Transcription

Kamila 

Hey college kids. Welcome back to my podcast “Who cares about College”. In today’s episode I’ll be interviewing Leah, so if you could introduce yourself. 

Lia 

Hi, thank you for having me. 

Lia 

My name is Lia Conforti. 

Lia 

I am currently an English teaching assistant working with the Fulbright program in Kosovo. 

Lia 

I recently graduated last year from University of Maryland College Park, where I got a triple degree in anthropology. 

Lia 

International relations and French and a minor in International Development and conflict management. 

Kamila 

Sorry, I know I sent you again to the list of questions, but can you explain how you did a triple major at UMD? 

Lia 

Yeah, yeah so. 

Very quickly. 

Lia 

Uh, my. 

Lia 

I was lucky that I came in with a decent amount of credits from from high school which really helped out in terms of having to do Gen Eds. 

Lia 

And then, uhm, my minor and my government and politics major overlapped a lot in classes, so I was able to use classes for both the minor and major. 

Lia 

And then the international relations major also requires like a linguistic component. 

Lia 

So doing French was something that I was already kind of going to have to do with my major, and I studied it in high school. 

Lia 

Uhm, so I didn’t have to take like 18 credits for most of my semesters in college, so it was a lot of work. 

Lia 

But yeah, I was able to to get it all done. 

Lia 

Also with the help of a lot of great advisors at UMD too. 

Lia 

Who really helped me. 

Kamila 

Alright, OK that out of the way. 

Kamila 

Let’s start with the Fulbright program. 

Kamila 

So can you tell us a little bit about the program? 

Kamila 

So number one who qualifies for this program? 

Lia 

Yeah, so I’ll just give like a little intro to the program itself. If people haven’t heard of it, it it is a cultural exchange program that is administered by the US Department of State and it has a bunch of different programs actually like under. 

Lia 

The whole Fulbright programs, UM. 

 Lia 

So I specifically and with the Fulbright Student program which gives out grants to people who are typically recent graduates of college. 

Lia 

One of the requirements, I believe, is that you have your bachelors degree, but anybody can apply for it as long as you’re like. 

Lia 

AUS citizen, you have that bachelors degree and I think you’re over the age of 18. 

Lia 

Uhm, so it’s not just graduates, there’s also, you know, working professionals, people who are at at different points in their career further down the line. 

Lia 

Uhm, but what I’m doing with the student program is an English teaching assistantship. 

Lia 

So this is 1 specific program within the student program. 

Lia 

You can also do research as well, and being an English teaching assistant means that you are placed with a host institution. 

Lia 

In a specific country that you apply to, and the whole goal is that you are there to help out with English language instruction as well as cultural exchange between the people of your host country and American culture. 

Lia 

And like different things about, yeah, life. 

Lia 

In the United States, studying in the United States and things like that it the whole Fulbright program is really focused on like cultural and public diplomacy and improving intercultural competence. 

Kamila 

And for, like you said, you’re a teaching assistant, so you’re helping to teach English. 

Kamila 

Are you teaching English at just like a regular middle school high school, or are you teaching people who hope to go to like an American school or American College? 

Lia 

Yeah, so one thing I can say about the full break program is that the individual experiences of each person who’s given a grant. 

Lia 

Uhm, they vary a lot based on what country you’re in, what city or town you are placed in within that country, and then what host institution you are placed in as well. 

Lia 

So different countries will ask for different things, so some countries will ask specifically for. 

Lia 

English teachers for high school students. 

Lia 

UM here in Kosovo where I’m placed it’s primarily university level students, UM. 

Lia 

So a lot of the people in my cohort are working at universities. 

Lia 

I’m actually placed at the American Corner, which is a American space which is. 

Speaker 1 

It it’s. 

Lia 

Run by the United States Embassy to facilitate cultural exchange programs as well. 

Lia 

So I do a lot of the kind of programming that you see at a library like the American corner is within a library. 

Lia 

Uhm, so that. 

Lia 

The people that I mainly work with and. 

Lia 

So that’s like the general public, but it does tend to be mainly university students who are a little bit higher proficiency in English rather than like absolute beginners and and some of these people are interested in pursuing study in the in the United States. 

Lia 

Some of them are just looking to improve. 

Lia 

Their English, some of them are just really interested in American culture. 

Lia 

Some of them are just interested in learning different skill sets in English. 

Lia 

So it really varies based on what country you’re in and what institution that you’re placed in. 

Lia 

Everybody who does full break kind of has their own unique experience, which is one thing that’s cool about the program. 

Kamila 

And for like you said, the experience is very and obviously like you know so many different countries like so many different expectation. 

Kamila 

But are there like any set responsibilities of each Fulbright scholar like? 

Kamila 

I don’t know, do you have to like meet a certain required amount of hours? 

Kamila 

Are there certain like tasks you need to do for the State Department? 

Lia 

Yeah, so one of the things. 

Lia 

Uhm is that you have like a contract between you and your whole institution. 

Lia 

So for our contracts here, we’re required to work at least 15 hours a week, usually not more than. 

Lia 

And then you work with your host institution, UM, to figure out what you can help out best with. 

Lia 

So a lot of the program is about working with your institution to see where your skills can have like the greatest. 

