Five Useful Steps to Apply YSEALI Academic Fellowship

From Janu Muhammad's blog, 2016 YSEALI participant.  Source:

Hi young leaders, my name is Janu Muhammad. I’m originally from Sleman Regency, The Special Province of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I graduated from Department of Geography Education, Faculty of Social Sciences, Yogyakarta State University with some academic and non academic accomplishments. You know that I’m passionate on education, human geography, social research, and youth development. From this interests, I always try to connect all my activities which related to my personal background with future plans. For instance, one of my biggest dream is to become a lecturer. As a consequence, I should improve my capacity in geography research, teaching skill, writing scientific papers, and also the important one is try to have a good character to be the role mode for my students.

One thing that I’ve been started since 2014, I and my friends initiated an education project. It is Karung Goni Learning Center or you just say “KGLC”. The main goal for this project is to raise the children’s awareness in reading and book literacy by providing an access to community library. We did this ongoing project close to my house in Ngemplak, Caturharjo, Sleman. KGLC has three focuses on library service, non formal education, and youth empowerment. Nowdays, KGLC has several partners including the government sector (Sleman Regency Government, Public Library of Sleman, and The Department of Education and Youth of Sleman Regency) while the Non Government sector coming from Gadjah Mada University, Gerakan Mari Berbagi (GMB), PPI NTU Singapore, Permira Rusia, KBRI Singapore, Young Leaders for Indonesia, The Community Library Forum of Sleman-Yogyakarta, and U.S Embassy Jakarta as well. Obviously, KGLC is a movement to give the youth opportunity to invest their strong interest in education field by joining as a volunteer. So, this is about how the youth generation can make positive impact for sustainable environment in the society. That’s a brief introduction from me and my ongoing project.
So, let’s go on...

Through this short article, I would like to share you about my experience in applying for Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative program or we called it YSEALI. I believe that you have observed what is YSEALI. Just type ‘YSEALI’ in google and you can find it completely ! On this year (2016) I became Indonesian representative in ‘winter’ YSEALI Academic Fellowship on Civic Engagement program with Arizona State University (ASU) as the host university. I selected to join this program with 4 awesome Indonesian young leaders, they were Arie from South Kalimantan, Ihsan from West Java, Onk and Ayu from Nusa Tenggara. So our group consisted of 5 members! On these winter season, we also had a sociopreneur group (Sheila, Putri, Rara, Juli, Opi, and Oni) which has the same host university.

After knowing about YSEALI (please be active to browse the official website), you have to do this 5 steps. I hope that it will be useful things for you.

