were a lot of presentations, workshops, and discussions. For example, Dr. Leyah Bergman-Lanier, the director of SILC (Spring International Language Center) at the University of Arkansas gave a presentation on Cross Cultural Communication and U.S. Education System. In addition, we learned about tips for effective communication and strategies for coping with cultural differences.
The activities in the pre-academic program included classroom instructions, seminars, workshops, and lectures. They began from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM, from Monday to Friday. Our classes included writing papers, public speaking, and making presentations that helped us how to become good, confident writers and speakers as graduate students. On the weekends, we had trips to interesting sites such as Eureka springs, Clinton House Museum, Heifer International Headquarters, Clinton Presidential library, the state capitol building, and East Little Rock High school. During this program there were a lot of opportunities for me to improve my English through the courses and by communicating with the teachers and other international Fulbright grantees. More importantly, we gained a lot necessary skills for being successful graduate students in U.S. universities.
Becoming a Fulbright grantee is not only about learning our own culture, but also respecting others from different cultures, acting as a cultural ambassador. I have benefited the pre-academic training to experience the U.S. culture and other cultures. This program has enriched me academically, professionally, and culturally. It made me a better-prepared graduate student. Through this pre-academic program, Fulbright grantees increased their understanding and knowledge of their foreign languages and cultures.
At the end of the program, we held a farewell party where we received a certificate of completion. It had been one month for us to be in the program, then we had to say goodbye and leave for the university we would attend. I flew to Indiana University of Pennsylvania where I would be pursuing my MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) for the next two years. Now, I realize that the pre-academic training has equipped me with all the information I need as a Fulbright grantee to navigate my graduate study. It has also enabled me to make a smooth transition and adjustment into the graduate study at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Photo credit (from top to bottom): Kirk Lanier, Habib, Taufik, and Nick.