Lia 

Impact and the greatest benefit. 

Lia 

So there’s not like any specific set thing that says like you have to teach 30 hours of grammar to X number of students. 

Lia 

You more decide that and. 

Lia 

Work with the person that you are assigned to. 

Lia 

So if you’re assigned to like a university, you are typically assigned a code teacher. 

Lia 

So somebody who’s a university professor and you Co teach an English language class with that code teacher. 

Lia 

So because I’m at the American. 

Lia 

Corner, uh, my hosts aren’t really like Co teachers. 

Lia 

They’re more like my colleagues and my coworkers because they run the American corner and the programming at the American Corner. 

Lia 

So I I. 

Lia 

I spoke to them before I came to Kosovo about sort of like my interests and my skill sets and what I had done before with English language learning and then together we came up with like sort of a plan of where they think like I can help out best and what they really need help out with. 

Lia 

So things like that, if that makes sense. 

Kamila 

Yeah, so now that we have, like, uh, I guess overview of the Fulbright program and what it is we’ll get into your specific experience. 

Kamila 

And as you said. 

Kamila 

Each person’s experience is different, so this is just Lee’s experience. It’s not like universal through the Fulbright program. 

Kamila 

OK, so let’s start with your application process. 

Kamila 

When did you like? 

Kamila 

First hear about the Fulbright program and like what I guess intrigued you. 

Kamila 

What like attracted you to it? 

Lia 

Yeah, so I first heard about it like I was aware of the program because I knew a couple people in college who applied for it or were interested in applying for it. 

Lia 

But I didn’t start. 

Lia 

Actually, seriously thinking about it and considering it until the summer before my senior year of college. 

Lia 

And I heard about it from like the scholarship office at the University of Maryland, because we have like a a Fulbright advisor who specifically works with students interest in the applying. 

Lia 

And I just heard about the application opening through like a newsletter like on an e-mail chain. 

Lia 

And I had done in college this thing called. 

Lia 

There’s this organization at the University of Maryland called the English Conversational Partners program, where I met with international students or international members of the University of Maryland community, and I helped them improve. 

Lia 

Their English like ask questions about life in the United States like what things are are like culturally acceptable like what things are different from their culture. 

Lia 

Like helping them sort of adjust to being an international student at like this giant public American universe. 

Lia 

City and I really like doing that. I really like the cultural exchange element of it and I thought it would be really interesting to apply to the Fulbright program because they had positions available in Kosovo and I studied abroad the summer of 2019. 

Lia 

In Kosovo. 

Lia 

So for my minor I did a peace and conflict program at the American University in Kosovo and I really liked the country. 

Lia 

I really liked learning about the history there. 

Lia 

The people and I really like after that experience I wanted to go back to Kosovo and I didn’t really know how. 

Lia 

I would do that. 

Lia 

And so I felt like the Fulbright program offered me like a really good post graduate opportunity to combine like the cultural exchange elements, the getting international experience, and then also being able to go back to Kosovo. 

Lia 

And that’s what really made me interested in it. 

Kamila 

And if this is for more of like a general question, your major in college or minor, does it have to relate to like like the I guess the goals of the Fulbright program? 

Kamila 

Or can you really be any major in? 

Lia 

Yeah, you can really be any major and apply a big part of the application is, I think like your personal characteristics like your work ethic and your values like you don’t have to be in English major to be in English teaching. 

Lia 

Assistant it certainly helps to have experience in some form of English teaching. 

Lia 

UM, but it’s not like a requirement and. 

Lia 

I think in the application process it’s really important. 

Lia 

More is your experience with like if you have international experience, your reasons for why you want to go abroad and and more of like your personal character because you are coming here as a representative. 

Lia 

Of the United States, like that is kind of one of the big parts of the program, is your. 

Lia 

Here to tell people about American culture and they’re really looking for you. 

Lia 

Know people who exemplify sort of good characteristics. 

Lia 

Yeah, I guess if that that makes sense you. 

Kamila 

Know that makes perfect sense, so let’s go into like the application process so. 

Kamila 

I know college apps. 

Kamila 

You have your transcript, your letters of rank, your essays and stuff. 

Kamila 

But what is the application process for the Fulbright program look like? 

Kamila 

OK. 

Lia 

Yeah, so uhm. 

It’s pretty low. 

Lia 

Long term I applied in. I started my application this summer of 2020 and it was due I believe at the very beginning of October and and like I said, the University of Maryland has like a specific Fulbright. 

Lia 

Advisor and I believe like a lot of colleges have like someone specifically to help. 

Lia 

You with full replicate. 

Lia 

And so you have to have a more like 3 letters of recommendation. 

Lia 

You do have to send over your transcripts, things like that. 

Lia 

And then you also have to answer like they have. 

Lia 

Like short answer questions and you have to send in a personal statement as well, like a one page statement. 

Lia 

Justifying like why you want to be an English teaching assistant, or like why you want to do research, why you want to go to this specific country and why you think you’re the best candidate. 

Lia 

And the process, like the application process, is different. 

Lia 

For different types of grants, so like if you want to do a research grant, the application is different because you have to have additional components related to your research question and things like that so. 

Lia 

Those are the the. 

Lia 

Components that I had to submit for being an English teaching assistant. 

