Outreach to Returned Fulbrighters

Outreach to Returned Fulbrighters

The Fulbright Association has also been an effective advocate for the returned alumni by contacting elected officials and the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for additional support.  There has been wide support from many alumni and organizations wanting to assist initially in evacuation and then professional mentorship. We also commend the work the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs have done to support the returning Fulbrighters. The ECA COVID-19 resource page outlines how ECA has supported affected Fulbrighters, with special emphasis on U.S. participants:

    • Covering the cost of transportation back to the U.S. after the March 19 suspension, including 24/7 hotline to arrange that travel;
    • Funding equivalent to stipend payments through June 30 for participants who started in fall 2019 and through October 31 for those that started their programs in 2020;
    • Providing an additional $1000 transition allowance to help pay for health insurance and other unanticipated needs;
    • Conferral of Fulbright alumni status on all participants affected by the program’s suspension.
      For 2019-20 Fulbright participants interested in another Fulbright opportunity, the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board has waived any restrictions on reapplication privileges for 2019-2020 U.S. participants and encourages U.S. participants to consider Fulbright again in the future.

We have also been providing one year of free membership to all newly returned Fulbrighters, and have made sure all these young professionals are connected to the chapters close to them. It’s a tough time to be back, with economies struggling and unemployment at record high levels, but we are doing what we are best at: supporting the Fulbright alumni community and serving these newly returned Fulbrighters. If interested in our professional development programs please email Shaz Akram at shaz.akram@fulbright.org

Shaz Akram- Deputy Director

May 29, 2020 0

Career Corner – Focus on your “Paper”

Career Corner – Focus on your “Paper”

In my last column, I recommended using the COVID crisis as a time to invest in yourself. With an uncertain job market, making connections and building your skills are good ways of using your time.

You might also focus right now on your “paper.” What I mean here, are the written ways in which you present yourself (that at one time were only on paper!): resume or CV, cover letter, LinkedIn, and other written forms.

Lead with Fulbright

After returning from your experience in the Fulbright program you need to update your social media and resume to mention your time abroad. Even if your Fulbright experience was short, it was still valuable, and you made important contributions to the community you worked in. Make sure it’s clearly noted on your resume and LinkedIn profile. It’s important to specifically and accurately indicate your service, reducing abbreviations where you can. For instance, if you were an ETA, you might write English Teaching Assistant, so that those unfamiliar with the Fulbright program know what you were doing abroad. Also state the period of your service and country.

Metrics are Important

Increasingly employers are interested in “how much” of something you did. Metrics speak to your ability to supervise, organization, manage, and other tasks that a potential employer needs done. If you taught as an ETA, mention how many students you had, the number of classes, and how large the school was. If you oversaw a budget, not likely in the Fulbright program, but maybe in another job, indicate the amount, particularly if it was $10,000 or more.

Metrics also look at outcomes: how much was produced or was developed as a result of your efforts.

Create Points of Curiosity

Your resume will be the document that an interviewer will launch the interview from. Create in it opportunities for conversation and curiosity. It is important to draw a reader to you and show how your experiences are not only relevant to their work, but intriguing. I find that listing the countries you have experienced – as a study abroad student, Fulbrighter, or in other projects (but not so much as a tourist) – creates an opportunity for the interviewer to ask questions: especially if you’ve been to some places off the beaten trail. Besides travel, consider other facets of your experience that might cause an interviewer to ask questions. Are you studying an obscure language? Involved in a project that is unique and shows innovation?

Flawless Design and Presentation

A resume, cover letter, and even a LinkedIn page is not about approximation. It is about precision. Errors in punctuation, spelling, or formatting will be noticed by an interviewer and might signal to them (maybe incorrectly) that you are careless or even sloppy. I remind my own students and clients: make sure your punctuation, syntax, and grammar are free of mistakes. We all make mistakes in our writing, even if we have reviewed it multiple times. Please have a friend read your resume or other writing over and give you honest feedback and edits. I learned from my father who was a letterpress operator (they don’t exist anymore) to proofread text backwards, word by word – out loud.

David J. Smith, Adjunct Faculty, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Make Sure That What You Offer is Obvious

You will get a job for only this reason: you have something (skills, knowledge, connections, etc.) that the employer needs. They will not hire you merely because of your enthusiasm, or your education, or that you are polite and inquisitive in an interview. These are important, but not critical. But making the case that you can do something that the employer needs: that’s the ticket to the job. As such, if you have something that relates directly to the position you are applying for, make sure that is obvious in your resume and in your cover letter. I recommend a summary of qualifications section at the top of a resume below your contact information indicating specifically how your skills can contribute to what that specific employer is looking for. This means you need to tailor each resume for each job you apply for.

In the end, your “paper” shows your seriousness and professionalism. Make sure it puts you in the best possible light.

—David J. Smith

David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at davidjsmithconsulting.com. He can reached at davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com.

