Fulbright Experience Day marked the final round of this year’s Priority Admissions Cycle. Yet in view of the COVID-19 crisis, which shows no signs of abating, Fulbright University Vietnam had to adapt and find alternatives.
At Fulbright, the health of applicants is a top priority. This is why our Admissions team decided to host a series of experiential activities online instead of welcoming prospective students to our campus in Ho Chi Minh City. This is the first time Fulbright employed the digital medium for this aspect of its admissions activities. This iteration of Fulbright Experience Day has received the enthusiastic cooperation and participation of hundreds of high school students, at home and abroad.
On Fulbright Experience Day, candidates from across the country who passed the application round gather in Ho Chi Minh City to experience firsthand a day at Fulbright University and participate in the final group interviews. This year, Admissions team ensured students were still given the opportunity to sample all aspects of being a Fulbright student through the use of online tools.
Candidates participated in group interviews, underwent English proficiency assessments for the Bridge Program and talked to Fulbright lecturers via webinars. They were also taken on an online tour of the campus, played games with Fulbright students through an online platform, and chatted with Fulbright students to learn more about the environment and culture here.
“Unlike the quiet atmosphere of a few days ago – when Fulbright was temporarily closed to protect its students from the COVID-19 flu – last weekend was filled with the laughter and friendliness of students from around the country. During the discussions and activities, it felt like the physical barriers between us and our applicants disappeared. They were confident and comfortable sharing their thoughts with the Admissions team, then “followed” Fulbright students on the campus tour. As they listened to the introduction of the school, they also asked questions about the Fulbright student life and exchanged their academic interests with lecturers,” said Ms. Le Thi Quynh Tram.
Dr. Ian Kalman, Fulbright lecturer accompanying the applicants on the Experience Day, believed that this transformation of the admission process demonstrates the ability to innovate and flexibly adapt to changes, effectively coping with unexpected challenges. It is also a clear example of Fulbright’s approach to liberal education.
To create a vivid experience, the Admissions team recruited a powerful task force of 30 Fulbright students and 6 lecturers, as well as mustered the entire Fulbright Admissions Office and volunteers from around the country.
Kyaw Zin Myo, a student from Myanmar confessed that this activity helped him gain a real feel for the student culture and academic style at Fulbright University.
“I like group discussions that allow us to both agree and disagree with each other about certain topics and learn from each other. I also had the opportunity to visit the campus through the online tour which impressed me deeply. The Fulbright students are very friendly, and they helped me to gain better understanding of the school. It is even more fascinating because I got to meet other students from across Vietnam,” shared Kyaw Zin Myo.
A twelfth-grader from Bac Giang High School for the Gifted, Le Thi Quynh Trang admitted that she had been so nervous the night before that she could not get any sleep. However, the activity was so exciting that it kept her awake.
“The test allowed me to raise my voice and express my opinion, making me feel like it was just a casual, chilled-out conversation, which was not stressful at all.”
Trang is also truly appreciative of the opportunity to make new friends. The experiential activities gave them a chance to engage, converse and bond with each other.
“During the group discussion, we talked very comfortably. I learned a lot of new things from my friends as we discussed social issues. I felt so fortunate to be in a group where everyone is a great listener and respects each other’s ideas. My peers are so talented and kind, the spotlight was shared among everyone because we all understood each other’s desire for Fulbright. We still stayed in touch after the interview. I am very grateful to FUV for creating such a great opportunity for us to find good friends,” Trang shared in a letter to Fulbright.
Dang Tien Thanh, a grade 12 student from Le Hong Phong High School for the Gifted (Nam Dinh), affirmed that the admissions officers were not only fair supervisors, but were also very friendly and enthusiastic. Thanh asked Fulbright to help send to the group his promise to maintain their new friendships after this occasion.
As for Doan Le Phuong Uyen from Bui Thi Xuan High school (Ho Chi Minh City), she was eager to meet Fulbright’s admissions officer, Ms. Le Nguyen Thien Huong. Uyen had the opportunity to meet Thien Huong in her role as the co-founder of Save Son Doong, an organization that campaigns to protect Son Doong cave, one of Vietnam’s most amazing natural wonders.
“You have been my inspiration and also my motivation to apply to FUV. Therefore, the experience that I just had with you today was totally a blast and it was so surreal that I can finally speak to you. Thank you so much,” Uyen wrote in a note to Ms. Huong.
Nguyen Viet Linh, a Fulbright volunteer, was just as nervous as the candidates.
“This is the first time I have participated in an online group discussion like this, so I couldn’t help but fumble a little. When my internet connection or that of the applicants was weak, I felt even more anxious than during my own interview last year. When the applicants reported the form was inaccessible, or when they accidentally submitted before finishing it, those moments also made me jumpy.
However, thanks to the earnest support from the Admissions officers, I was able to complete my task. I was very excited to ‘meet’ and talk to the applicants who would possibly study with me next year. Although I only interacted with them for a short time, I saw many interesting faces, heard many interesting ideas, and just had a good time.”
Dr. Phan Vu Xuan Hung, a lecturer at Fulbright who took part in the Experience Day, remarked applicants posed many practical questions to find out if Fulbright really suited them.
“They had very extensive questions, from their freedom in choosing the subjects and field of study, or the purpose of the Core course, to questions about physics, marketing, science and environmental technology, as well as research opportunities. The more specific questions were about particular subjects and the required knowledge foundation to study at Fulbright. They also inquired about why lecturers chose to join Fulbright, extracurricular activities at the school and how students get together.”
On the performance of this year’s applicants, Dr. Ian Kalman was impressed by their curiosity and inquisitiveness, especially with their in-depth questions about his field of study (Dr. Ian Kalman teaches Anthropology). The questions showed a passion for learning incessantly, there were even some very carefully thought out philosophical questions.
“Even at the end of such a long day, the quality of the questions shows the importance of a learner-centered approach to pedagogy – given the space and opportunity to explore knowledge on their own, learners are capable of anything. I am grateful for the chance to share my thoughts on teaching, anthropology, and philosophy, and cannot wait to work with some of these participants both as a teacher and an advisor in the future.”