  1. Find your motivation, why should you register to this program ?
    One basic thing that you must realize is about motivation. Sometimes people want to join the exchange program mostly for gaining the new experience in abroad. Or they just follow the ‘common’ trend for going abroad through cross cultural program. Even, they are so ambitious only for traveling. Is that correct ? Guys, this is 21th century which means that we are not only put those personal goals as main reason to apply this program. Moreover, please think about something that more useful for our community, society, and country. I have tried to apply this program in three times but the first and second wave are failed. Why ? I knew that I have to understand my motivation to join this program yet. Again, think about your community, how will this program support your project ? Mention that you will create more impactful leaders for your community after joining the YSEALI program. This is only one example on how important of motivation is
  2. Fulfil the application thoroughly, make an impressive CV!
    Based on my previous experiences, there were three documents that should be submitted to U.S Embassy Jakarta, including the application form (CV), personal statement, and one recommendation letter. It’s quite simple guys. Here I will share to you on how to make an impressive CV. Focussing on the main passion in appropriate activities is one the best way to make a good personal information. I reflected to last experience when I put all my leadership experiences in some different organizations with different focuses. In my opinion, it will be better if we just put the most ‘relevant’ or suitable to our background. For example, I want to apply CivIc Engagement program which requires the activities on the topic of community service, participatory in civic activism, education, volunteering, social movement, NGOs, or others similiar programs. Additionally, ensure that you have filled out all the informations (personal information, paid work experience, unpaid internship or volunteer experience, membership in associations, English proficiency, etc) in English. Please read the instruction carefully. Remember that incomplete applications will not be considered. So how to make an impressive CV ? I think it should be CLEAR, UNIQUE, and FOCUS. YSEALI is looking for the best candidate to get the scholarship. So, make your CV impressively.
  3. Be honest for your personal statement.
    Tell us about yourself and what project are you working on, or idea for a project that you want to implement in your community (related to the topic). How do you expect this experience will affect your community? How will it affect you personally? Please attach your response, limited to 250 words, and submit along with this completed application and one letter of recommendation from someone who knows you well, to” 
    I remember that each personal statement has the specific questions topic to be answered. For the YSEALI program, it is clear that the program will be beneficial things not only for the participant but also for their communities and countries. YSEALI is designed to strengthen ASEAN youth in one academic exchange program. Knowing the main vision of YSEALI itself will help you to understand what should write on your personal statement. First, let’s see. “Tell us about yourself and what project are you working on, or idea for a project that you want to implement in your community (related to the topic)”. It means that you must make a brief introduction. Please do not rewrite the informations that have mentioned on personal information. Just make 1-2 short sentences. You are allowed to begin with “unique” part. Here my first paragraph “You need a commitment to do your project by empowering the youths in your village”, said Mrs. Judith. This advice makes me respect to my community. It was my honored to welcome Mrs. Judith A.Moon, Counselor for Public Diplomacy of U.S. Embassy Jakarta when she come to Karung Goni Learning Center (KGLC) on September 16,2015. You can find your personal style that will attract the reviewer to read your essay. On the next paragraph, you can share about the project that you are working on. This is very IMPORTANT part. Please give a core information about your project. What are the key achievements on your project ? Tell us that you’ve done relevant project with the YSEALI program. For instance, if you wish to apply Civic Engagement, please give strong explanation with your appropriate project on this theme. The other way, if you are applying for sociopreneur/environment theme, please also give the suitable example project that will reinforce your essay. Second, “How do you expect this experience will affect your community? How will it affect you personally?”. It is very clear that you should give sturdy response in order to the impact of YSEALI program. As I said to you before that the YSEALI will affect your community and personally as well. Indeed, please argue that you will bring positive influence to your community. Think about the specific steps, not too general. How can you implement the YSEALI values to your community ? For instance, “I will share my YSEALI experiences to my volunteers in KGCL with the hope that I can motivate them and create more positive programs”.  Just answer the questions in the right way, be honest, specific, and focus!
  4. Support your application with a powerful recommendation letter. I got the recommendation letter from my Dean of Social Sciences Faculty who know my personality. I’m sure that recommendation also become the key part to be successful candidate for this program. Just make sure that you choose the best someone who knows you well professionally  on your organizational activities, academic, and social works. It can be your lecturer or mentor. Families and friends are not allowed to give the supporting letter. I have personal experience when I requested to my dean to give me that one. He gave me a lot of motivations to this program. I’ve deeply interviewed to get the same perception for the recommendation letter contents. Specifically, it would be better if he/she who gives you the letter has supporting facts related to your personal statements. Furthermore, he can declare that you have done the project or have strong leadership capability to solve the specific problem around you. However, it depends on her/him to write in a different way but sharp to the positive facts. I attached two recommendations, another one from Young Leaders for Indonesia Foundation supported by McKinsey&Company.
  5. Well preparation for interview selection !                                                                                            
  6. My friend who ever selected to YSEALI program said that, “If you have been informed  as a shortlist candidate to interview session, you’re almost get the finish line. It’s only one step ahead.” I was wondering whether I would be selected or not. I realized that this is very selective program. Everyone want to be the delegates. After rigorous selection process, I was given an email. That’s unforgettable moment when I was opening my email and I read the first word, “Congratulation…”. Alhamdulillah, I continued to the next round. They invited me to interview selection through skype. As quick as I can, I gave them the time confirmation for having skype interview. Due to the limited resources, I helped by my friends to get the strong internet connection. You can imagine, I was staying in my friend’s boarding house. I remember on that afternoon I’ve been interviewed by three people from Jakarta. I’ve already made preparation perfectly. I tried to understand my application form, my personal statement, and my project! Actually, I was so nerveous but I suggested myself to be more relax during the conversation. I answered the questions as similar as mentioned in the application form. Moreover, I explained KGLC and my future hope in unleashing Indonesia through YSEALI program. So, well preparation is the main point. Besides that, make sure that you have a good internet connection, clear intonation, stay humble, and keep smile. It will help you to speak more naturally.

Last but not least, this is the best moment.

When I was cleaning up my bedroom in the morning, suddenly someone called me. My phone was ringing and a women said in Indonesian language. She informed me that I’ve been primary candidate for YSEALI Academic Fellowship Program on Civic Engagement 2016. Alhamdulillah, all praises to Allah who gave these opportunity. I felt so blessed and want to hug my mother. But she was still in the Sleman market to work. I informed her by phone and she was very happy. This good news was happened after one week I received LPDP Scholarship result to study in master program. All the hard works were paid off. I believe that it was only about the exact time. I failed in twice but the third one was the miracle.
So, never give up, keep spirit, and be on time to submit your YSEALI application !
From Feb 20 till March 26, 2016, I and 43 young leaders from ASEAN spent the time in Arizona State University. We made the new journey of life through the YSEALI program. You can find my stories in my blog as well.
Trust me, you’ll get amazing experiences with the new networks from the United States and ASEAN fellows that broadened your global perspective.

So, what are you waiting for ?

Let’s become the catalyst of change through YSEALI Academic Fellowship program !


Janu Muhammad

PLEASE VISIT THIS LINK (for Indonesian participants)
the deadline is May 15, 2016