The Greatest Success in My Life: An Essay to Secure a Scholarship Abroad

Hi there, it’s been a while. I guess my blog has turned from weekly posts to monthly posts to I-don’t-know-when-I’ll-post posts to I-don’t-know-if-I’ll-ever-post-again posts. But anyway, I got my circumstances, and even if I don’t always write something great and not even proofread my blog posts, I don’t want my (random) ideas to be written down here too poorly. So while waiting for myself to get motivated to share my other messed thoughts, I guess I’ll just use something that’s already a bit well written to share here: The essay that I wrote to get a scholarship for my doctoral degree.

But ugh, as usual, a disclaimer: my blog posts are not academic pieces of writing, so please don’t judge my academic ability from what I write here (though my academic skills or writings aren’t that great either, still…)

Anyway, when I was trying to get a scholarship to pursue a doctoral degree in the US, one of the requirements was an essay about the greatest success in my life, and here is exactly what I wrote. (I’ll share it here as it is ’cause I’m too lazy to proofread and edit, hopefully it’s not that bad (I only edited for confidentiality). And anyway, by saying this, I’m not humble-bragging, i.e. I am not trying to pretend saying it’s bad when it’s actually good to leave an impression of how much of a better person I am to you, nope. All these disclaimers are just me being honest to save my ass face in case it’s really as bad as you think. So please spare me. Thank you).

The Greatest Success in My Life
(An Essay for A Doctoral Scholarship Program)

My full name
My email address

My criteria of success have changed several times across the time but I have decided that the greatest success in my life would be when I could share with others, no matter how small, and in any kinds of forms such as motivating and inspiring them. I know people measure their success differently; some measure their success by their positions in the society, some by their wealth, some by their titles, some by their knowledge, etc. Nevertheless, I do not think these measurements are quite useful if not shared with others. A position, wealth, title, knowledge, etc. can be considered in vain if they cannot bring benefit for others, if they are not used to help others. This realization has brought me to reconsider my past accomplishment when I was at schools, at college, at work, and in a university abroad. I started questioning myself, “What have I done that benefit others?”

Born in a countryside, I was the first in my family to continue to junior high school, senior high school, university, and even studying abroad. My parents were peasants who did not even finish elementary schools; and some relatives who managed to finish elementary schools either got married or went to Islamic boarding school (pondok pesantren) in nearby villages or towns after they graduated. I was on my own; nobody helped me with school work but I survived not only academically but also ‘education-financially’ as I managed to receive scholarship to fund my study throughout high schools and universities. Indeed, I actually accomplished more than what everyone thought I would: I went to good schools, good university, became the best graduate, got a good job, and managed to study abroad by XYZ scholarship. I used to think that those accomplishments benefitted only myself until some people told me I have inspired and motivated them.

Looking back, I realized after I continued to high school, people in my extended family and neighborhood started to send their kids to and make them finish at least junior – and now senior – high schools. Some of them even sent their kids to universities. I admit that I cannot take all the credit. I know it is partly due to the government program, which has raised the minimum education people should have. Nevertheless, I know that my family and my neighbors tend to use my achievement as the standard. It’s as if my steps have given them hopes and made them think, “If a little country girl born to a ‘poor’ family like her could continue her education that high, then we, who have more, should try the same, and could have the same chance and achieve more.” As naïve as I might sound, I am glad that more people in my family, neighborhood, and villages nearby go to schools and higher education. 

In addition, when I was pursuing my master’s degree in the U.S., I kept (and still am) sharing my struggles and experiences. I wrote articles; I sent postcards to my previous schools; I volunteered and participated in international events in my campus, etc. I share with my international friends to help them understand the lives in Indonesia better and thus broaden their view about lives beyond their country. I share stories with my Indonesian friends to encourage them and ease their fear and worries in pursuing their study abroad. I share tips to get a scholarship and even advise them with their application. I know this might sound ironical now that I myself am trying to win a scholarship. Assisting others to better their chance in winning one could lessen my own chance as the competition can get tougher. However, if I let my fear in having smaller chance by sharing discourage me to share more, what would success then mean for me? This ability and opportunity to share with others, motivating and inspiring them, has actually encouraged me and motivated myself to keep trying to be a better and more useful person because, by sharing, we will not have less but will achieve more.

That’s it. What do you think? I guess I have a way with words, don’t I? 😌🤪🙈✌ But on a serious note, what is a success, though? In addition to what I’ve already mentioned in the essay (that success is different for everyone), I think that the definition of success, in a way, is not rigid as it can change over time. For example, one might consider himself successful if he could get a certain job. But when he did get that job he wanted, he might still not feel accomplished. He might want to redefine success for himself. He might want to change his definition of success at certain points of time. It happens, no? I mean, I have surely been successful in pursuing and finishing my studies abroad with a scholarship. But if you look at me now, am I still successful? Or have I become I failure? I don’t know.

And by the way, I didn’t mention the name of the scholarships here per se because, I don’t know, maybe I don’t want people to have too high of an expectation of myself and then think of the scholarships badly? I mean, if somehow I made a mistake or did a bad thing, I don’t want people to blame the ones who gave me the scholarship. I am thankful for all the scholarships I have ever received.

And, by the way, what do you think of “my greatest success”? Of my writing? Is it too lame? Well, I know I shouldn’t say it myself, but I guess I am quite good at conveying ordinary things and making them sound extraordinary without necessarily lying. I’m good at spotting my weaknesses and turning them into strengths (before others point them out). And I believe this is what people need to get a scholarship. (Though it kinda becomes burdensome later on ’cause I’m always worried that people think of me better than I actually am and that I’ll end up disappointing them. I just don’t want to be such a disappointment.)

Anyway, I guess that’s all for today. If you are in pursuit of a scholarship and need to write such an essay, I hope this post can help you in a way, maybe give you some ideas about what to write or how to write. I don’t know. And I’m sure this essay is not the only thing that helped me get the scholarship, but, who knows, right? So, well, best of luck, and all the bests :’)

PS: If you like my blog or this post, maybe you can consider buying me some coffee or something to support me. (Who knows my readers are actually generous and have some money to spare, right? 😌🙈✌)

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