August 23, 2016
Northwestern Oklahoma State University is welcoming its first Fulbright Scholarship student into the Master of Arts in American Studies program at the start of the fall 2016 term.
Riskariyani Amin, from Indonesia, currently has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Universitas Hasanuddin (Hasanuddin University) in Makassar, Indonesia, and through the Fulbright Program will earn her master’s degree from Northwestern.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. On the U.S. side of the program, there are close to 3,000 fully-funded grant opportunities for students and scholars to have an international experience.
Currently, the Fulbright Program operates in more than 160 countries worldwide, but it has operated in more than 180 throughout its lifespan. Program alumni include 33 current or former heads of state or government, 54 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 29 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of leaders across the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
Amin started preparing and applying for the Fulbright Program in April 2015, but was familiar with the program as early as 2011.
“Fulbright is how we become good leaders and good influences or persons in our society and our community,” said Amin on her overall desire to join the program.
The process begins with passing administration selection through the Fulbright committee, then being invited to an interview, followed by participants sending a paper describing their area of study, future studies and future departments; then after that they complete the online form and wait until a candidate is announced.
Amin was notified in March 2016, slightly less than a year later, that she received the scholarship.
“It was a very unbelievable moment because Fulbright is very hard to achieve it in my country,” she said. “It’s a very prestigious scholarship in my country; I couldn’t believe I passed.”
Typically from her country, the Fulbrighter applicants are older with more work experience; Amin is a 24-year-old with less than three years of professional work experience and proud to have been selected over the older participants.
After the Fulbrighters receive their status they are invited to take admissions tests such as the GRE or others for individual university requirements. The program can provide names of universities for the student to choose from to study abroad or the student can choose their own four and submit their applications into the universities’ programs for approval.
“I believe the small universities are better for me to improve my experience and my skills,” she said about Northwestern.
Northwestern was one university that piqued her interest due to the American Studies program. In Indonesia, Amin was the program coordinator of the American Corner, a program under the U.S. Embassy, where students are taught about American culture, how to speak English and are given overall information on the U.S.. Before leaving to study abroad, Amin was part of Education USA. After earning her degree, she plans to return to American Corner in order to share her knowledge as well as to enhance the program at American Corner. She also intends to improve the quality of the program in her previous university, Hasanuddin University, by becoming a lecturer for American Studies courses.
“I expect to learn more about American people from the people themselves; not in the classrooms but in the community and societies,” she said.
She arrived in the United States for the first time in June of this year, where she began part of the Fulbright Program training to help with research skills, overall English and communication skills for the recipients.
“[I have] Two years to get my degree, but if I get an opportunity to do any internships then I get to stay for that then go back to my country.”
Amin said the lecturers that come to teach American Studies in her country don’t typically come from America; instead sometimes Australia or England. She believes it will be a more enriching educational experience for her and other students to learn from someone who has seen and understands the culture firsthand.
She came from a smaller village but moved to the larger city of Makassar during her undergraduate program because she sees the value of education.
“Undergraduate degrees are very common already so we need to improve in higher education life,” Amin said about graduate degrees. “So taking a master’s in higher education is very important because a lot of people are going to get a better position and a better life.”
Since being on Northwestern’s campus, Amin feels that she will be able to focus well on her studies and be able to easily get involved in the community.
“The people are very friendly,” she said about Northwestern. “I went to the Mexican restaurant here, only my second visit, and I was impressed that they already knew my name.”
She chose Northwestern for the degree program that fit her needs but also the “small-town with a big-city atmosphere” for the opportunities to have real-world experience in American culture.
Although she’s only been in Alva a few weeks, she’s already on the lookout for volunteer opportunities and other ways to get involved with the community to fulfill her experience of learning more about American culture.
“[I want to meet] more people in the U.S., learn about their culture, customs, habits; I need it for my future career and job.”
She lives on campus and plans to join campus organizations as a way of learning more about American culture outside of the classroom.
The Fulbright program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas and is sponsored by the United States Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Throughout 2016, the U.S. Department of State and program partners in the U.S. and around the world are highlighting the achievements, innovations, and impact of the U.S. government's flagship educational exchange program.
Dr. Shawn Holliday, associate dean of graduate studies, director of Master of Arts in American studies program, and professor of English, started communicating with Amin in February this year, answering any questions she had about the university, Alva and the degree program. Holliday also is serving as the Fulbright Program adviser and scholar liaison.
“I thought ‘I’m going to do my best to get her to come here’,” he said. “She sent me a lot of questions, and I sent a lot of answers back trying to be as helpful as I could be.”
Eventually Amin was approved and through the help of the Fulbright Scholarship, Holliday, and Rebecca Cook, Northwestern’s international student adviser, they were able to complete the process with Amin.
Holliday and Amin are looking to the Alva community, businesses, and organizations for potential volunteer work to help with her overall experiences while here.
“It would be good for her, good for us and good for the program,” Holliday said about Amin. “I appreciate her being here, and I feel we have a lot we can offer her that a larger university wouldn’t; the friendliness of the community, the people, and especially if she wants to do the internships and free work to get the experiences. I think people around town are more willing to help and give her a chance.”
Holliday indicated that Fulbright students are academically and socially gifted, so it speaks highly of Northwestern’s academic programs for Amin to want to be a Ranger. Holliday is appreciative of the university’s reputation within the state and is now hoping to build on its international reputation.
Holliday hopes that Amin’s experiences of the United States will be more in-depth during her stay here, adding that for her to develop a good understanding of life here, she’ll need to experience both positives and negatives.
“Sometimes in the press the U.S., especially internationally, can have a bad reputation. I’m hoping that she gets to understand the complexities of the United States and take it back to her home country so she can educate others about how our country really is; all the problems we do have but the great parts as well.”
This year marks the program’s 70th anniversary and more than 360,000 Fulbrighters who have participated in the program. Approximately 8,000 grants annually.
Northwestern students may apply for a Fulbright Scholarship to study abroad while the university's administrators and professors may apply to become a Fulbright scholar to teach or conduct research abroad.
For more information on how to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship go to www.nwosu.edu/fulbright-program or contact Holliday at (580) 327-8589 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Businesses and organizations in the Alva community that can offer volunteer hours for Amin also are asked to contact Holliday.