The long journey to the Obamaland began sometime late in 2008 when I first heard about the Fulbright FLTA program from my University in Ibadan Nigeria. No, not heard. I just saw the notice on the wall and I applied. The day I applied happened to be the day it closed. The long process involved an application to the university, a written test to prove knowledge of sponsored language, an oral test for the same purpose, and a subsequent online application which also involved writing two long essays.
Shortlisted candidates from the two applications were asked to take TOEFL while their applications were sent to Universities in the United States. Those who are finally chosen are those who were selected by their host institutions in the United States. If you were not chosen by any host institution, you did not get the selection.
If you’re selected, and you passed TOEFL, you got a visa, and are on your way to the United States to teach the language of nomination for a period of a year/an academic session. You will also be required to take a course in American studies (for either audit or credit) and any other course during the year of your grant. It is all fully paid for up to the flight fees, visa fees and TOEFL fees, and the grantee gets a stipend for every month of their programme year to take care of accommodation, feeding and board. Not so bad, eh? And you get to be called “A Fulbright Scholar” for the rest of your lives.
There was a joke which Atim George, the Nigerian director of the FLTA program was always fond of telling. She told it to us on this day when we went for the Orientation Programme for Departing Fulbright Scholars from Nigeria, at the US consulate in Lagos. It goes like this. A bunch of students in the United States had missed their Fulbright application because of an error on the part of the American postal company FedEx who didn’t deliver on time as promised. According to her, the company then offered to pay for their tuition in lieu of Fulbright which had subsequently closed the program when the deadline passed. The students looked at themselves, then at the FedEx boss and asked, “Seriously, do you really mean that we would be better off being called “FedEx Scholars” for the rest of our lives?”
Yea, I found it funny too, in a sad way. You just don’t want to be in their shoes.