Former Fullbright scholar offers advice to students

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Fulbright Alumni Ambassador Jilisa Milton explains the application process for the Fulbright Scholarship. 

CW / Jake Stevens

Camille Studebaker

Whether it’s teaching, researching or studying that inspires a student, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program allows American undergraduates and graduates to plunge into a new culture to do what they love most. The binational program offers two different grants, the Study/Research grant and the English Teaching Assistantship grant, that send the winning applicants on an eight to 10-month long journey to a country of their choice to fulfill their passion. Fulbright scholarships include roundtrip airfare, monthly stipend, accident and sickness insurance and several other benefits.

Jilisa Milton, Fulbright Alumni Ambassador, former Fulbright winner and UA graduate, spoke to UA students about the Fulbright application process and her nine-month experience in Indonesia. After participating in the extensive application process, Milton went to Indonesia for the 2014 – 2015 school year.

“You can’t duplicate immersing into a culture,” she said.

Once in Indonesia, she said she was expected to learn the country’s language, which took her a few months. Her friends helped her progress as she helped them learn English. After about five to six months, she got very comfortable speaking Indonesian.

“The friendliness was amazing,” she said.

Milton was an English Teaching Assistant for 11th and 12th graders at a public school that was not English-based. Despite the school being government-owned, she said students still have to pay for school. Their sacrifices really showed her how much they valued their education, she said.

The amount of money Fulbright awarded her allowed her to live comfortably in Indonesia. She said most people in the program got together and would travel on school holidays, and there was plenty of free time to visit local markets.

Milton gave students tips on how to be successful in the application process. The application consists of basic personal information, two essays, references, transcripts and other items depending on the grant. Milton told students to always answer the application questions specifically, address why the applicant deserves to go, why the applicant wants to go to the desired country and why the applicant wants to go at this time.

Applicants have the option to travel to over 150 different countries, so she advises that applicants research the country they want to visit and find a way to connect with it. They need to know exactly why they admire it. She said the program wants people who can adapt easily because the applicant will not know if he or she will be placed into a rural or urban setting within the country.

Application numbers have been steadily increasing over the years, and they now total of around 11,000 nationwide. There were about 30 applications sent out from the university last year, and about 8 to 12 grants made. The deadline for the Fulbright application is Sept. 6, and there is no GPA requirement to apply. Graduates can still apply through The University of Alabama post-graduation.