The Fulbright Decision

The Fulbright decision came through on Tuesday, and it was not the one I was hoping to read:

“Dear Ms. Furlong,

“The J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board has asked the Institute of International Education to inform you that you have not been selected for an award for the 2016-17 Fulbright U.S. Student Program.”

When I read the first line, I just let out this audible “Ohhh noooooooo!” For the rest of Tuesday, I was in shock. I had been so confident that David and I would be going to Germany this September.

Wednesday morning when I awoke is when it sank in. I felt keenly the loss of the dream that I’d been waking up to for the last year. To think that it would not be realized was almost unbelievable.

After getting showered and dressed I sat down at my computer, and I found a message from David with the subject line, “Love your spirit!” The message read:

Good Day
I’m thinking of you and the unhappy news of Fulbright. This is but another test of character and spirit which you will make into a positive. So my love and admiration is with you today in turning this over to understand where you must go from here. I love you!

These few understanding and simple words dissolved me into tears. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I have David in my life. I knew it is because of his enduring spirit that I have a chance of turning this into a positive.

I am not sorry that I applied for the Fulbright. I learned so much in the process. I made amazing connections during my networking. And my advisers at Smith College, Donald Andrew and Ryan Lewis, could not have been more supportive. When I discovered the Fulbright answer in my inbox, I also found an email from Donald Andrew that said, “We tried our best. The only reasons I can think of is that you are over-qualified as a student applicant, and have not really been a student for too long, as we discussed was the danger for non-selection. I just wish there was a way to get you there.” I asked him whether he thought I should apply again next year. His answer was, “I think your efforts are best directed elsewhere, not Fulbright. Obvious to me it cannot be about the quality of your proposal, which could not be bettered. So it is other factors which will remain against you for the Student Fulbright.”

I respect his advice. Over the past decade, Smith has won more Fulbright awards than any other liberal arts college in the country.

So all the stars seemed to have been aligned, which is why I had my heart set on studying in Germany. I knew I had one big hurdle, and it turns out I couldn’t traverse that one. In German culture, there is a tendency to award these kinds of opportunities to the younger generation. I actually understand that. All those young people who are going to be studying in Germany this year have their whole lives and careers ahead of them. I had hoped that my life experience would compensate for the fact that I am older than they are. Apparently not.

So now David and I are adjusting to this development. Because of the job promotion he was offered last week, we may be driving straight ahead at that life crossroads I mentioned last week, instead of selling our home and moving.

I have some clues about what my next step may be, if we do end up staying here in the Pioneer Valley. Lately I’ve had the urge to write another book. I had started one two summers ago, and then set it aside. I’m feeling like it’s time to open that file on my computer and read what I’ve written as a way to get back to it.

I have a dear friend, Marie, who has recently asked me if I am writing another book. I said I wasn’t at the moment, but I am feeling the urge to get back to it. She said, “Saloma, you must. God gave you the gift of writing, and you may not squander that gift.” She said the last part quite sternly. She is a generation wiser than I am, so I think I need to pay attention to what she is saying.

My first reaction to Marie’s advice was to deny that I have a God-given talent. That is the Amish in me. It would have been considered “hochm├╝tig” (arrogant or proud) to think of possessing a God-given talent. And being considered proud was one of the worst things you can think of in that culture. After thinking about Marie’s advice, I realized that to accept my gifts is actually more humble than to deny them because I am following God’s will. To deny them is to act as if I know better, which is arrogant.

This afternoon I will sort those last two bins in my attic and then go for a walk. I will give thanks for this beautiful spring day. I don’t know what life has in store for David and me, and I don’t need to know that just yet. For now I will rejoice in this day and be glad in it.


Photo by Saloma Furlong, Northampton, Massachusetts, near Smith College

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38 thoughts on “The Fulbright Decision”

  1. So sorry to hear that the Fulbright didn’t come through. Quakers have a saying – “Way will open.” Way will open for you, and knowing you, it will be a good one.

  2. Congrats to U…even though the letter was not what you hoped for, now you know that God actually has something even better in store for u! HOW EXCITING!
    As you walk through this journey, following the Lord, may you find abundant peace and happiness….and lots of ideas to finish that next book!

      1. Your reply to Kris is so true. I am sorry that door is closed but at the same time I am excited to see what is coming next.

  3. Pingback: The Fulbright Decision – Former Amish News

  4. Saloma: So sorry you got disappointing news. Forge ahead with a new project and look for a new opportunity. Warm regards…Christine

  5. So sorry for the disappointment,yet happy to see you responding in a positive way. Who knows but God will have something much better in store for you! Again blessings as you wait to see the full picture!

  6. Saloma, We all have talents that need to be developed and used. Every time a door closes another one opens up, so take advantage of those wonderful things in your life. Life is all about putting one foot in front of the other, so go for more walks, they are good for your health. Your friend Tom

  7. I don’t know what else to say that everyone else hasn’t already said. We all really do feel your disappointment, that had to have been such a blow. A door has closed, but it doesn’t mean another one wont open. Your friend is right, you shouldn’t waste a God given talent. He gave you the gift of words to be used for his glory, as you have already done and I have no doubt will do again. Oh, and by the way, what a great husband David is!! I think having that kind of love and support in ones life is better than all the Fulbright scholarships ever given!!!You Saloma, are a lucky woman!!

    1. Pamela, you are so right! That is exactly the conclusion I have reached. I live my life, even without the Fulbright, because David is in it with me. Thank you for understanding this very thing.

      Blessings to you, Pamela!

