Learn with me.
I checked my e-mail while my AP Government students took their Supreme Court case quiz, and saw it. An e-mail from the Fulbright DA Semester Program, with the subject line "Fulbright DA Status Notification."
Ugh, it's finally here. My rejection e-mail.
I avoided reading the preview text of the e-mail, sure that it was going to say something along the lines of "Thank you, next." After all, I hadn't heard much from the program office, other than an e-mail in March saying that decisions would be finalized in April. I had plenty of time to come up with 101 reasons for why I would not be selected: maybe I didn't answer the questions correctly, maybe my proposal lacked detail, maybe my topic isn't something that they consider important. I haven't written a book, I don't have a blog or a podcast like other Fulbright teachers. I should've asked others to look over my application, but I didn't. March came and went, and I hadn't been called for an interview. I convinced myself that I would not get it, spent several weeks coming to terms with my impending rejection, and prepared to receive the official non-selection e-mail.
I took a deep breath and read the next line: Congratulations!
CONGRATULATIONS?! Not the first word I expected to see. I read on.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 12:02pm PST
Congratulations! We are excited to inform you that you have been selected as a participant for the 2019-2020 Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching Semester Research Program.
"Woah," I whispered. One of my students, Ashley, looked up from her quiz. I stared back at her with eyes wide open. I walked over and showed Axel, Ashley, and Michelle the e-mail on my phone, partly to confirm that I wasn't hallucinating. They congratulated me, and I thanked them and said, "it's probably a mistake."
I called my husband, and as soon as I head his voice I blurted out, "I got the Netherlands."
Wowwwww!" he exclaimed. He was proud and supportive, telling me that I deserved this honor. I told him that I was very much in shock, as I had prepared myself for receiving a very different e-mail. I texted my friend Gabby, who screamed at her courthouse job, and said we had to celebrate. Oh yeah, celebrate. I was in such a state of shock that the idea of celebrating hadn't even crossed my mind (and I usually like to celebrate every little thing). I texted my sister, and then realized that my mother didn't even know that I applied. I decided to visit her that evening to share the news. I've never studied abroad, and have never been away from home for longer than two months, so this was a big deal.
I sat with my mother at the dinner table, and slowly said, "I applied for a work abroad opportunity and got it. I'll be in the Netherlands for six months next year." I explained what a Fulbright was, and showed my brother and mother my congratulatory letter signed by Trump, as well as the letter that explained the prestige of the award, informing them that Fulbright recipients have gone on to receive Nobel Prizes, Pulitzers, MacArthur Awards, and Medals of Freedom. My family's eyes filled with pride as they congratulated me.
The next day I informed my principal, my coworkers, my students, and my social media network, and was met with an outpouring of support. Women of color were especially supportive, as it's always nice when one of us paves the way for more to follow. As someone raised in a collective culture, my successes are our successes.
As the shock wears off, I feel grateful for the opportunity, and I am determined to work hard, and conduct research that helps uplift my community.
This blog is not an official Department of State website. The views and information presented are the DA Participant's own and do not represent the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Semester Research Program, the U.S. Department of State, or IREX.