This morning I attended a presentation about the Fulbright program offered by the US Department of State. I didn’t much about it going in, and honestly more than anything I was attending simply to think about possibilities. As I mentioned in my earlier review of The Professor Is In, I need a Plan B, something to bridge the gap into the full-time teaching job I want.
And as it turns out, the Fulbright program might be a part of that solution for me. The program pays for one year of teaching English in a foreign country or one year of research study in a foreign country that can apply for a master’s or PhD degree or even a post doc. You could even get in on this action a few years after graduation. Recipients are expected to serve as ambassadors of US culture to other nations, and in exchange they get a modest living stipend for a year in a foreign country as well as paid travel to and from.
You need to a have a plan, though. It’s not like you throw your ring in the hat and hope you get sent somewhere great. Your application is essentially no different from a grant proposal, so you propose research in a specific country because something about that country holds an essential element for your research. For example, a biologist studying a species found only in a particular country could propose a research project in that country because only there is found the species that is the focus of the study. In my case, it would be working with a particular researcher. I would propose going to a particular country because in that country lives and works the particular researcher who can foster my research.
I didn’t start my PhD program with the idea of taking my research international, but as I sat listening to the presentation, it all felt right. A peaceful calm and assurance enveloped me. As I have thought about that experience throughout the day, it continued to feel right, like this could be the path for me. I don’t know that it is, but following it makes sense. One thing that sets more qualified candidates for academic positions from the rest of their hopeful competition is an expanded network. The more qualified have recommendations as well as a CV that shows evidence of a network expanding beyond one’s degree granting institution. Simply having a nationwide network would set me apart from the bulk of my competitors, so imagine what an international one would do.
Plus I’m still single and can really more easily accommodate doing this while I still am. And who knows? Going to a foreign country might be what I need to change that! Depending on the country, I might also have access to a healthier diet. I’ve heard over the years people talk about how “polluted” food in the US is. I never gave that much thought until recently. After years of trying to lose weight without much success, I wonder if there isn’t something to that idea.
At any rate, I’ll need to think about this some more. But it could be that an international adventure lies in my future. I’m open to possibility. Maybe this opportunity holds the possibility I really need.
Today I completed what appears will become an annual tradition for me. I took a vacation that I am calling Retreat 17. The idea was to get away from everyone and everything in my world so that I could reassess everything in my life. This last semester especially was rough on me, notwithstanding the great love and appreciation my students expressed at the end of it all. Add to that some bleak circumstances in my personal life, and you get my need to just get away, reassess, and rejuvenate myself to embrace a clear path with better alignment to what I really want out of my life.
I chose Wyoming’s Star Valley for several reasons: surrounded by scenic mountains, fresh air, cooler temps from the higher elevation, and not a lot of people and certainly not anyone I knew. I spent most of my time there (4 days in all) doing some deep thinking about everything in my life. And I didn’t just tackle anything randomly. I made a list of all the aspects of my life I wanted to reassess and start anew. With that list in hand, I took each aspect individually and applied a five-step process:
I used this book very successfully in my first-semester-experience course this past term. It uses social science research to support a model for making positive changes that last. This model cites six influences that can derail our change efforts unless we account for them. Most people plan for one or two of these influences at the most, leaving the rest of those influences to work against them. It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight.
I followed these steps for every individual part of my life, so little wonder I filled 71 handwritten pages in my notebook. From those pages I extracted the individual action items (271 in all) that can get me started taking my life to the next level. Admittedly, 271 action items is a lot, but I need do only one item at a time. And having lots to do is great. It gives hope I’ve got endless opportunity to turn my life around, a realization that brings with it great empowerment.
I returned home yesterday feeling very powerful and very hopeful I can live the life I want. I spent some time today finishing the process for the final few items on my life aspect list. Now I have a new attitude. In that sense, my vacation was truly recreational because I came back re-created. This truly was the best vacation I’ve ever had. I’ll have to do this again next year!
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