May 20, 2020 0

Alumni Profile: Addison Dlott

Alumni Profile: Addison Dlott

Teaching at SMK Padang Kala outside of Kota Bharu, Kelantan

One of the first things I remember from my English Teaching Assistantship in Malaysia was jotting down a phrase in my phone: We’re all living the same experiences, just different realities. Someone said it to me in passing, but I knew I had to remember it because I thought it so pointedly reflected what cross-cultural exchange was all about.

Meeting my mentor, Nazila, for the first time in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia

I felt the weight of that comment when I stepped into my community. I felt transported back to high school at the semi-rural school I taught at in the state of Kelantan. A group of girls welcomed me into their circle. We hung out after school and listened to music, spent weekend afternoons drinking teh tarik and evenings slurping tom yum in front of the TV. The discussions of boys, music, pop culture and
beauty felt oddly familiar.

“Who’s a better rapper, Cardi B or Nicki Minaj?”

“Is Jason Momoa your favorite actor?”

“What face cleanser are you using?”

“You must have a favorite BTS member!”

My mother, a high school teacher back in the United States, would text me and ask how I was fairing, how school was. I told her that my days mirrored hers, just 12 hours ahead. School began at 7:30 a.m. Ended at 2 p.m. Lunch for upperclassmen happened after lunch for lowerclassmen. The library served as a place for students to hang out. After school held opportunity for sports or other extracurriculars.

The relevance of the phrase was re-emphasized when a student who I connected with over American rock music WhatsApp messaged me to wish me a Happy Easter. Four weeks had passed since I left Malaysia at the urging of the State Department. I asked him how he was, what he was up to. He said he was just at home doing homework, but having a hard time focusing, given the global pandemic.

SMK Padang Kala’s netball team preparing for the championship

“I’m a bit frustrated, bcoz it’s too much.”

I found a moment of clarity after reading his message. My family in the United States and my family in Kelantan were experiencing a collective pain over the COVID-19 pandemic. Culture, values and private lives, of course, change the way we experience the world. But at the root of it, while my former student and I are on opposite sides of the world, we are feeling vastly similar emotions, just in different contexts.

Eating homecooked tom yum with students

Back in my childhood home, I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on my time in Malaysia and mapping my next steps. While I am unsure what the future holds for me, I will continue to pursue creative and personally fulfilling opportunities. And though my alumni status came earlier than I had hoped, I’m thankful for the short time I had to build these bridges of greater understanding. And I believe those bridges will continue to build, even amidst COVID-19, though it may look a bit different than what I initially expected. I messaged him back.

Meeting to say goodbye to students in the afternoon before flying back to the United States

“Same, honestly.”


At the end of the day, we’re all just living the same experiences, just different realities.


Addison Dlott
Fulbright ETA Malaysia 2020

May 18, 2020 0

14 Days of Quarantine, 14 Days of Connection

14 Days of Quarantine, 14 Days of Connection

Returning to the states came with the clear reality of a 14-day quarantine period for the community of recently returned Fulbrighters. In some cases, Fulbrighters who faced early completion were isolated in their childhood bedrooms, others in hotels or the homes of friends out of caution for family members with pre-existing health concerns.

In this time of crisis, the returned Fulbright community has self-organized events to continue community building. Many folks are still in touch with their host communities through WhatsApp, Instagram and other social media assets. Others have organized small gatherings using Zoom to reconnect with their peers during this time of social isolation.

The effort to capitalize on this period of uncertainty has been captured by the planning of several alumni calls targeted at helping recently returned Fulbrighters develop professionally and personally. Through 45-minute calls, Fulbright alumni have had the chance to share their reflections from their time abroad and reflect on how these formative experiences have shaped their current professional pursuits. Recently returned Fulbrighters have shared the positive ramifications of this programming. As shared by Todd Abbott, a recently returned ETA after attending a call led by alum Michelle Lemeur, “hearing about Michelle’s journey through graduate school and into the international development sector really helped me to reframe some basic next steps for my career.”

The calls not only have surfaced benefits for the returned Fulbrighters but have offered a sense of connection between years of Fulbrighters. As shared by 2016 Alumnus Jordan Kronen, “the calls allowed for meaningful and thoughtful conversations that helped bridge the gap between cohort and amidst a pretty isolating period in our world’s history, it provided a platform for a much-needed distraction and connection.”

Not only serving as a professional resource but as a source of social support, recently returned ETA Addison Dlott describes that “with empathy and humor these calls have been what we have needed to stay connected, validate our experiences and help us through these uncertain and stressful times.”

Connections between cohorts have proven to sustain after these calls with recently returned ETA Alia Flanigan sharing that, “the calls help provide me with new contacts that I’ve reached out to after the calls to talk further about career plans and goals.”

Beyond connecting between generations of Fulbrighters, the calls have also allowed for collaboration between cohorts around the world. As shared by returned Fulbrighter Thomas Ruhl, “I have been loving these calls, not only are they great for professional development and sorting out life after Fulbright, but they’re also a great way to see people I did my grant with, as well as new faces from people who did their grants in other countries.”

