• Lulu Johnson

Being a Finalist During Covid-19

It has been about three weeks since I found out I was selected as a finalist for Fulbright South Korea. When I applied for the Fulbright program back in April-October 2019, Covid-19 did not exist and even when I found out about my semi-finalist status back in January 2020, Covid-19 was not a big issue in the United States. But by the time I found out my finalist status in late March 2020, it was during the Covid-19 pandemic. When I read I was selected for the award my emotions were of joy, excitement, and most of all a sense of accomplishment. I felt so relieved that after months of application paperwork and more months of waiting, I had something to show for it. However, when the feeling of joy and excitement died down, I started to wonder if Fulbright will continue to happen due to Covid-19. Any other year, I would have begun preparations for South Korea immediately but with the Covid-19 pandemic, there was still a chance that Fulbright 2020-2021 would be cancelled. I did not want to start my preparations for Fulbright or even buy anything for my year long journey if it was going to be cancelled. I felt like I was back to a “semi-finalist” status.

Even though I knew I received the award, I was now waiting to see if Fulbright continue with its program. Many countries notified their applicants of their selection status and it seemed promising that Fulbright would happen. But none of us finalist received confirmation that Fulbright would happen. We received an email, in summary stated, “The Fulbright program will continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak closely, and IIE or the Fulbright Commission in your host country will keep you updated if there are any changes that may impact your upcoming grant”. A vague statement with no definitive answer, which is good and bad. Just from the group chat that I was a part of, there were many applicants who had to weigh the chances of Fulbright occurring, declining a graduate program for Fulbright or defer for a year in the hopes that Fulbright would happen. All my plans have changed due to Covid-19 and nothing has been set in stone. I am still unsure what is going to happen, but I am hoping for the best.

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