Kamila 

Oh, and one thing before we talk about like actually your application when you do the like research component, if you do notice ’cause you’re not on the research component. 

Kamila 

But if you decide to do the Fulbright for research is Fulbright specifically for cultural facilitation, or. 

Kamila 

And you, I don’t know there’s like an amazing medical like. 

Kamila 

Hospital or something in like Europe and you can go there and do that. 

Kamila 

Is it like specifically cultural exchange or can you really do anything with the. 

Kamila 

You can. 

Lia 

Really do anything. 

Lia 

It has to be related to your country that you’re applying to and so the application process is different. 

Lia 

Mainly because you already have. 

Lia 

To have, like somebody willing to host you like in the country, like somebody who will be your point of contact that will help you like keep you on track with your research and things like that. 

Lia 

Like for example there are a couple people. 

Lia 

Rich in my Fulbright cohort here in Kosovo, UM, one person is looking into like international engagement and democracy in Kosovo and the another person is looking into a maternal health policy. 

Lia 

Issues in Kosovo. 

Lia 

So, uhm, so you can you have a lot more freedom. 

Lia 

I think when you’re doing research, but you already have to have, like your question defined and ready. 

Lia 

When you are. 

Lia 

Why like you don’t like come to Kosovo or whichever country you apply to and then figure out what you’re researching. 

Lia 

You already have to. 

Lia 

Have it all planned out. 

Kamila 

Ah, OK, OK, that sounds interesting. 

Kamila 

That’s much broader than I thought. 

Kamila 

The Fulbright program was OK, so to your application now. 

Kamila 

So like, obviously you submitted your transcript, let’s go into letters of REC. 

Kamila 

So besides just saying you need 3 letters of rec, are there any requirements like they need to be from professors or they have to be from like some person you’ve interned? 

Kamila 

With like what are the requirements for recommendation letters? 

Lia 

Uhm, I believe. 

Lia 

I’m not sure if I had a requirement. 

Lia 

For one, being like academic 1 being like I think it was pretty broad because I asked. 

Lia 

Uhm, my boss at work and then I had two academic references. 

Lia 

Uhm, it’s mainly. 

People who can. 

Lia 

Speak to like your skill set and why you would be a good candidate. 

Lia 

So like I specifically asked. 

Lia 

Like my professors who were involved with the courses that I took on like about Kosovo. 

Lia 

Like one of my professors was one of the professors who was on the study abroad program. 

Lia 

I didn’t Kosovo, so I knew that he could speak about my experience in Kosovo. 

Lia 

UM, so that was a big part of who I was thinking about when I chose people as references is like how can they speak too? 

Lia 

My best qualities as a candidate. 

Kamila 

And when you. 

Kamila 

Do these recommendation letters are you looking for someone who can attest to the specific? 

Kamila 

Like thing that you want to accomplish, like you wanted to do cultural exchange, but could you just have done? 

Kamila 

Some like mentor you’ve had that can just really just speak to your character. 

Kamila 

Is it more like they’re looking for your skill set or is it more like? 

Kamila 

Character they’re looking for. 

Lia 

I would say both are important, uhm? 

Lia 

Like I didn’t have any recommendations that spoke specifically about my skill set as like an English teacher or any of the work that I had. 

Lia 

Done in. 

Lia 

In like doing English language stuff so I didn’t have any references that were specifically related to like the English teaching aspect of my application. 

Lia 

But I did look for people who. 

Lia 

New about sort of things like my management skills like how I interacted with other people, uhm, people who could speak to me as like you could speak to my international experience like what kind of person I was like in another country. 

Lia 

Uhm, so those sort of things, uhm? 

Lia 

’cause there are. 

Lia 

Lots of like transferable skills that apply to Fulbright that aren’t like specifically related to the work that you’re doing, that are also important because it is like you’re living in a foreign country. 

Lia 

You’re representing the United States you. 

Lia 

Are supposed to be. 

Lia 

You know, working with a host institution so they. 

Lia 

Want people who are like? 

Lia 

Responsible like people who are adaptable. 

Lia 

I do think it would be really good. 

Lia 

Like having anybody who can speak about you know cultural competency like interpersonal skills like that is like a really big part of the program, so the character and the skills. 

Lia 

Are both pretty important, but I think probably your character would probably be a little bit more important than having somebody specifically speaking about when you did English teaching, yeah? 

Kamila 

All right, so let’s move on to your essays. 

Kamila 

You said there was one personal statement, and then there were some supplemental essays as they are on the. 

Kamila 

College app. 

Kamila 

Yeah, can you talk about like what was the prompt for the personal essay personal statement and then like your process like how did you approach it and how did you come to what? 

Kamila 

You wanted to actually talk about. 

Lia 

Yeah, yeah. 

Lia 

That was one thing I was glad that I started my application early because. 

Lia 

It took me a while to do that personal statement because it has to be only one page which at first like one page seems like. 

Lia 

Really long and then I was like wait, this is actually like super short and and I believe that the prompt was really just like tell us why you’ll be a good candidate and why you want to like go to this country so I knew that I really wanted to highlight. 

Right? 

Lia 

My time in Kosovo because I was applying specifically to go to Kosovo and then I also wanted to highlight the times that I had done English teaching, but also the times where I had like leadership roles or like roles where I had to interact with other people with like. 

