Hi young leaders, my name is Janu Muhammad. I’m originally from Sleman Regency, The Special Province of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I graduated from the Department of Geography Education, Faculty of Social Sciences, Yogyakarta State University (Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta) with some academic and non-academic accomplishments. I’m passionate on education, human geography, social research, and youth development. From these interests, I always try to connect all my activities which are related to my personal background with my future plans. For instance, one of my biggest dreams is to become a lecturer. As the consequence, I should improve my capacity in geography research, teaching skill, and scientific papers writing skill. Above all, perhaps the most important areas of improvement for me is to develop good character to be the role model for my students.
One thing that my friends and I have started since 2014 is an education project. It is called Karung Goni Learning Center or you can just call “KGLC”. The main goal of this project is to raise the children’s awareness in reading and improving book literacy by providing access to the community library. We did this ongoing project close to my house in Ngemplak, Caturharjo, Sleman. KGLC has three focuses, which are library service, non-formal education, and youth empowerment. Nowadays, KGLC has several partners from the government sector: Sleman Regency Government, Public Library of Sleman, and The Department of Education and Youth of Sleman Regency. Meanwhile the non-government sector is coming from Gadjah Mada University, Gerakan Mari Berbagi (GMB), PPI NTU Singapore, Permira Rusia, KBRI Singapore, Young Leaders for Indonesia, The Community Library Forum of Sleman-Yogyakarta, and U.S Embassy Jakarta as well. Obviously, KGLC is a movement to give the youth opportunity to invest their strong interest in education field by joining as a volunteer. So, this is about how the youth generation can make positive impacts for the sustainable environment in the society. That’s a brief introduction from me and my ongoing project.
Through this short article, I would like to share about my experience in applying for Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative program or we called it YSEALI. I believe that you have observed what YSEALI is. Just type ‘YSEALI’ in Google and you can find a complete information! This year (2016) I became an Indonesian representative in ‘winter’ YSEALI Academic Fellowship on Civic Engagement program with Arizona State University (ASU) as the host university. I was selected to join this program with four awesome Indonesian young leaders: Arie from South Kalimantan, Ihsan from West Java, Onk and Ayu from Nusa Tenggara. So our group consisted of five members! This winter we also had a sociopreneur group (Sheila, Putri, Rara, Juli, Opi, and Oni) which has the same host university.
After knowing about YSEALI, you have to do this five steps. I hope that it will be useful for you.
- Find your motivation, why should you register to this program?
One basic thing that you must realize is about motivation. Sometimes people want to join the exchange program mostly for gaining a new experience abroad. Or they just follow the common trend of going abroad through a cross cultural program. Even worse, they are so ambitious only for traveling. Is this the right motivation? We should not put those personal goals as the main reason to apply this program. Moreover, please think about something that are more useful for our community, society, and country. I have tried to apply this program three times but failed the first and second times. Why? I knew that I have to understand my motivation to join this program. Again, think about your community and how this program will support your project. Mention that you will create more high-impact leaders for your community after joining the YSEALI program. This is only one example of how important a motivation is.
- Fulfill the application’s requirement thoroughly, make an impressive CV!
Based on my previous experiences, there were three documents that should be submitted to the U.S Embassy Jakarta, including the application form (CV), personal statement, and one recommendation letter. It’s quite simple guys. Here I will share how to make an impressive CV. Focusing on your main passion in appropriate activities is one the best ways to make a good personal information. I reflected on my last experience when I put all my leadership experiences in some different organizations with different focuses. In my opinion, it will be better if we just put the most relevant or suitable to our background. For example, I want to apply to the Civic Engagement program which requires the activities on the topic of community service, participatory in civic activism, education, volunteering, social movement, NGOs, or others similar programs. Additionally, ensure that you have filled out all the information (personal information, paid work experience, unpaid internship or volunteer experience, membership in associations, English proficiency, etc) in English. Please read the instruction carefully. Remember that incomplete applications will not be considered. So how to make an impressive CV? I think it should be clear, distinct, and focused. YSEALI is looking for the best candidate to get the scholarship. So, make your CV impressive.
- Be honest on your personal statement.
