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From Fulbright Teacher Program to fully-funded Master's at the University of Reading

πŸŽ“Master
Scholarship
Grant
TESOL
Teaching
May 18, 2023
9 mins read

English

University of Reading
University of Reading
sevara.ikromova

☘️

@sevara.ikromova
from
UzbekistanπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Ώ
πŸ’Ό Master Of TESOL
⏳ Jan 2022 β€” Dec 2023
πŸ“ Reading,
UKπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§
πŸ—£ English
βœ… Student Visa
University of Reading
University of Reading
πŸ“ Reading,
UKπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§
πŸ€“ 16,000 Students
🌏 30% International

To begin with, I am from the Fergana region of Uzbekistan and come from a simple family. My educational journey started at the Lyceum, from where I progressed to university and earned my bachelor's degree in world languages. After graduating, I returned to Fergana and began my teaching career as an English language teacher. It was during this time that I first became interested in international grants. I knew that these could open doors to even more opportunities for both personal and professional growth. I was always aware that dreams of traveling, learning, studying, and meeting new people could be realized if I put forth the effort.

International Programs I took part in

John Smith Trust program in the UK

My first grant came from a program in the UK, the John Smith Trust, which is aimed at leaders. It was a bit unexpected, really. I'd been trying for various international programs for a while, but even with some experience, I hadn't landed one until 2017. I was really excited when I got accepted. John Smith Trust program is quite costly but the grant covered all expenses for participants including air travel and living costs. What's interesting is that I was the first leader from Central Asia to get this grant, which was quite an accomplishment.

ITEC program in India

After my first grant, I found myself continually drawn to pursuing more. It became somewhat of a habit, a desire to strive for more opportunities. Subsequently, I applied for the ITEC program in India. This was an intensive two-month program in New Delhi, where I studied within a female leadership program.

Similarly, the ITEC program was also a full grant, covering everything from flights to all other expenses. I didn't have to spend any money out of my own pocket for these experiences.

This is something I always emphasize when discussing these grants and my accomplishments with my students. The concept of "impossible" simply doesn't exist.

Fulbright Teacher Program

My third grant brought me to the United States, specifically to Chico State University in California. This was part of the Fulbright Teacher Program, a rigorous six-week course that truly changed my perspective as a teacher.

Like the previous grants, this one was also full-ride, covering all costs from airfare to living expenses. The Fulbright program is designed for a variety of participants, such as those pursuing a master's degree or teachers like me from Uzbekistan who work in public schools.

There are different types of Fulbright programs. One is the intense six-week Teaching Excellence Program, and another is the Fulbright Scholar Program, which lasts a year. I applied for the teaching program, as the Scholar Program requires less than seven years of teaching experience, while I had over ten years.

After this program, I took a break to focus on my family and the arrival of my baby. However, I didn't stop pursuing other grants.

Fulbright Teacher Exchanges
Fulbright Teacher Exchanges

Journey to Master's Degree at the University of Reading

Back in 2017, when I visited the UK as part of the John Smith Trust program, I had the chance to visit Cambridge University. There's an interesting anecdote I'd like to share from that visit. Within Cambridge University, there's a special garden with a beautiful fountain. I was told that only high-achieving, A-level students were granted access to this garden. Interestingly, they invited us in, as they were hosting us for some seminars. The fountain was the kind of fountain where people would make wishes and toss in coins. So, I did just that - I tossed in two coins, dreaming that one day my children would come to study at this prestigious university.

Fast forward three years, and I found myself studying at one of the top universities in the UK. While it wasn't Cambridge, it was an amazing achievement. This experience was a powerful motivator for me, and when I went to the UK for my master's, it felt like the dreams I had for my children had come true through me.

I got into the University of Reading, ranked 200 in the world, and a branch of Oxford University. There, I completed my Master's in TESOL - Teaching English as a Second Language. It was a full-time, one-year course that was both fascinating and effective. The University of Reading is situated in Berkshire, conveniently close to London. I consider myself fortunate to have been taught by some of the most renowned professors in the field, authors of esteemed grammar and English teaching books. It was an honor to learn from them.

in London, UK
in London, UK

Funding for my Masters: El-Yurt Umidi Foundation

The funding opportunity came earlier than expected while I was working in Fergana. I wasn't actively seeking a master's degree, but I was definitely planning and dreaming about it. The thought of studying and potentially collaborating with hundreds of universities, funded by my own government, was beyond my wildest dreams.

El-Yurt Umidi Foundation program has been providing tremendous opportunities for bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. students from Uzbekistan to fulfill their dreams. Importantly, the funding is only available to those selected to study at one of the top 300 universities worldwide in the future. Of course, being selected isn't easy. The foundation has a three-step process: documentation selection, acceptance by the university, and then an interview and tests. If you successfully navigate these steps, then you'll be awarded the grant. It's an excellent program, truly.

How I would describe the UK

The first word I'd use to describe my life in the UK would definitely be 'green'. The UK is full of lush green landscapes, and I'm someone who deeply appreciates nature. There was a park called Palmer Park near my house that was so beautifully green, even in winter. I often found myself just laying down in it, soaking in the calm.

The second word would be 'diverse', particularly when it comes to fruits and vegetables. I love tasting different types of fruits and while the taste doesn't quite match the sweetness of Uzbek fruits, I appreciated the variety available throughout the year. From pineapples to mangoes, I could find everything I wanted. This diversity led me to experiment with making milkshakes and yogurts, something I now miss.

