There are no words to explain my six months Long-Term English (LTE) Program at the University of Florida English Language Institute (ELI), which took place through the support of the Fulbright Program. I feel so privileged to be a Florida Gator and part of the ELI family. Through this LTE Program, I was given the opportunity every day to engage socially and academically with Americans and people from around the world. It was an incredible experience despite the stressful COVID-19 lockdown that occurred upon my arrival in March 2020.
During my time, I developed so much appreciation for American school culture and I learned so much from the amazing group of supportive teachers. One of these teachers, Daryle, was extremely supportive for me, and I feel forever in debt to him. Since I love studying languages and experiencing different cultures, I am extra grateful for the Fulbright Program. Fulbright provided me with an extraordinary, life-changing experience that I am learning to appreciate every day more than ever. At ELI, there were students from all around the world. However, being a Fulbrighter sponsored by the Department of State, I was special. I caught the eyes of my classmates, who recognized that Fulbright is a big deal.
As time passes by, I reminisce on my time in Florida, and I feel my journey there has become part of my identity and part of who I am. When I was there, I never knew that I would miss Florida that much. However, now there is not a single conversation that I have where I don’t mention something I experienced in Florida. It’s become a huge part of my Fulbright experience.
I was so anxious about my English proficiency, but with the support of Fulbright, I was able to enhance my language skills without any financial barriers. I learned so much and enhanced my writing skills. I have had always meaningful and powerful ideas in mind but always struggled with expressing myself using proper written language. Also, I always had trouble structuring my paper academically. To be honest, I never wrote a decent paper prior to my fruitful participation in the LTE program.
Now, I am a student in a master’s degree program. In the beginning, I would request support from the writing center for help with my papers and get an A. Now, my help requests have gone down by 80% during my second semester– I feel completely prepared. And yes! You can do it too! It is insane! My quick academic and writing improvement is really beyond measure and it is in part thanks to the LTE program.
I can recall the special moment of my first academic achievement in the United States when my writing teacher at the ELI sent me a recorded message via voice note saying, “wow, Yassmine, wow. You applied what you learned perfectly and are the best in class.” She continued to say that she was amazed by the structure of my paper, my choice of words, and my flow of relevant ideas, even though the first paper I submitted to her was definitely a failing paper. I played the voice note so many times. Listening to these encouraging words really boosted my confidence and lowered my anxiety level about graduate school. Fast forward to months later, I wrote a blog for a class I am taking — a class where all my classmates are highly intellectual, capable people, and good writers. My professor admired my bold, cogent analysis and said, “it was an exceptional piece,” and she also requested to use it as an example for future students. Of course, I was thrilled to say yes!
My participation in the Long-Term English Program empowered me, and through that, I aim to empower others. In a matter of only few months and with the support of Fulbright, I grew from a student improving her English skills to a student supporting others in improving their English skills. I currently volunteer on campus in the Intensive English Program, and I am a conversation partner for Latino-Hispanic students. I am confident that being a Fulbrighter, possessing good language skills, and a master’s degree from the United States will have a significant impact on my future involvement in global change.
I cannot place a bigger emphasis on the need to take the courageous step to apply for Fulbright! Please don’t hesitate! You could be the one, who knows! I was once in the same shoes as you, and I had so much self-doubt, but I decided to challenge myself and compete with so many other qualified students. I had an inner voice telling me, “you’re the one, and you’re an upcoming Fulbrighter,” and another telling me, “trying is half the battle.” I was honored to simply try, and to be selected, despite my lack of English proficiency. This was never a barrier because it can be worked on, and it can be improved!
Yassmine is a 2020 Fulbrighter from Lebanon currently studying Restorative Justice at Eastern Mennonite University. She participated in a six months Long-Term English (LTE) Program at the University of Florida English Language Institute.