I’m writing these words a few days after receiving that dreadful email. That which every applicant who has passed to the interview stage dreads…After months of running around, taking English exams, translating documents, asking for recommendations, applying for Universities, etc. I was not selected for the scholarship. If I pictured this day some months ago, I would imagine myself locked up in my room, playing victim or crying a river. But this was not the case. Strangely enough my heart is full of gratitude.
Call me crazy, but I’ve gained so much during the journey that I have no regrets, just lessons learnt. Failure is always a possibility, but so is gaining something from every step along the way, and that option depends completely on us and our attitude.
During all this process of applying (and even before, when I started considering taking a master’s degree) I took my time to think about what I really wanted to do with my life, and where I picture myself in the future. I asked myself those uncomfortable questions. It’s so much easier to live an unexamined life, but so less worth living (paraphrasing Aristotle). I did some risky career moves, quit a job I was unsatisfied with (having no Plan B), and discovered that there are amazing opportunities waiting once you leave space for them to show up. I still don’t have all the answers (in this uncertain world no one does), but I’m proud of where I’m going. I trust that in a few years from now I will look back to this moment and realize it was a turning point towards becoming my best self and not being a victim of circumstances.
I met amazing people. Without being a scholar, I feel like I have my very own Scholar Tribe. This whole journey is so much about creating a strong international network. By reaching out to applicants sharing my experiences, reflections, successes, fears, ambitions, hopes for the future and listening to others’ experiences, I met amazing people and was constantly stimulated and inspired by their drive to change the world for the better. I rejoiced in their success and felt as if it was my own. I believe amazing things happen when we root for each other and build something together. I’m also more convinced than ever that in this interconnected world where what happens in one part affects the other, building solid international connections and looking for solutions together is a must.
I made sense of my story. It’s amazing to connect the dots in our life. To discover how every little moment was meaningful in a way, led me to where I am today and is pushing me towards where I want to be. By building a discourse in order to persuade others (the admissions office in the universities or the scholarship panel), I put every little milestone in my life inside a bigger picture and reminded myself of that stubborn little girl inside me (every once in a while we have to wake her up) who wishes to move the world
I discovered what kind of leader I am and hope to become. I believe every one of us has the capacity to lead, we are just different kinds of leaders: some are coaches, compassionate, think out of the box, great communicators or maybe are a unique mixture of qualities. The world would be a much better place when each of us discovers what we have in us to move it forward and dares to share it. This whole process made me reflect on my qualities and discover what I have to improve.
I developed resilience. Things do not always turn out the way we hope (and that sometimes is part of life’s charm). One of my mottos in life is “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. By hoping for the best I stay positive and learn from each step and make the best of the opportunities along the way. But by being prepared for the worst, I manage to move forward regardless of the outcome. Life is so much more than an end result, it’s the journey that makes it count.
So, what’s next?
I don’t believe in destiny, but I believe if you put all your effort and give it your best shot and it doesn’t happen, it’s because there is something better waiting for you somewhere else.
If a door closes, open the windows. Take a breath of fresh air, value where you are at and take a look at what surrounds you, you might be surprised.
Personally, reapplying is still in my horizon. Studying and living in the UK for a while has always been one of my dreams, and one shouldn’t give up on dreams so easily.
My first step was to email my first choice for University (where I had an unconditional offer) and ask them to defer my offer. Thankfully they accepted. As for my second and third choices, I’m checking to see if there are other courses that reflect my current career plans.
Secondly, I contacted my references as a sign of respect and gratitude for taking their time to help me out. Throughout the process, I had kept them up to date with the process of my applications (acceptances to universities, passing to the interview phase), so now I owed it to them to let them know of the final outcome. At the same time, I wanted to confirm that I could count on them for my next application process. They were extremely supportive and even shared some motivation and personal stories of perseverance.
Now I’m working on me. Maybe the reason I didn’t get the scholarship was because I need this time to be better prepare for my studies abroad so as to make the most of them.
As opposed to first time applicants (sorry guys, been there, done that) I’m lucky to be done with the bureaucracy (IELTS, translating my grades, applying, etc), even though some essay questions could do with some polishing, I am focusing all of my energies in becoming my best self. Right now, I’m doing an internship at the UN (where I always dreamed to develop a career in) and doing a volunteer experience that I’m passionate about and that is being eye opening. I’m reaching out to people, trying to connect with others who I admire and who resonate with where I want to go.
I’m working on my discourse. Apart from hard work, a lot of the success or failure of this process depends on how we present ourselves to others, and I felt in my case it could be done with some improvement. There is so much we take for granted, so much knowledge about ourselves that we keep in the metaphysic or mystic realm for it seems so obvious to ourselves. Sometimes we just have to be logical, to make sense of the steps we are taking. To justify our answer to life. This is not only useful in applying for scholarships, it’s useful for any kind of situation you have to convince someone you are the one.
And of course, I’m enjoying my beautiful country and having one more 3 month long summer ;).
I know there are many ways to go through this journey, none more valid than the other. Still, if I had to make one recommendation to those reading this it would be to make every step of the journey something that builds you up, learn from everything, celebrate every tiny victory, and connect with applicants and eventual future professors. And, most importantly, don’t let your self-worth depend on the result, know your worth. After all, the verdict might depend on plenty of factors, but the final outcome, what you make of the journey, that’s up to you.
What are your views? How do you deal with disappointment? What lessons has failure taught you? Let us know in the comments below!
*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect that of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and its partner organizations.