Lia 

Doing like teamwork, collaboration, communication, things like that and then, uh. 

Lia 

I also 

Lia 

Part of it too is like, what do you hope to get out of this program, and so I also wanted to like put that in there as well, and and so my personal statement went through like many different drafts and a lot of people looked over it for me to help me really narrow it down and. 

Lia 

And so. 

Lia 

My process was kind of trying to tell, like a little bit of like a story, so I talked about, you know, studying abroad and post about being like I really enjoyed my time here. 

Lia 

I always wanted to come back and then talking about like the times where I had sought out like intercultural exchange. 

Lia 

Back in the United States and what sort of skills that had given me and then like talked about why I wanted to be an English teaching assistant in Kosovo and how it would. 

Lia 

Help me like in the future. 

Lia 

So that’s how I approached the like the personal statement part, but I think that was definitely the hardest part of the application for me. 

Kamila 

And then so with like I’m sure you have, like memories of this. 

Kamila 

But like when you’re writing a college essay, you’re writing your personal statement. 

Kamila 

You need like some sort of if you want to like, be effective with your essay some. 

Kamila 

Sort of hook. 

Kamila 

It doesn’t necessarily have to be something that’s an experience. 

Kamila 

That’s out of. 

Kamila 

This world, but you have to make it so. 

Kamila 

Personal to you. 

Kamila 

And yet engaging at the same time. 

Kamila 

So it’s like a really well but still well built story and not just saying like I’ve accomplished this, I’ve done this blah blah. 

Kamila 

So writing this personal statement, is it similar to a college app where you’re trying to like? 

Kamila 

Hook them on like the first line and create this really cool intricate story. 

Kamila 

Or is it more like I want to do this like you’re specifically saying, like I want to do this because of this, I really like Kosovo. 

Kamila 

This is what I learned when I was studying abroad and therefore I want to go back. 

Kamila 

So like, how do you write the actual essay? 

Lia 

I think that it is pretty similar to doing like a college essay in the sense that it’s. 

Lia 

It’s not like a resume or really like a. 

Lia 

You’re not just regurgitating your past experiences, you want to create a narrative. 

Lia 

Uhm, so it is good to have it. 

Lia 

Have your your statement sort of framed around. 

Lia 

Maybe like one specific experience or a couple of specific experiences, because you’re also trying to show not just like. 

Lia 

All of your skills, but you really do want to create that narrative of. 

Lia 

How you got to like the place that you’re at right now, and how you think the Fulbright program will help you going forward so you have to think both about your past experiences and then also what you want to get out of the program and you don’t want it to just be like, oh like I did this, I did this. 

Lia 

I did this. 

Lia 

I did this. 

Lia 

Uhm, you want to try to create that narrative more because you do. 

Lia 

Also, I believe that I I sent in resume as well so they they have like a list of my like actual like experiences. 

Lia 

So you want to just choose like one or two things to really hone in on in that personal essay. 

Lia 

That will demonstrate you know why you’re the best for this program and what you can get out of the program and what you’ll bring to the program. 

Kamila 

And just before we get to Albany, obviously you got in, but we need to hear about your reaction when you did so. 

Kamila 

How competitive is the Fulbright program like like? 

Kamila 

I guess how many people apply and then like if you know of what the acceptance rate is. 

Lia 

Yeah so. 

Lia 

Again, it depends on what country you apply it to. 

Lia 

I mean, it’s a fairly competitive program it it is considered like a prestigious grant to have an. 

Lia 

And the competitiveness, like your chances of getting in, I think, do depend really on what country you apply to. 

Lia 

So because a lot more people are applying to sort of a well known country like France compared to a country like Kosovo that is small and most people don’t know about it. 

Lia 

So, so like when I I remember talking to my advisor about like where I wanted to apply and when I told him about. 

Lia 

Kosovo he said, that was like. 

Lia 

A really good OP. 

Lia 

Uh, because my other options were French speaking countries and he’s like alright, like a lot of people want to go to French speaking countries. 

Lia 

A lot of people speak French, studied French, and he was like Kosovo is a good option because like I think the year before me like maybe 20 people had applied and and. 

Lia 

Also, the competitiveness depends on how many people that country is accepting, so uhm. 

Lia 

It changed a little with the whole COVID pandemic because some people had their grants delayed and then they were still offered them the next year. 

Lia 

So the cohorts this year are bigger than normal like Kosovo normally accepts like 4 people. 

Lia 

Uhm and. 

Lia 

Other countries except the. 

Lia 

Except for. 

Lia 

30 UM so it kind of depends on what country that you’re looking to apply to, so you do have to, I think, apply strategically when you choose full break, because it is a competitive program in general, and then it can become even more competitive depending on what country you want. 

Lia 

To go to. 

Lia 

Like if you’re trying to go to like Germany like that’s a lot harder to get into because like a lot of people want to go to Germany, so you have to be strategic. 

Kamila 

And with the Fulbright program you only like you do your application and you only submit to like 1 country. 

Kamila 

You can’t just say like this is my #1 #2 #3. It’s like you just have one shot at one country. 

Lia 

Yeah, that’s how it works, at least for the English teaching assistantship. 

