Written by Albert Christian Soewongsono-YSEALI Academic Fellow 2016 (Fall Program) at Northern Illinois University
“Young People Like You Have to Be the Ones Who Lead Us Forward” (Barack Obama)
Hi everyone, it has been a great pleasure for me to share some tips, based on my experience, on how to apply for YSEALI Academic Fellowship Program on Civic Engagement. A month ago, I was announced by e-mail to participate in this youth-based program, representing as the delegate from Eastern Indonesia. To get until this step, there was a long process and effort I had to take, and also a good time management because at the time, the interview process through Skype was held during my 3-month IELTS preparation course from LPDP at UIN Sunan Kalijaga. For those who do not know before, the selection of this program is divided into two steps, application screening and interview selection.
YSEALI is established in 2013 by the U.S. government, is a media to develop leadership skills and to connect with other youths across ASEAN region. One of its programs is YSEALI Academic Fellowship which targets undergraduate students and recent graduates aged 18-25 that show both outstanding academic achievements and social activities. This fellowship program allows the participants to study about five weeks in collaborated U.S. universities in fields of Civic Engagement, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or Environment. Besides that, the participants will also get the opportunity to do study tours, interact with local communities, and present a future project in front of policymakers and government representatives at the end of the program in Washington D.C. So, what to prepare in order to be selected into this program?
1. Determining which field you want to participate in
Before starting to fill the application form, it is necessary to check your area of interest whether in Civic Engagement, Economic Development, or Environment. You must spend some time to think about it because later on, you will need to write a short personal statement based on area that you have chosen. I suggest you to recall about your past and current activities or work to help determining the field. If your activities involve community engagement, you can apply for Civic Engagement, but if your works are related to environmental protection, you may be eligible to apply for Environment.
2. Finding someone to recommend yourself
One of the requested documents is to submit letter of recommendation from someone that know you and your activities really well. There is no limitation for the number of the letters you can submit, but please bear in mind that quality over quantity. At the time, I only submitted one letter of recommendation, and it was from Dr. Maria Lobo, my lecturer at Nusa Cendana University and the Indonesian coordinator of the UniBRIDGE Program (http://www.universitybridgeproject.org/). The letter content must explain about your academic record and your social work. For your additional information, there is no official letter format from the committee, so it is up to you to decide the format, but in case you have no idea about it, you can search it online or see the attachment of my recommendation letter in this article.
3. Recalling your past social activities and organizations where you involve in
In the form you will be asked to list all social activities and organizations that you have involved, complete with the date and your role. You are not allowed to submit any certificates to prove that you really did the activities, so my suggestion is better for you to attach links that explain every activity you have listed, if possible, as the evidence. I think, by doing this, the reviewer will be able to know more about yourself and your responsibility in each activity, and this could be an extra point for your application to be selected. If you do not have any by now, I strongly recommend to start writing and publishing your past social activity experience on your personal blog or other online media.
4. Writing an outstanding personal statement
This step is very essential because you will be able to demonstrate yourself in more details, but you will not be allowed to write more than 250 words, so make it concise is necessary. You will need to write about yourself in brief, your current or future project, and what you expect to gain by joining this program that can be beneficial for your yourself and your community. Spending some time on this step is suggested as well as asking for help from friends or someone to do a proofreading. To give you a reference on writing a good personal statement, you can see on mine attached in this article.
After following those steps, you are now ready to fill the application form. Besides the information, such as personal statement, social work lists, and recommendation letter, you will just have to fill some personal details before sending your application to YSEALIjkt@state.gov. Keep yourself updated for the registration date by always checking YSEALI Facebook page “Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative” or through this website: https://asean.usmission.gov/yseali/yseali-academic-fellows/.
The first selection process usually takes about a month before being announced through e-mail, so always check your e-mail near the period. The next step is the interview, and it will be conducted through Skype for around 15 minutes by people at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, or people at the Consulate General in Surabaya. There are some tips for the interview that you might consider to use.
- Be ready on Skype in 15-30 minutes before the scheduled time
It is always good to apply this step because you will have more time to relax yourself before the interview starts, and in some cases, the interview can be conducted before the scheduled time if the interviewer has finished earlier with the previous participant. Don’t worry; the committee will also remind you to be ready before the time.
- Read again your application form on the day before the interview
After a month waiting for the first selection result, you probably have forgotten some details from your application, so it is always good to recall the details back by reading again your application form, including your personal statement.
- Practice answering the questions
Usually questions from the interview are related to what you wrote on your application. Guessing questions that might be appeared and practice with the questions is recommended. For example, you may be asked about your current and future project as well as your passion. Remember that practice makes perfect.
- Give nice impressions throughout the interview
This includes your body language, your attitudes, and the way you deliver your answer. Giving a good impression to the interview surely will give you an extra point. Show to the interview that you have high passion to join the program by speaking with no hesitation and fluently.
- Be yourself
Some people may try to imitate other’s ways of giving speech, but this will make your answer sounds unnatural. So, be yourself is important to show the interview what kind of individual you are.
Stay tuned for more news related to this program by always checking our facebook page and blog. I will be leaving on the next September, and I am feeling more than happy to share the stories with you all. If you intend to know more about the selection process and the program itself, please do not hesitate to approach me through my e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Wishing you all have a wonderful day today.
You may also read my personal statement as well as recomendation letter which I used to apply for this program :
For more useful tips, you can also check this article written by my friend, Janu Muhammad who participated in this program early this year.