I’d applied for the Fulbright grant and then more or less forgotten about it. All the paperwork, and there was a lot of it, got in just under the wire sometime in November. Then for some reason, late on a Saturday night in February, I decided to check my mail. I’d gotten a letter from the Institute of International Education. The first line read:
“On behalf of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and the Moroccan-American Commision for Education and Cultural Exchange (MACECE), I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected for a Fulbright award in Morocco for the academic year 2007-08. Congratulations!”
I thought to myself that this was a very, very polite rejection notice, put it down, and went back to watching TV. But something was bothering me. I read the letter a second time, and the feeling just grew stronger. Something just wasn’t right. The third time I read it, I got a sneaking suspicion: perhaps this wasn’t a rejection letter.
I’m not going to lie: I was shocked. For about two hours I was convinced that I’d somehow read the letter wrong. When I finally got it through my head that I had, in fact, earned the grant, I sat on the couch and stared at the wall. I think I mumbled the phrase “I’m going to Morocco” over and over again; to be entirely honest, I wasn’t happy so much as shocked. That didn’t really go away. That first night I felt sort numb.
Everyone was surprised, but pretty much everyone was supportive. The first person I told was my friend Marisa, because I’ve known her for 15 years now, and she travels all over the world. I think she’s in Japan right now. Someone who shall go unnamed told me that South America is a nice place. And that Morocco is a lovely island. Most people were really interested, and as they started asking me questions, I realized that I had no idea what a Fulbright grant was. I didn’t know how much I got paid, how long it was for, etc.
I was up a creek.
As a side note, I had also applied for a Critical Language Enhancement Award so that I could learn Arabic. I didn’t hear anything about it in that initial letter; I got an email some time later that told me I’d been accepted. I was surprised to learn that the CLEA duration was at least 90 days of study; for some reason, I had gotten it in my head that the whole program was only 5 weeks. Surprise!