Lia 

Uhm, I can’t speak to the other programs. 

Lia 

But that’s how it worked. 

Lia 

I applied specifically to Kosovo. 

Lia 

My entire application was framed around Kosovo and I didn’t apply to any other countries. 

Lia 

Uhm, there wasn’t like an option for me to like rank, countries or anything like that and. 

Lia 

I didn’t ask during my application process if you can apply to multiple countries at the same time, so I’m not sure if that. 

Lia 

Is an option. 

Lia 

Uhm, but your application is tailored to one specific country. 

Kamila 

Oh, and we didn’t talk about, oh God, we didn’t even talk about the supplementals yet. 

Kamila 

So if you could like what are the generally the supplementals? 

Kamila 

And are they like, are these more specific to the countries you’re applying to? 

Kamila 

Like, can you tell us a little? 

Kamila 

Bit about the supplement. 

Lia 

Yeah, they I. 

Lia 

I don’t remember all of all of the questions I I should have pulled up application but they were a little bit more specific about like the English teaching like I do remember one of the questions being sort of like what cultural things? 

Lia 

Would you want? 

Lia 

To share, uhm, like as an English teaching assistant. 

Lia 

They also like because cultural exchange is a really big part of the grant. 

Lia 

They encourage you not to just be involved with your host institution, but also to be involved with like outside organizations like either volunteering, maybe doing some sort of independent project. 

Lia 

So one of the questions was also about that, like what? 

Lia 

I would want to do outside of just teaching, so the questions were a little bit more specific to the teaching component, yeah? 

 Kamila 

All right, so one more thing before we get into your specific experience, like you know. 

Kamila 

You actually coming to Kosovo and you living so when you. 

Kamila 

Have you said the Fulbright? 

Kamila 

Program is one of the most prestigious grants to get. 

Kamila 

And obviously, you’re not doing the Fulbright program forever, so when you are finished with your and we can talk about like how long this Fulbright program lasts for, but once you are finished with your time with the Fulbright. 

Kamila 

Program like does it look good when you’re applying to like postgraduate degrees? 

Kamila 

Does it help with like job placement? 

Kamila 

When you come back like what are the benefits to you having the Fulbright program on your resume? 

Lia 

Yeah, uhm. 

Lia 

It does look good I think on your resume. 

Lia 

One benefit that you get. 

Lia 

It’s kind of similar to like P score in the sense that you get like a. 

Lia 

Like a competitive hiring within like the federal government, so like that is a benefit like you get that for like a certain amount of time after you come back from your grant, you get like a certificate of completion saying that you’ve done this grant you get access to like a network of other people who are fulbrighters. 

Lia 

That’s really good for like building your network and making connections with other people. 

Lia 

Uhm so. 

Lia 

Yeah, I think that especially depending like for me I want to work in international relations and International Development doing international global work and so having that international experience on my resume is, I think. 

Lia 

Also like a really big plus for the program. 

Lia 

And it also if you want to do like English teaching. 

Lia 

Uhm, it’s also, you know, like really helpful. 

Lia 

Because it shows that you’ve. 

Lia 

You know done that in a classroom and like a very unique setting. 

Kamila 

All right, so let’s talk about your experience as a Fulbright Scholar. 

Kamila 

So I mean, you got into the program. 

Kamila 

Presumably you took a plane to get to Kosovo. 

Kamila 

So so once we did arrive here, what was like the experience? 

Kamila 

Like you know housing what was like your schedule. 

Kamila 

Did you come like 2 weeks prior to like you actually starting? 

Kamila 

So I guess tell us about like the beginnings of coming to Kosovo. 

Lia 

Yeah, uhm, so it was again. 

Lia 

It’s like unique for everybody and it was also like very unique considering like COVID as well. 

Lia 

Like really changed a lot of stuff. 

Lia 

So like I said, I applied like I submitted my application in October. 

Lia 

I found out I was a semifinalist. 

Lia 

In January and then I got my finalist confirmation. 

Lia 

Again, I think at the end of April. 

Lia 

So so it took a while for me to actually like learn that I had gotten the the grant and then over the summer like in the past before COVID, what they did was like, oh, weeklong in person orientation, where you get to meet, like alumna. 

Lia 

You get to. 

Lia 

Talk to other people. 

Lia 

Who are going to your country? 

 Lia 

3 uhm, you get to talk a little bit about like teaching strategies. 

Lia 

Things like that. 

Lia 

UM, where I did that. 

Lia 

All online because of kovid, so I had like a whole month where I was basically doing pre departure orientations related to English teaching and like going to Kosovo. 

Lia 

So, uhm, like I took like a miniature like teasle class to help with like English teaching strategies, things like that. 

Lia 

Uhm, and again it was kind of weird because like COVID cases were like spiking in Kosovo over the summer. 

Lia 

So there was like a month where it was unsure if the program was like officially happening or. 

Lia 

Not if it was. 

Lia 

Going to get pushed up so. 

Lia 

Everything I think was a little bit more last minute for me than it has been in like prior years. 

Lia 

Uhm, I think I booked my tickets. 

Lia 

Maybe like a month before I left and then I did arrive like 2 weeks before my grant was supposed to start or more like probably like 10 days and I started off with just like having an Airbnb with a couple other people on the program. 