  8. Aw, of COURSE this comes as a body-blow, Saloma. However, you know, we always think we’re seeing a complete panorama and we make plans accordingly, but our viewpoint is actually from the valley floor — a comprehensive perspective, from the ridge top, brings to our eyes an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT landscape, and we realize our best path may not be the one we initially chose. You have too much insight and talent for this unpleasant surprise to slow you down for long.

    But it’s also important to acknowledge and mourn the dream you now must relinquish, because it was a noble one. Sorrow is something to honor, but not to tarry in.

    1. Joan, I love how you describe honoring sorrow but not to tarry in it. I am acknowledging that this is taking some time to get used to, but also realizing it will take some time before I can get to that ridge top for a better view of the bigger picture. You’re right, I’m viewing this from the valley floor right now.

      Blessings to you, Joan, and thank you for your supportive words.

  9. Elva Bontrager

    Saloma, I too am disappointed that you won’t get to travel that path; it would have been interesting both for you and us to experience the information and insight and fulfillment you would have garnered. However, you already have a whole world within to explore and reveal. And that surely is a good thing. :)

    1. Thank you, Elva, for your empathy. I have so much good in my life, for which I am so grateful. And David and I have one another. We live in a beautiful home. We enjoy good health. Who could ask for more?

      Thank you for your encouragement, Elva. I wish you all the best.

  10. I’m so sorry. If age was a deciding factor… They have no idea how much life we still have… Real living is not determined by age but by passion. I know your life is demonstrating this.

  11. Oh my! I was so wondering how this would turn out. You tried, you had a dream and now you are going in another direction than you had planned. Keep going forward no matter and let all the “what if’s” for what they are. Your attitude towards all this is very inspiring. I truly wish you and David the Lord’s richest blessing as you now go forward with whatever will be coming your way.
    Greetings and prayers, Mary Maarsen

    1. Thank you, Mary. People cautioned me about hoping so fervently to getting the Fulbright. If I were emotionally cautious, I would have followed their advice. But I’m not, and so now I deal with the disappointment by honoring it and then eventually moving on to find my rightful path.

      May rich blessings be bestowed on you, too, Mary!

  12. I am sorry to learn of the Fullbright decision. I wonder what wonderful thing God has in store for you instead?! I am excited to read that you are considering writing another book. Good luck with any road you take in the future!

    1. Dana, thank you. I look forward to finding out what is in store for us also. And I’m excited to find out what path we take in the future.

      All the best in your endeavors, and may God bless you.

  13. I’m so sorry about your disappointing news. I’m glad you have people around you to encourage you at this difficult time. Whatever you decide to do next, I’m excited to hear about it. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    1. Thank you, Emily. I am so warmed by all these supportive comments and encouragement. I, too, look forward to what comes next, because I don’t yet know. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

      Blessings to you, Emily.

  14. Saloma,

    I was so sad to hear the news and sorry that I didn’t respond earlier. But you sound like you are handling it well and I hope and pray you’ll find a new direction to take you into the next chapter of your life.

    My thoughts and prayers to you as move forward in this truly amazing world.

    1. Thank you, Joan, for your thoughts and prayers, your support and encouragement.

      “In this truly amazing world…” How I like that. I am experiencing the beauty of the season spring forth in bloom and sunshine chasing clouds. You are absolutely right — it is an amazing world — and I’m glad to be in it.

  15. Oh Sabrina, so sorry. I checked in here hoping to read good news about the Fulbright. I know the disappointment of the “thin envelope.” I was turned down in midlife for a wonderful sabbatical plan by a foundation, and I stayed in the valley far too long afterward. Joan’s words above about mourning without tarrying are wise ones.

    I also applaud you for opening up to new writing possibilities and David for his promotion at work and his steady support for you. Just after Easter it’s good to remember–if the story has not lifted us up, it’s not the end!

    1. Shirley, I chuckled when I read your note. I am often called by a different name, but not usually by close friends. However, I knew who you meant, and I appreciate your kind thoughts and words.

      Yes, I find myself mourning. The other day, I was doing something that reminded me of my “plans” to study in Germany, and I felt such a longing for that dream, and sadness that it won’t be happening, at least not this year.

      I still have so much to be grateful for, though, and I know that another door will open.

      You are right… Easter and this time of the year are great metaphors for resurrection and new beginnings.

      Thank you for your supportive words, and may you have a Happy Spring!

      1. Saloma!

        Sorry to call you by the wrong name. I have a new friend with the other name. Thanks for forgiving my mistake.

        I can imagine that the loss of your dream, at least for now, at least in the form of a Fulbright, pierces you from time to time.

        It just stinks to lose a dream, doesn’t it?

        1. Shirley, there is nothing to forgive. We all make mistakes.

          You’re right, it does take time to let go of dreams that will not be realized. In the meantime, I still get stabbed once in a while.

          I’m heading out for a walk on this beautiful spring day!

  16. Oh Saloma, my heart broke with you until I read David’s e-mail. I would take those loving words over a Fulbright any day! What a beautiful and understanding note he wrote you. I’m sad that this particular dream did not come true for you.

    Another book project would be an asset to the literary world. Looking at the calendar, I can see that on the day you received the decision, I was book shopping at the Mennonite Historical Society in Lancaster and saw “Bonnet Strings” prominently displayed. I smiled knowing that no matter what that letter said, your resiliency would shine a light on your next path.

    1. Monica, what a sweet note. How encouraging to hear that you saw “Bonnet Strings” at Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society (one of my favorite bookstores in the world!) and that you thought of my Fulbright at the time. I am very touched by your thoughtful and understanding message.

      I hope you have a Happy Spring!

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