“An absolutely incredible experience!”
This is how Roderick Prescod sums up his experience thus far as a Fulbright Faculty Development Fellow.
Prescod, who is a food and beverage instructor in the Hospitality Institute of the Barbados Community College, won the prestigious award in 2012. Last September he headed off to Florida State University to pursue his master’s degree in Instructional Systems.
The educator said studying at FSU has been a tremendous opportunity as the university’s instructional design programme is consistently ranked among the top two programmes in the United States for that field.
“It has been what I expected and even beyond,” he said with satisfaction.
It may never have been if he had not applied for the Fulbright Scholarship in the first place. He had heard about it from colleagues, particularly BCC Principal Dr. Gladstone Best, a former Fulbright Fellow who regularly encouraged staff members to apply for the academic award to further their education.
“I knew about it for a good few years but I only built up the courage in 2011 to apply,” Prescod reported.
Like many others, he was intimidated by the idea of the application process. However, once he started, he realised “it wasn’t as difficult as it seems”.
“The application process online was very user friendly. It allowed me to apply in stages so it wasn’t a case where I had to get everything in by one date. Once [I] started there was a period of time to get the requisite documents in place. I found it quite easy to begin the application and do it in stages week by week,” he explained.
This accommodating approach was a foretaste of what he would experience once he was actually selected as a Fulbright Fellow and Prescod speaks highly of the support he’s received from the Fulbright organisation.
“It all started with my Fulbright Gateway orientation which I went to do in San Francisco, [last August]. From there I was able to network with 67 other Fulbrighters from all across the globe and to this day we still network, we still correspond and that in itself has smoothened the transitional period for me,” Prescod added.
This support system extended to his new home in Tallahassee, where FSU is based, as there is an active North Florida Fulbright chapter in that city.
“They set up a networking system for past and current Fulbrighters to engage in interesting conversations and they take us out on tours around North Florida so the transitional period was good there as well,” he said.
This support has been helpful to Prescod as he takes on a rigorous academic schedule. As the father of a four-year-old son and an enthusiastic teacher, he wants to get back to both duties as soon as possible and so is doing the two-year graduate programme in just one year.
So instead of the usual nine-credit semester, he completed 12 credits in the first semester. After spending the Christmas season at home, he headed back to Florida last week to face his heaviest work load, with plans to tackle 15 credits’ worth of courses this semester and conclude with nine credits during the summer.
“It’s a bit challenging, but once you get into it, it’s not overwhelming. Being a teacher, I know how to plan ahead,” Prescod says with confidence.
Interestingly enough, being a teacher actually helped him as he returned to unfamiliar territory on the other side of the classroom as a student.
“It’s an interesting dynamic,” he admitted with a laugh.
“I had to transition from being in front of the classroom to being actually part of the class. I found [my teaching experience] very useful in that I sort of put myself in the instructor’s shoes as they conducted the class in terms of [trying to do] what they would be looking for when I do my projects. I try to participate as much as possible because I know how it is when you’re teaching and students don’t participate!”
His Fulbright experience has been so fulfilling that he has gone from being the hesitant applicant of two years ago to an enthusiastic advocate for the programme.
“Don’t be daunted,” he advises earnestly, adding:
“It is not a process where you are left alone, it is [one] where resources are there for you throughout – from application to interview to the initial stages of applying to different universities and all the way through, [people] are there to look after your interests.”