Lia 

And that first week while I was there, we have like Embassy contacts because like the US Embassy technically overseas us along with another NGO called American Councils. They’re like the people who kind of like make sure that we’re like doing OK. 

Lia 

They like provided us with like a Realtors contact who helped us find like housing but you do kind of have to do like the housing stuff like on your own like they don’t provide you how at least grant. 

Lia 

I’m not sure if that’s different in other countries. 

Lia 

So and then we had another in country orientation, like once we got there where we actually kind of like got to meet everybody in person and I got to like go me like the the people that I would be working at with at the American corner, UM. 

Kamila 

Alright, alright so like you just cut off there so I wasn’t sure if you were like speaking in like it wasn’t there. 

Thank you. 

Lia 

Yeah, I. 

Lia 

I don’t think there’s anything I forgot to include, uhm? 

Lia 

They do, so we get like a. 

Lia 

A stipend like a grant, like there is a set amount of money that you get and they give you. 

Lia 

The they disburse it over like several different payments like while you’re here. 

Lia 

So like prior to coming they do give you like a. 

Lia 

A large amount of your grant money, so it’s not like you’re buying your plan plane ticket like on your own like you have, like your grant money to do that and. 

Lia 

Things like that, yeah. 

Kamila 

OK, so let’s talk a little bit about your day-to-day life in Kosovo. So after like the orientation stuff after maybe like you started at the American corner and they were still doing like I don’t know training for you. Once you started getting into like a routine, what did every team look like for you? 

Lia 

Yeah, and and again this is something that it’s different for every single person, but for me at the American corner I have kind of a unique position compared to other people in my cohort because people in my cohort are placed at universities and they like have a specific. 

Lia 

Like class schedule where they teach. 

Lia 

Where for me I worked out my own schedule with the American corner, UM, because I get to basically design and create which classes I want to offer at the American corner. 

Lia 

And like when I want to offer them up so. 

Lia 

My day-to-day, UM. 

Lia 

We actually like figured it out like very quickly as soon as. 

Lia 

I got to. 

Lia 

Kosovo and met with my hosts like they’re very friendly. 

Lia 

Like they’re super nice people. I love working with them and they’re very easygoing, and so I work Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays, up where I come in at 8:30 AM. 

Lia 

And I leave at 4:00 PM and then come come in as needed if I plan to plan like a class for Friday at a certain time. 

Lia 

And so while I’m at the American corner. 

Lia 

I am usually planning out like what classes I’ll be doing in the coming weeks, like what kind of programming I’m going to be offering. 

Lia 

I also do a lot of like social media stuff because that was one thing that my like. 

Lia 

My hosts really wanted from me is to to help them. 

Lia 

With like sharing American culture like on their social media, doing things like that and then I also like help out with like proofreading grants and documents and things like that. 

Lia 

But it also it kind of like changes based on the month and sometimes based on the day based on like what my like hosts need from me. 

Lia 

Uhm, but I fell into a routine like pretty quickly here. 

Lia 

I know it can be very different if you’re placed at a university, especially because. 

Lia 

Uhm, the university system here in Kosovo. 

Lia 

The scheduling system is very different than what it’s like in the United States. 

Lia 

And so your schedule can that sort of day today can be very different when you’re actually like placed at like a university, UM, but for me I got lucky that I’ll lock freedom over what my day today looks like. 

Kamila 

And on the days that you’re like not in there. From 8:30 to 4:00 and you like don’t have a class. 

Kamila 

Are you like? 

Kamila 

Expected to do something else? 

Kamila 

Or are you just like free to explore the city? 

Kamila 

Like what do you do on your days that you don’t necessarily have to be at the American corner? 

Lia 

Yeah, so they. 

Lia 

Really, strongly encourage that you get involved in something out of your. 

Lia 

Work, whether it be like. 

Lia 

Hearing like an internship, something like that you’re not allowed to have a job you cannot be getting any other source of like income while you’re on like the Fulbright grant that is. 

Lia 

One of the requirements, uhm, so. 

Lia 

So I specifically looked for like internship, like volunteer internship opportunities with organizations that I’m like interested in. 

Lia 

So I work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at the American corner. 

Lia 

But then I also work on Mondays and Fridays and also Saturdays. 

Lia 

Doing different volunteering things. 

Lia 

So I work on Mondays and Fridays with an NGO called the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, which does human rights promotion and like youth empowerment and they do a lot of. 

Lia 

Stuff with the. 

Lia 

Like peace and reconciliation process here in Kosovo. 

Lia 

And so I do like volunteer work for them. 

Lia 

Doing things like English language like social media like proofreading, documents like putting together like materials for like grant proposals, things like that. 

Lia 

I just do it like part time ’cause I’m like a volunteer and then another thing that we do here as a like Fulbright cohort is so, so there’s a U.S. military base here in Kosovo located in this town called Ferrisi. 

Lia 

And the camp is called Camp Bondsteel, and right now they are housing UM. 

Lia 

A decent amount, I think I’m not. 

Lia 

I’m not sure of the specific number, but there are evacuated Afghan refugees who are being housed at a refugee camp at Camp Bondsteel and we provide English language teaching for the the Afghan children there on Mondays. 

