How to win a fully paid exchange programme to the US

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“If you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?” These lyrics from Eminem’s single, “Lose Yourself” pretty much describe how Harshiny NadarajanOmar Qayyum, and Fayzah Addawiyah took their chance to apply for the Global Undergraduate Exchange Programme (Global UGRAD).

Like all good things, it started with a friend’s recommendation. “My friend received a Global UGRAD advertisement from her teacher, and she wanted me to accompany her to the US,” says Qayyum.

What sets this exchange programme apart from the rest is its connection to the Fulbright programme, which offers international education cultural exchange opportunity for passionate and accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers and professionals from different educational backgrounds — like this Fulbright scholar who is studying at Taylor’s University.

Successful applicants for Global UGRAD will be placed at colleges and universities across the US for one semester of their undergraduate studies. Before they flew to the US, we caught up with these young Malaysian undergraduates on their experience applying for the exchange programme:

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Nadarajan conducting a presentation on a hydrostatic pressure lab experiment. Source: Harshiny Nadarajan

What sparked your interest in pursuing a degree in your current field?

Nadarajan:

I was keen on pursuing aerospace engineering since I was nine. Unfortunately, I got an offer from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Kuala Lumpur to study chemical engineering. However, the great thing about engineering is the courses are versatile. With this degree, I can work on semiconductors and design propulsion systems for rockets — which ties back to my passion for aerospace engineering.

Qayyum:

As an avid debater in high school, I researched national and international laws. Undoubtedly, that sparked my passion for studying and understanding every aspect of the law — from the punishment it brings and how it relates to the security, welfare, and safety of the people.

Addawiyah:

Actuarial science was not the first thought in my mind when I was applying for my degree. I aspired to be a linguist at Harvard University, but I gradually realised my interest had shifted to mathematics in high school. I believe this is mainly due to my Additional Mathematics teacher, Mr. Zulhanif Idris, who sparked my passion for the subject.

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Addawiyah (pictured on the top left) volunteered in Vietnam during the summer of 2018. Source: Fayzah Addawiyah

How would the Global Undergraduate Exchange Programme benefit you?

Nadarajan:

As a student who has never gone overseas, I’m excited for my first solo flight to the US. Travelling alone has always been on my bucket list, and I feel that it’s time for me to check that box. The programme will also allow me to meet people from various ethnicities, countries, and cultures, allowing me to value their strengths and learn from them. I’m expecting myself to be a well-orientated leader and enjoy the experience. 

Qayyum:

Through Global UGRAD, I hope to gain more insights into how the law comes to life in the US. I believe it’s essential to continuously explore the norms and cultures in other countries to widen our horizons and understanding of the reason for the existence of these traditions and practices. Through this, we can learn the “why” and “how” to incorporate them into the Malaysian legal system. 

Addawiyah:

I love meeting new people. In 2017, I went to a summer outbound programme at Shenzhen University. A year later, I was involved in a volunteer campaign in Vietnam for the summer. Locally, I volunteer for flood relief missions and national sports events. Global UGRAD has opportunities to interact with over 200 students from approximately 60 countries, so I felt this was an invaluable opportunity to develop my interpersonal skills while expanding my connections with other future leaders.

What did you do to apply for Global UGRAD successfully?

Nadarajan:

I talked to a few Malaysian graduates of this programme, and we connected through LinkedIn. They were generous in sharing various tips and guiding applicants like me to understand the dynamics of this exchange programme better.  

Addawiyah:

It took me three tries before I was successfully selected. During my final application, I spent a lot of time researching the programme on Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. I was listening to a podcast by an Indian student who successfully applied for Global UGRAD. At the end of the day, you can never be over-prepared for this kind of application. 

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Addawiyah’s interview happened in a small room at a Vaccination Centre since she was volunteering for the National Immunisation COVID-19 Programme during the day of the interview. Source: Fayzah Addawiyah

How did you feel when you discovered that you would be part of Global UGRAD?

Nadarajan:

I can still clearly remember that day. After my class, a person from UGRAD called me to break the news that I was accepted into the programme. After the call, I went to my room, sat at the edge of my bed, and experienced a “main character” moment.

It’s tough to describe when you know you are a part of something as big as Global UGRAD. In fact, I questioned whether I was the right fit, so it took a while for reality to set in. Now, I’m incredibly proud of myself and grateful to the people who supported and believed in me. 

Qayyum:

I experienced a wave of emotions because there are so many things you must consider when applying for Global UGRAD. There’s the nervousness you’ll feel when applying and receiving the results at every stage of the application and your physical and mental readiness.

Addawiyah:

Here’s a fun fact: it was April Fool’s day when I received a call informing me that I am a finalist for Global UGRAD. I was beaming with excitement and called my parents immediately to break the news as they knew how eager I was to study abroad. In fact, I managed to secure a place at four universities in the UK, but I had to let them go since I could not find any full scholarships.

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Omar Qayyum will be studying at St. Norbert College at De Pere for one semester. Source: St. Norbert College/Facebook

What are you looking forward to experiencing in the US? 

Nadarajan:

I am flying to Tennessee in January and will spend one semester at Tennessee Technology University (TTU). Tennessee is the home to whiskeys and great music, so I might want to enjoy a little bit of both. A trip to the US wouldn’t be complete without visiting cities like New York and Los Angeles. TTU also frequently organise many on-campus activities, and I can’t wait to participate in them. 

Qayyum:

I’ll be studying at St. Norbert College in De Pere. Like my peers, I would be using this opportunity to travel in the US and gain as many experiences exploring the various states while I’m there. 

Addawiyah:

I will be studying at Kent State University in Ohio during Spring. Of course, I’ll use this chance to travel around the US. I’m also looking forward to experiencing snow for the first time, which will be a dream come true. 

Do you have any advice for any students applying for the Global UGRAD?

Nadarajan:

Be confident and be yourself. The interviewers and selection committee appreciate your honesty. You should also stay curious as the journey and experience of successful individuals can pave the way for you to do more for your community and yourself. 

Know the programme well through research and never underestimate your ability. Chin up, and always look ahead. 

Qayyum:

For future great minds applying to Global UGRAD, I would recommend you guys be brave and give it a shot. You won’t know what you’re capable of without trying it first. Even if you have few achievements compared to your peers, be confident in your experience and showcase that in the interview when explaining your accomplishments.

Addawiyah:

To students out there, I hope you can always spread your wings and never be afraid. Be brave and get out of your comfort zone. You never know where your passion will lead you, so don’t miss your chance. There is so much more to life than just studying.



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