Lastly, I'd describe my experience in the UK as 'breathtaking'. The expansive landscapes, the combination of seas, mountains, and hills was truly picturesque. There's something incredibly peaceful about being alone with the sea, the sand under your feet, and nature all around you. So, if I had to encapsulate my life in the UK in three words, they would be: green, diverse, and breathtaking.

Sharing Uzbekistan with the world

An interesting aspect of being abroad was getting the opportunity to represent and introduce Uzbekistan to those who weren't familiar with our country. I was proud to present our national dress, and gifts, and talk about our culture. It's always a joy to serve as a delegate for your home country.

I've had the privilege to do this in other countries as well, not just in the UK. I was particularly proud when, during a presentation about Uzbekistan, my 11th-grade students in the United States recognized Al-Khwarizmi, a scholar from my home country, in their math book. That sparked a great discussion and it was an honor to enlighten them about my country's rich history.

Travel & Food

One of the most memorable aspects of my time in the UK was the opportunity to travel. During summer vacations, I visited places that I'd only seen in pictures or read about in my students' English textbooks. Visiting places like Windsor Castle and Stonehenge and then sharing these experiences with my students brought a unique, personal touch to my teaching.

As for food, it wasn't too challenging to find halal food in the UK, particularly in Berkshire, where there's a large Muslim community. We had to be careful about reading ingredients when shopping, but thankfully, there were apps that could easily tell us whether a product was halal or not. Most of the time, we cooked our own meals at home, occasionally preparing traditional Uzbek dishes.

I also developed a fondness for UK's cheeses and coffees. The smell of coffee, in particular, is now linked with my memories of the UK. Anytime I catch a whiff of good coffee here in Uzbekistan, I'm instantly transported back to my time in the UK. It's a kind of nostalgic signal for me.

Challenges of Work-life balance

There's a unique mentality, especially concerning women in our culture, that prioritizes marriage and children. But from my perspective, and as a woman, I've come to realize that it all depends on how well you balance your personal, social, academic, and professional lives. I've managed to get married, have children, and maintain healthy relationships with everyone in my life, all while pursuing my career.

This balance requires a good plan, which entails managing your day-to-day activities, from meetings to dealing with family issues. For instance, I handle all housework, assist my children with their homework, and manage other household tasks. The key is effective planning.

However, maintaining balance also requires support from the people around you - your parents, your spouse. I consider myself fortunate to have a supportive husband who appreciates my achievements and encourages me. His support not only bolsters my confidence but also sets a positive example for our children. When they see their parents achieving goals and handling challenges together, it imparts valuable life lessons.

There are, of course, life's inevitable challenges. When a child falls sick or needs to be taken to the hospital, for instance. But even in such situations, mutual understanding and support between partners can be incredibly helpful.

Achieving balance sometimes calls for sacrifices. There were times when I had to forgo parties to focus on my studies, preparing documents, or assignments. I've had to cut down my time on social media, and I've substantially reduced my TV time. Instead, I've opted to spend my time reading books and articles.

Key advice for students studying abroad

For students interested in studying abroad, there are abundant opportunities and channels available. One example is the El-Yurt Umidi Foundation Admission Team which provides excellent funding opportunities for Uzbek students. However, many students aren't sure where or how to start, especially when it comes to paperwork. I would recommend joining official groups and telegram groups, as these platforms provide valuable advice and guidance for students.

Sometimes, you may come across societal obstacles, like when girls are told by their parents to prioritize marriage over education. If that's the case, and if studying abroad is truly your aspiration, it's essential to convince your parents that it's a safe and enriching path. This was something I had to do, even talking with parents directly to assure them that studying abroad is safe, especially when funded by a grant or scholarship.

Students should also be cautious of numerous advertisements on various websites and telegram groups. Not all of them are reliable, so my advice is to join only official channels. When applying to universities, go directly to the official university website. The admission team is always ready to assist you. Don't trust agencies that ask for large sums of money for university applications. Be cautious about agencies promising official acceptance letters and courses. These should only be obtained from official university websites.

You can handle the application process yourself. Every university provides guidelines on how to prepare documentation, write a motivation letter, and get references. Doing this yourself not only saves money but also provides valuable experience. If you need help, talk to people who have studied at international universities. The application process isn't difficult. Simply upload all required documents to the university website and wait for the results. If you need to translate any documents, such as school exam results, take them to certified translation centers. Unofficial translations are usually not accepted. Also, remember that universities usually require certificates like IELTS, TOEFL, or SAT. If you don't have these, register for them and prepare to take the tests.

When writing a motivation letter, make sure it's unique and reflective of your personality. Don't copy others; instead, showcase your experiences and aspirations. This letter should be developed over time, not written in a day. Have someone else read it for you, but never let someone else write it for you.

Lastly, take care of your documents, scan them professionally, and organize them well. Be vigilant about spelling mistakes in your motivation letters. You can't complete these documents in one day, so prepare well.

Plans for the future

As for my future plans, I've returned home and plan to work for the government. My professional goal is to teach English to teachers using the latest international methodologies. I also plan to travel locally before exploring the world. My aspiration is to pursue a PhD from a prestigious university on a scholarship. I also want to organize regional conferences to share ideas and experiences. I believe in sharing knowledge and contributing to society, and I hope to guide my students to achieve high results!



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