Lia 

Tuesdays and then also on Saturdays. 

Lia 

So I volunteer with that on Mondays and Saturdays. 

Lia 

So I like, actively sought out other opportunities, and that’s something that’s very encouraged by the Fulbright program. 

Lia 

Like you’re not supposed to treat this as like a vacation experience where it’s like, oh, you work 15 hours a week, you can just spend the rest of the time like. 

Lia 

Traveling around like you are supposed to be working like in your country and. 

Lia 

That’s not to. 

Lia 

Say that they don’t encourage like travel. 

Lia 

Especially like here in Kosovo, a big part of like understanding the history here is also understanding the history of the Balkan region. 

Lia 

So so like they do encourage you to also, you know, travel and do things like that, but your main focus is supposed to be like your work and your engagement in Kosovo. 

Kamila 

And since you like Kosovo so much, can you tell us a little bit about the country itself? 

Kamila 

’cause not? 

 Kamila 

Not many people know about Kosovo, so keen tell us a little bit about its history and what you found. 

Kamila 

So like attractive about it when you first studied abroad. 

Lia 

Yeah, so I will just give like a short and simple version as much as I can ’cause the the actual like history of Coatesville in the Balkan region is like super super complicated. 

Lia 

But but I like, uh, I did not know about Kosovo, like as a country before college and before I like learned about it while I was doing peace. 

Lia 

And conflict studies. 

Lia 

Uhm, but it’s located in. 

Lia 

The Balkans, which is a region in like southern eastern Central Europe. 

Lia 

Uhm, so a lot of people, if you’re not good with geography, I usually tell people at South of Serbia, and if people don’t know where Serbia is, it’s north of Greece, so that’s kind of where Kosovo is. 

Lia 

And it’s like a tiny country. 

Lia 

I think it’s comparable to Delaware, like the state of Delaware in size, so it’s really small and a big part of its history is, UM. 

Lia 

That like how I first learned about Kosovo, was the conflict in the 1990s. The UM? 

Lia 

Yugoslavia Republic broke up in the 90s and there were a bunch of different conflicts and wars in the Balkan region between, like different countries, UM. 

Lia 

As like this Republic like broke apart and it’s it’s super complicated so I’m not going to go into it. 

Lia 

I definitely could not give it justice because it’s a super complex issue and I mainly know about Kosovo. 

Lia 

So, but there was essentially Kosovo. 

Lia 

Was an autonomous region in UM in Yugoslavia and one of the main reasons for. 

Lia 

Like one of the main actors in the war was Serbia, who controlled OK. 

Lia 

It’s kind of complicated, so you might need to edit this part a lot. 

Lia 

I’m trying to think of like the. 

Lia 

Best way to explain it? 

Lia 

Uhm, but essentially you had like Serbia, which was part of the Yugoslavia Republic, and they had a dictator, Slobodan Milosevic, who wanted to create like a greater Serbia. 

Lia 

That’s sort of like ethnically pure Serbian. 

Lia 

State UM and. 

Lia 

Part of that was trying to control this region of Kosovo. UM, because there are these two main ethnicities of the Albanians and the Serbs who both have really strong like cultural and religious ties, like in Kosovo, and a big part of Kosovo’s history is. 

Lia 

The ethnic tensions. 

Lia 

Between Albanians and Serbians, and and essentially in the 1990s, Serbia was conducting a. 

Lia 

Genocide campaign against Kosovar Albanians. In attempt to control their like this area of Kosovo, and like I said, it’s like a lot more complicated than just that. But in the 1999, the United States got involved. 

Lia 

Through NATO and there was a NATO bombing campaign that essentially ended up like the war between Serbia and Kosovo and and ended up with Kosovo becoming a. 

Lia 

A territory that was administrated, like it was overseen by the United Nations, but it. 

Lia 

Was independent from Serbia and then in 2008, Kosovo officially declared its independence from Serbia, and right now Kosovo remains a partly recognized country. 

Lia 

In the international system, so Kosovo is not a member of the United Nations and and it’s not like. 

Lia 

Fully integrated into the international system because it’s not officially recognized by all of the countries in the world and a lot of that is due to various, like geopolitical reasons like Serbia, has close ties to Russia. 

Lia 

Russia has like membership. 

Lia 

On the UN Security Council, so like Russia will veto like any attempts to make like Kosovo like an independent state like Russia doesn’t recognize Kosovo independence like there are lots of different complicated reasons for each country on why they do or don’t recognize. 

Lia 

Just about and and that was one thing. 

Lia 

As an international relations major like self-determination and statehood is something that’s really interesting to me. 

Lia 

So I found that part of Kosovo very interesting, but I didn’t like. 

Lia 

I said I didn’t know about Kosovo until. 

Lia 

I studied abroad here in 2019 and I found. 

Lia 

Kosovo and the entire like Balkans region to be very fascinating because of its history and also like the place that it’s at now. 

Lia 

Like one of the things that I talked about in my application, and one of the things that made me like really, really want. 

Lia 

To come back to Kosovo. 

Lia 

Is like the people here are some of like the nicest people that I have ever met. 

Lia 

Like in my entire life. 

Lia 

Like they’re incredibly welcoming. 

