Getting Closer to Asian Peacebuilders Scholarship

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As she searched for a university that offers a program related to her passion in gender issues, Sorang found a sandwich program of peace and conflict studies from the Asian Peacebuilders Scholarship (APS). Basically, it offers a dual master degree from Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines and the United Nations (UN)-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. In this article, Sorang shares a story about her preparations as well as the benefits of the APS scholarship and its program.

The Asian Peacebuilders Scholarship (APS) is a fully funded scholarship from the Nippon Foundation for a dual master’s degree from Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) in the Philippines and UN-mandated University for Peace (UPEACE) in Costa Rica. It targets Asian people who are passionate about studying peace and conflict issues or passionate about peace-promoting activities. It aims to prepare them to be peacebuilding practitioners with expertise in Asian issues and future leaders in their respective organizations. Hence, it requires applicants to have a minimum two-year work experience in a relevant field.

To date, APS is only open for people from 9 countries: Japan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Almost half of the scholars per batch will be from Japan as the scholarship comes from a Japanese institution. Usually, there will be two Indonesians in each batch.

Why should I apply for this scholarship?
One can say that APS is not as popular as other fully funded scholarships, such as Erasmus Mundus, Fulbright or Australia Awards. I myself discovered it accidentally when I was searching information on full scholarships for a master’s degree. Despite that, this scholarship offers an attractive program that is too good to be missed.

First of all, this scholarship offers a dual MA degree in less than 2 years. The scholars will get an MA in Political Science majoring in Global Politics from AdMU and another MA with a program related to peacebuilding from UPEACE. AdMU is one of the best universities in the Philippines while UPEACE is the world’s only university dedicated to peace. UPEACE has a unique status because it is a treaty organization established based on the UN General Assembly Resolution 35/55. This scholarship is pretty strict on this offer because it requires each scholar to pass all requirements in both universities in order to get the dual degree. If someone passes at AdMU but fails at UPEACE or vice versa, he/she will lose both degrees. Thus, it is both degrees or nothing. Each scholar will be evaluated every semester and those who fail will be sent home right away.

Secondly, this scholarship offers a sandwich program. This means that you will have your first semester at AdMU, and then fly to Costa Rica to have the second and third semesters at UPEACE, and return to AdMU for the last semester. This also means that you will experience living in multicultural environments, both in Asia and America, particularly Latin culture in Costa Rica.

Thirdly, you will have a great opportunity to expand your network globally. For sure, you will nurture a new network with the other scholars in your batch. It will broaden again once you study at UPEACE as it annually admits students from almost 50 nationalities across 5 continents. This diversity will also enrich your discussions about the study and give you new perspectives in seeing the world. I took Gender and Peacebuilding at UPEACE in 2016-2017 with 7 other people from the following 6 countries: Myanmar, Japan, United States, Canada, Colombia, and Israel. I always got excited about our discussions because I knew that I would learn many new things from them. Similarly, UPEACE lecturers also come from different countries. UPEACE only have a few resident professors but it has the fund to bring the best lecturers in the field, most of them with extensive experiences working with UN agencies. I was very grateful for this opportunity because I know that I might not be able to have such a rich and colorful experience like this if I was enrolled in other scholarships.

Fourth, this scholarship provides you an intensive English training. The scholars will be divided into 2 groups based on their English proficiency level. The intermediate group will have the training for 5 months while the advanced group will have it for only 2 months. The training focuses on developing academic writing and presentation skills, which is very helpful to increase scholars’ confidence in public speaking and preparedness in dealing with English-speaking environments. Moreover, the training is also key to the study. Each scholar must pass the training with a good result to be enrolled in the study.

Fifth, this scholarship allows you to implement a field project before graduation. As a person who loves fieldwork, this opportunity allows me to implement my knowledge right away and to identify the gaps between the conceptual frameworks that I have learned and the realities that I experience in the field. This may not be exciting news for people who prefer thesis writing to the capstone project, but don’t worry! You still can do it but it will not be written on your official transcript as it is not a requirement for the study. You will get a supervisor from UPEACE and you have to write it while you’re doing other required academic activities during the study.

Celebrating graduation at UPEACE
Celebrating graduation at UPEACE

What are the benefits?
APS covers full tuition fee, return airfare from home country to the Philippines and from the Philippines to Costa Rica, visa, overseas health insurance, monthly stipends, and an extra stipend for the field project (USD 600 per person). The monthly stipend is relatively small (USD 700 in the Philippines and USD 800 in Costa Rica), but it can cover all your expenses and you can even save some if you manage wisely.

How to apply?
8 documents are required for the application:

(1) a valid TOEFL test score. Keep in mind that APS does not accept TOEIC, TOEFL-ITP, nor IELTS;

(2) statement of purpose answering a set of questions mentioned in the official website;

(3) three letters of recommendation along with a recommendation letter form for each;

(4) official undergraduate transcripts and copy of diploma, both in the original language and English translation;

(5) Curriculum Vitae (CV) or résumé;

(6) passport size photo; and

(7) marriage certificate, both in the original language and English translation. This last requirement is just added in 2018 and only applied to female applicants. This may sound discriminatory, but I honestly don’t know the reason behind it.

Additional Notes

  1. Spend enough time to prepare the documents, especially for the authentication of the undergraduate transcript and copy of the diploma. These documents must be authenticated by the Philippines embassy, and in order to have it, it must be first authenticated by the university, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This needs a lot of time, energy, and patience. Thus, make sure you have this done before the deadline because any incomplete applications will not be reviewed.
  1. Prepare enough money for your application. APS will not reimburse expenses for completing your application, so you need to spend your own money on this, particularly for the transcript authentication and document delivery to AdMU. When I applied in 2015, I had to spend IDR 750.000 for the document authentication in the Philippines Embassy. This did not include my expenses for English translation and transcript authentication in university and 2 ministries. I used EMS (Express Mail Service) from PT. POS Indonesia to send the documents because I heard it is a reliable service and offers the cheapest price. I only paid less than IDR 174.000 for this at that time.
  1. Lastly, keep in mind that AdMU and UPEACE are located in Catholic-majority countries with a history of Spanish colonialization. Thus, try to adjust to a Catholic culture and to learn basic Spanish. Learning Spanish is not a must as you can also use English later in your daily communications. However, it will help you adapt better, especially in Costa Rica, as people usually communicate in Spanish.

By the way, APS is now open for application until July 6, 2018.

Good luck, friends! May the force be with you!

Celebrating Indonesian Independence Day when having a transit at Panama airport
Celebrating Indonesian Independence Day when having a transit at Panama airport

Photos are provided by the author.

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sorangsaragih
Sorang Saragih holds a dual MA degree in Global Politics from Ateneo de Manila University and in Gender and Peacebuilding from the UN-mandated University for Peace (UPEACE) through the Asian Peacebuilders Scholarship. She also earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from the University of Indonesia in 2012. Within the year, she also had an opportunity to study Political Science at the National University of Singapore through the Temasek Foundation International Leadership Enrichment and Regional Networking (TF LEaRN) Programme. Upon her graduation, she worked at Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR) as Project Officer for a project on women survivors of conflict in Indonesia, Myanmar, and Timor-Leste. She returns to AJAR after her postgraduate study and has been managing a project on indigenous women in Papua and West Papua now.