“Tell us about yourself and what project are you working on, or idea for a project that you want to implement in your community (related to the topic). How do you expect this experience will affect your community? How will it affect you personally? Please attach your response, limited to 250 words, and submit along with this completed application and one letter of recommendation from someone who knows you well” I remember that each personal statement has specific questions topic to be answered. For the YSEALI program, it is clear that the program will be beneficial not only for the participant but also for their communities and countries. YSEALI is designed to strengthen ASEAN youths in one academic exchange program. Knowing the main vision of YSEALI itself will help you to understand what you should write on your personal statement. First, let’s see the statement: Tell us about yourself and what project are you working on, or idea for a project that you want to implement in your community (related to the topic). It means that you must make a brief introduction. Please do not rewrite the information that have been mentioned on your personal information. Just make short sentences. You are allowed to begin with “unique” part. Here my first paragraph: “You need a commitment to do your project by empowering the youths in your village”, said Mrs. Judith. This advice makes me respect my community. It was my honor to welcome Mrs. Judith A. Moon, Counselor for Public Diplomacy of U.S. Embassy Jakarta when she come to Karung Goni Learning Center (KGLC) on September 16th, 2015. You can find your personal style that will attract the reviewer to read your essay. On the next paragraph, you can share about the project that you are working on. This is a very crucial part. Please give a core information about your project. What are the key achievements on your project? Tell us that you’ve done a relevant project with the YSEALI program. For instance, if you wish to apply Civic Engagement, please give strong explanation with your appropriate project on this theme. The other way, if you are applying for sociopreneur/environment theme, please also give the suitable project example that will reinforce your essay. Second, “How do you expect this experience will affect your community? How will it affect you personally?” It is very clear that you should give a sturdy response in order to the impact YSEALI program. As I said to you before that the YSEALI will affect your community and yourself as well. Indeed, please argue that you will bring positive influences to your community. Think about the specific steps, not too general. How can you implement the YSEALI values to your community? For instance, “I will share my YSEALI experiences to my volunteers in KGCL with the hope that I can motivate them and create more positive programs”. Just answer the questions in the right way, be honest, specific, and focus!
- Support your application with a powerful recommendation letter. I got the recommendation letter from my Dean of Social Sciences Faculty who know my personality. I’m sure that recommendation also becomes the key part to be a successful candidate for this program. Just make sure that you choose the best person who knows you well professionally on your organizational activities, academic, and social works. It can be your lecturer or mentor. Families and friends are not allowed to give the recommendation letter. I have a personal experience when I requested to my dean to give me one. He gave me a lot of motivations to this program. I’ve deeply interviewed to get the same perception for the recommendation letter’s contents. Specifically, it would be better if the person who gives you the letter has supporting facts related to your personal statements. Furthermore, he can declare that you have done the project or have strong leadership capability to solve the specific problem around you. However, it depends on her/him to write in a different way but stays sharp to the positive facts. I attached two recommendations, another one was from Young Leaders for Indonesia Foundation supported by McKinsey & Company.
- Be well prepared for the interview selection! My friend who were selected in YSEALI program said that, “If you have been informed as a shortlist candidate to the interview session, you’ve almost reach the finish line. It’s only one step left.” I was wondering whether I would be selected or not. I realized that this is a very selective program. Everyone wants to be the delegate. After a rigorous selection process, I was given an email. That’s an unforgettable moment when I was opening my email and I read the first word, “Congratulation…”. Alhamdulillah, I continued to the next round. They invited me to the interview selection through Skype. As quickly as I can, I gave them the time confirmation for having a skype interview. Due to the limited resources, I was helped by my friends to get the reliable internet connection. You can imagine, I was staying in my friend’s boarding house. I remember on that afternoon I’ve been interviewed by three people from Jakarta. I’ve already made preparation as best as I could. I tried to understand my application form, my personal statement, and my project! Actually, I was so nervous but I taught myself to be more relax during the conversation. I answered the questions as similar as mentioned in the application form. Moreover, I explained KGLC and my future hope in unleashing Indonesia’s potentials through YSEALI program. So, a well preparation is the main point. Besides that, make sure that you have a good internet connection, clear intonation, humility, and smiles. They will help you to speak more naturally.
When I was cleaning up my bedroom in the morning, suddenly someone called me. My phone was ringing and a woman said in Indonesian language that I’ve been primary candidate for YSEALI Academic Fellowship Program on Civic Engagement 2016. Alhamdulillah, all praises to Allah who gave these opportunity. I felt so blessed and wanted to hug my mother. But she was still in the Sleman market to work. I informed her by phone and she was very happy. This good news was informed after one week from receiving the LPDP Scholarship result to study in a Master program. All the hard works are paid off. I believe that it is all about hard work and good timing: I failed twice but the third one was the miracle.
So, never give up, keep up your spirit, and be on time to submit your YSEALI application!
From February 20th until March 26th, 2016, I and 43 young leaders from ASEAN spent our time in Arizona State University. We made new journeys through the YSEALI program. You can find my stories in my blog www.janumuhammad.weebly.com as well.
Trust me, you’ll get amazing experiences with the new networks from the United States and ASEAN fellows that will broaden your global perspective.
So, what are you waiting for?
Let’s become the catalyst of change through YSEALI Academic Fellowship program!
Photo Courtesy: Muhammad Arie Sya’ban, Roath Sophanna
The article was originally published by Janu Muhammad on April 25th, 2016 at http://janumuhammad.weebly.com/. The article can be found here: http://janumuhammad.weebly.com/my-stories/-five-useful-steps-to-apply-yseali-academic-fellowship
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