Lia 

And they’re also like really resilient people who you know like just 20 years ago, you know, have been living in war, and they’ve come back and they’ve like really built rebuilt their lives and they’re trying to, you know, just create like a better future for themselves in their country. 

Lia 

And that’s like one of the things that I really like. 

Lia 

About Kosovo 

Lia 

So because it is also very unique in its. 

Lia 

Relations to the United States. 

Lia 

Like they’re really strong ties between coasts of oh and the US because of the. 

Lia 

NATO campaign in the 1990s. Uhm, like there’s like a Bill Clinton statue here in Pristina, there’s like a Bill Clinton Blvd like people really like Americans here. 

Lia 

Not everybody does like. 

Lia 

I’m not going to generalize, but but that was something that was like very interesting. 

Lia 

To me, when I came here, uh, because I’m also, you know, interested in the way that the. 

Lia 

US engages in the world. 

Lia 

And a lot of I think US interventions have gone very, very poorly and a lot of countries don’t like the United States for good reason. 

Lia 

So it was very interesting for me to come to a country that was so happy to have, like a US presence here, and that was something that was very interesting to me and. 

Lia 

I know this is like a super long. 

Lia 

Answer at this point. 

Lia 

Uhm, but I really love Kosovo and and I love like the people here. 

Lia 

And I think it’s just like a super interesting country and it kind of makes me sad that a lot of people in EU. 

Lia 

S like don’t know about Kosovo because it’s not really taught about like in schools like I didn’t learn about the breakup of Yugoslavia. 

Lia 

And like all of the conflicts in the Balkans, like I didn’t learn about that. 

Lia 

In high school or in any of my classes until I came to like. 

Lia 

Doing specialized like peace and conflict studies in college, which like not everybody is going to do that but a lot of people here in Kosovo like they love America or they’re really interested in America. 

Lia 

They want to know a lot about America or a lot of people here know a lot about U.S. history and US culture and and. 

Lia 

It makes me kind of sad that like people in the US don’t know as much or. 

Lia 

Aren’t as aware of Kosovo. 

Lia 

So, so I hope that like people will look into like the country in the region and try to like learn more about it because it’s a really cool place. 

Kamila 

Well, we can definitely tell how much you love the country. 

 Kamila 

Yeah, that was very. 

Kamila 

Good like history. 

Kamila 

Thank you for that. 

Kamila 

Alright, so we’re going to wrap up here and my last question is. 

Kamila 

I do this like on every podcast. 

Kamila 

Who would you recommend the Fulbright program for? 

Kamila 

There are obviously going to be pros that people are going to find pros people are going to find cons, but ultimately what is like. 

Kamila 

Like yes, you should do the Fulbright program. 

Kamila 

If you genuinely feel this way, or you want to accomplish this. 

Lia 

Yeah, I think it’s a great program for people, especially if you are just coming out of college. 

Lia 

Uhm, it’s really great for getting international experience if that is something that you are searching for. 

Lia 

If you want to live. 

Lia 

In another country. 

Lia 

Three, if you are interested in other cultures, like if you are specifically interested in learning more about a specific place or a specific culture, or maybe a specific language, it is a great way to get that sort of direct cultural immersion because you are living in that country and you’re working with. 

Lia 

People from that country? 

Lia 

Uhm, I would really recommend it for for people who are looking for that like cultural exchange experience. 

Lia 

If you are interested in teaching English at some point in your like, career or future. 

Lia 

Or especially like working with UM. 

Lia 

Like international students working with English as a second language students, it’s a really great experience for getting. 

Lia 

For getting that sort of experience, but you can also do research. 

Lia 

You can also do other. 

Lia 

Things, and so it is like very broad. 

Lia 

I would really recommend it. 

Lia 

I think for people who are looking for international experience who are really interested in learning more about the world, learning more about like maybe a specific part of the world who are people focused. 

Lia 

Like if you you really like working with other people. 

Lia 

Uhm, like. 

Lia 

But like it’s it’s great for that. 

Lia 

It’s great for that sort of cultural exchange aspect. 

Lia 

So I think that if you’re looking for those kinds of things, it’s a great program. 

Lia 

Uhm, it’s also nice because it’s it’s nine months. 

Lia 

It’s not like your whole life. 

Lia 

I know, like peace core and Fulbright attract, like very, very similar people. 

Lia 

But you know, Peace Corps, two years, and that can be very intimidating for some people and and so Fulbright. 

Lia 

It’s like 9 months, it’s shorter, uhm? 

Lia 

So I I think it’s like a really great opportunity, uhm? 

Lia 

For like that kind of those kinds of people. 

Kamila 

Alright, Leah, thank you for coming and it’s very late in Kosovo right now. 

Kamila 

I know. 

Kamila 

So have a goodnight. 

Lia 

Hey, thanks for having me bye. 

Kamila 

Bye, that’s it for my interview with Leah. 

Kamila 

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. 

Kamila 

If you are interested in the Fulbright program, I have left a link down below in details. 

Kamila 

Make sure you subscribe zuno and new. 

Kamila 

Episodes are released next week. 

Kamila 

I’ll be releasing an episode with a high school senior who has gotten into Duke University. 

Kamila 

You do not want to miss that. 

Kamila 

Hope to see you then.