Hi, my name is Mourad Yazli, I hold a master’s degrees in Neuroscience from the USTHB. I am the co-founder of the Algerian Youth Voices (AYV), the first online broadcasting radio in English in Algeria, I am also one of the trainers and radio journalists within the AYV.
Due to the interest I have in the English language, I started getting involved in the American Cultural Center as soon as I knew it existed and the more I perfected my language skills, the more my interest in studying abroad grew.
Two years ago, I decided to embrace my dreams and turn them into concrete goals by applying to the Fulbright Scholarship, one of the most prestigious fully-funded scholarships available worldwide and I was selected among other hardworking students who embarked on the U.S. journey to study a professional master’s degree in business at Clemson University in South Carolina.
Why did you choose Fulbright scholarship?
You need to know that there are two kinds of adventures one embarks in: travelling and living abroad. While the premise is a sprint of positive emotions which rush to deliver you with the right amounts of adrenaline, dopamine and all the happiness inducing hormones; the latter, studying and living abroad, is a long marathon in which endurance is required if you don’t want to reach the exhaustion state, yet, it is the ultimate experience to have and the highlight of a lifetime. I decided to dive into the Fulbright Scholarship for all these reasons and more.
The Fulbright is one of several United States Cultural Exchange Programs whose goal is to improve intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, and intercultural competence between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. It is one of the most prestigious and competitive scholarship programs in the world (Source: U.S. Gov).
I also chose the Fulbright Scholarship because aside of being allow you to study, it also opens the opportunity to attend several conferences, be part of host family programs and you get to be the representative of your country abroad. Fulbright scholars are perceived very highly in the United States; therefore, people are more inclined to exchange with you and get to know you and your background. Being fully-funded is yet an additional perk you get to have, especially that studying abroad is a luxury that only a minority could afford.
Which field did you choose and why?
After graduating with my master’s degree in Neuroscience, I started working in the pharmaceutical industry for which I fell in love with. I could finally fulfill my goals of helping others through science and impact people’s lives directly. Having had that scientific background, I learned all the business-related skills I needed hands-on in the field.
By now, a couple of years at work have passed and I needed to acquire more knowledge in regards of business. Fulbright came at the right moment in my career and answered a need I had back then, to deepen my knowledge in Marketing, and although I have studied in a scientific stream my entire life and specialized in Neuroscience, I did not struggle at all switching fields as the Fulbright offers a complementary “Pre-academic training” that helps complete the immersion in the United States and provides answers to the flow of question every grantee has in mind. So, there I was, departing to the U.S. heading to Portland State University for a month-long pre-academic training before I start my master’s degree at Clemson University.
Pro tip: you can pursue any field of study you’d like through the Fulbright Scholarship regardless of your background; nevertheless, you must justify in your personal statement letter why this switch is beneficial to you and give a rationale to it. If you have a clear image in your head about where you would like to land in 2, 3 or 5 years, then you are good to go. You just need to tell this story and embark the interviewers in your narrative. If you sell your story in the proper way, there is no doubt that people would adhere and visualize it, too.
What is the added value of this program in your career and life?
The Fulbright program did not just offer me an American degree from a top 20 public university in the United States, but a life-long adventure to be remembered. I have networked with the most brilliant minds out there, made connections with influential professors and professionals. I have also been part of several conferences and enrichment seminars that allowed me to broaden my perspective on different topics but beyond that, this experience made me realize that multiculturality, diversity and open-mindness towards others cannot be learned through reading books but must be lived to be understood.
What kind of challenges did you meet?
The first challenge you face as an exchange student is the culture shock. The U.S. is unique, in all the meanings that this sentence can hold. Everything is different, and I can promise you that you’ll feel that you have changed planets at a certain point of your journey. If you like American movies, get ready to live in one and if you like adventure, rest assured that you’ll get plenty.
For me, I felt like I was living the proper American life once I attended my first class. The professor presented us with the class material and challenged us about the content, so far it was typical. It started getting less typical when we started debating about a couple of points and I witnessed how the students were challenging back the professor and doubting his perspectives with their own. This definitely surprised me, in the good way of course. My classmates were adorable, since we were a small class of 18 students, we used to hang out after class in smaller groups, eat out whenever we had the chance and made great memories going to the football games, bowling or simply celebrating a pre-thanksgiving and Halloween together.
If I had to list one problem I had (which wasn’t really a real problem), it would be the fact that I missed the Algerian food. I was living in South Carolina and I did not meet a lot of Arabs, let alone Algerians. When Ramadhan came, I felt like something was missing, our food and traditions are not necessarily known, and I had to adapt, cook and teach other about many aspects of our living, some of which, we take for granted and do not imagine ourselves living without.
One of the best aspects that I liked during this adventure was the relationship I had with my host family. Before even leaving Algeria, I got in touch with a non-profit organization that links incoming students with host families. The goal of these hosts is to welcome the student in the city they are heading to, to introduce you to life in the U.S. and exchange about our two countries around dinners or during a hike or whatever activity we enjoy doing together. This proximity allowed me to feel less of a stranger and helped ease the culture shock at first and made me share my great moments with them.
Could you tell us about the post-application process?
As you can see on the U.S. embassy website, the application for the Fulbright program is straightforward. It is necessary that you check every item on the list before you hit submit. Easy right? I would say that the application (including the two required language tests) are the easiest part of the application process. The hardest part follows, and it is: WAITING!
Following the submission, you’ll need to wait until you are contacted by the Fulbright advisor from the U.S. embassy in Algiers. There is absolutely nothing to do passed the deadline and for me, that was even harder than applying or taking language tests.
Once you are contacted, you’ll be asked to come for an interview. The next step if you are pre-selected, you’ll need to wait even more time. While it is very important to stay focused, answer emails very quickly, and be reactive to any request, you have to keep yourself busy because you’ll have no control over the outcome of your scholarship.
It all depends on:
- Your application (written and interviews) including the recommendation letters.
- The budget allocated by the US Department of State of that year for Algeria and the benchmark of your competitiveness vs others.
- Finally, finding the best fit for you and the program you have selected and detailed earlier. Fulbright advisors in the U.S. will try to negotiate with the universities to get you an additional co-funding or fellowship from the university to reduce the costs of the tuition. If the university offers you financial help, your chances are higher. (but hey, you won’t have access to this information – one less thing to worry about).
What are your tips to 2020/2021 applicants?
First, be prepared. The application process is long, the tests are challenging if you are not used to them. It is of an utmost importance that you are ready for anything that may come your way. You’ll need to be prepared for the TOEEL and GRE, and that means a minimum of 4-6 weeks of preparation since it is not about your English level but merely about how you beat the test and the time.
Finally, be bold in your dreams and make them come to life. Anything you set your mind to, you can achieve, and therefore, you have to believe in yourself so that others will start believing in you. It’s not magic, it’s only hardwork. The only question you should be asking yourself is: Are you up to the challenge?
Very honored to have Mourad YAZLI as my Guest today on Salma Shar
I met Mourad on LinkedIn and asked him to share with us his experience
Mourad tells us his story with career shift and studying abroad to inspire each one of us looking for new perspectives in his career and his life.
Thank you so much Mourad for being with us
For more details about Fulbright opportunities, please check Exchange Programs and Deadlines on the U.S.Embassy in Algeria website.
Mourad has been selected to The Fulbright Foreign Student Program.