By Hasan Naser
Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship is a lifetime opportunity for any midcareer professional to get his skills honed and prepare himself for the leadership role in his field. The fellowship is tailor-made for the professionals as it provides them a great exposure to professional development activities such as field trips, workshops, seminars and one-on-one appointments with the experts in the field. Besides professional enhancement, accomplished fellows from diverse fields are brought and placed to 16 American Universities.
With every passing year, the size of the fellows from Pakistan is growing. Ten to twenty fellows from all walks of life are sent to USA every year to enrich their professional experience.
To work for news organizations such as Al-Jazeera TV, Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor, CNN, International Center for Journalists, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Voice of America, The New York Times and others is like a dream for many journalists across the world. As a Humphrey Fellow, I’m also excited to work for one of the news outlets listed above.
Here arises a million dollar question: how do you give yourself a chance to be considered for one of the most prestigious programs like Humphrey? To tell you the truth, there is no rocket science or hard and fast rule for being considered for the fellowship. The following tips could be useful for potential fellows:
First, you need to read the instructions carefully and check the criteria laid down for the Humphrey Fellowship. They clearly state that the fellowship departs from discipline-oriented programs and tailored for the professional enhancement. But many apply without understanding the nature of the program.
You have to keep trying unless you succeed in getting yourself shortlisted for the interview. Given the long application process, it can be exhaustive and time-consuming. But that is how it works. I got shortlisted in 2011 for Humphrey but could not make it among the finalists. And it took me a wait of another four years to be selected.
Clarity will help you in a big way. You have to be clear in your vision and goals. State them precisely and exactly. It is possible only if you are clear in your mind what you want to achieve from securing the fellowship.
Talk to the former Fellow:
It is extremely useful to talk to the former fellows because they have been through the process. They know the dos and don’ts of the selection panel. Their insight could just show you the right direction that can make the improbable happen.
Exchange aspect should also be kept in mind while filling out the application. You are given a lifetime chance to experience first-hand the culture and lifestyle of American people. It helps to get rid of the stereotypes like US people love only fast food. Their cuisine is one of the finest and delicious to be relished.
Keep it Simple:
Keep it simple, short and sweet. It is not the length of the writing that is going to take you anywhere but the substance. Be to the point and straightforward instead of writing a novel.
Humphrey fellowship is all about networking with your counterparts in US and gain from their best practices. Besides keeping yourself abreast of the the latest skills in your field, you also get a great opportunity to network with your counterparts. Your US counterparts could be a great resource for collaboration in future as well.
Like any other fellowship, it is the leadership promise you should strive to demonstrate in your application form. If you have a clear plan of action for the next five years, you are all set to steal the attention of the selection panel.
How your country benefits?
It is highly important to define how this fellowship is going to contribute to the development of your country. The US Government spends approximately $60000 to $70000 on each fellow selected for Humphrey. This investment is not meant for advancing his career alone but playing his role in the development of his country when he returns home from the fellowship.
Community work is part of American culture. It is highly encouraged and appreciated if you engage in community work. It also helps you to contribute to the wellbeing of your own community when you go back home.
Anyone familiar with the US education system understands the value of reference letters for admission to the US universities. So, choose someone who has the exposure and the experience of writing recommendation letters. It is also important to note that your referee should be someone who knows you well and is willing to spare a little time for writing your letter.
By giving exposure to US society, culture and professional activities, Humphrey program provides a basis for a lasting relationship between Americans and their counterparts overseas. Wish you best of luck for the next year.
The writer is a Fulbright/Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow
Philip Merrill College of Journalism
University of Maryland