-Dustin Liu

Fulbright ETA Malaysia 2020

Below is a youtube playlist of clips from the webinars that have different advice for returning Fulbrighters.

May 6, 2020 0

Alumni Profile: Alia Flanigan

Alumni Profile: Alia Flanigan

After 3 days of creating a dance with these girls for Sports Day, we took a selfie!

My Fulbright experience is and will always be memorable. From getting that acceptance letter on March 22nd 2019 to coming home unexpectedly on March 18th 2020, I will never forget my time in Malaysia and all the new friends I made.

Moving to a small town called Kuala Krau in Temerloh,

Alia and her students from Form 2 (14 years old) Amanah (best class) on her first day of school! These students were filled with so much energy!

Pahang was very new and different. The first day of school I was excited to meet my students and fellow teachers at SMK Kuala Krau. I was greeted by huge smiles. I got to introduce myself to the students more times than I could count. Every classroom, every new group of students. My name is Alia Belle Flanigan. I am 22 years old, my birthday is April 5th, and I am from New Jersey. I have one sister, a mom, a dad and a cat.

My first time really bonding with students was creating a creative movement dance with 30 female students. The positivity and excitement I got from these girls allowed me to have more confidence about my placement at SMKKK. I was co-teaching 14 classes a week where I mostly played creative games with Forms 2 and 4, and helped prepare Forms 3 and 5 for their exams. I never taught before, as I majored in International Relations so it was something new and exciting. I eventually became a tutor for a group of Form 1 Setia students. My mentor Ruby said no students have asked for tutoring before. Tutoring became a daily activity.

Maddie and Alia met their mentors, Nani and Ruby in Kuala Terengganu! Ruby, Alia’s mentor took a selfie of the four!

My Speaking Workshops became more popular as the weeks went by. We did a scavenger hunt, board games, jeopardy, singing and crafts. These students were filled with energy and we had so much fun together. I wish I had said goodbye to them at our last workshop instead of ‘see you after break’.

Pahang ETAs went to Kuantan for a Pahang vs Selangor soccer game. We all bought Pahang t-shirts to cheer on our home state!!

On weekends, we stayed busy by going to different places around Malaysia. We went to Penang for Chinese New Years, the Cameron Highlands, Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, Kuantan, and explored our town. My roommate and I became really close as did the Pahang ETAs. I was placed in a lucky location: the center of Pahang. We were not far from everyone else (farthest drive was 2 hours). The town of Temerloh and Jerantut, both 30 minutes from us, provided us both with nice restaurants, grocery stores, and street/night markets.

I thought moving to a tiny rural town in Pahang, Malaysia would be a challenge at first but instead, we were welcome instantly and we started to thrive. We attended a Zumba dance class in Temerloh, ate roti canai with students, had custom-made baju kurungs made, and planned English Camps. Maddie and I submitted our proposal for the Elephant Sanctuary Camp in April the day before we got offered voluntary leave.

When the voluntary leave offer came out on Friday March 13, all Pahang ETAs decided to come together in Jerantut for one last big night together on Saturday. The next morning, while we were finishing up our roti breakfast, we were notified that airlines were closing flights in the near future. After everyone made calls to family members, almost all of us decided to go home.

Deciding it was time to go home was a really hard decision. I was not ready to say goodbye to a new world that I just said hello to. None of us were. Since it was break for the school, I was able to say goodbye to a few students that were in town and I saw my mentor the morning I was leaving. Maddie and I packed up everything, said goodbye to our mentors and drove to KL Tuesday to leave Wednesday morning.

Flying out that Wednesday still feels like a daze. Being at an airport around 4:30 am where there were no people, no lines, and everyone had gloves and a mask, it was scary thinking this will be the last memory of my experience. I had such a wonderful time over the 2.5 months, I decided to only think about the positive moments to keep it that way.

Even though my Fulbright experience was cut, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to go. As the days go on, I think about what activities I had planned for my school and the goals the students and I had together. I hope Kuala Krau and all the families stay safe and healthy during this time.

Pahang ETAs head to KLIA at 4am to catch their 8am Tokyo flight!

I am grateful for Fulbright for getting me home during a world pandemic safely and quickly. With one layover in Tokyo, I was able to fly straight into Newark Liberty Airport where my parents were waiting for me to take me home. Now that I am home, I keep in touch with my mentor, students, and fellow ETAs through social media and Zoom calls. As everyone is unsure of next steps or looking for jobs, I was able to contact my grad school. I started my Masters in International Relations at Central European University in the fall of 2019 before Fulbright and I will be able to return in the fall of 2020. I am lucky to have a plan for the future.


I hope to return to Malaysia and Kuala Krau down the road and see those huge smiling faces again.

Alia Flanigan

Fulbright Malaysia ETA 2020

April 21, 2020 0