Coming To America, Inshallah
Hiba pulled me into a couple new interviews this past week to help out some UGRAD students, Elnur and Vusal. UGRAD is another program, similar to the Muskie program I talked about here, that sends students to the US for education. This one is geared towards university students going for their bachelor’s degree. The Muskie program is for students who are looking at studying at a Masters level. The other similar program, FLEX, is for high school students. Muskie and UGRAD go through IREX, and FLEX is run through the American Council.
Elnur and Vusal are a couple of sweet kids who know their English fairly well. They are in their third year at Lənkəran State University studying English. Last year, they applied for the UGRAD program and didn’t make it through the first round, the application round. This year, however, they managed to sail through Round One, and they are on to the interview round. Much like with Aytəkin and her Muskie interview, we spent a lot of time going through interview questions, possible answers, and fixing up a few English grammar and word choice errors. We also gave them a few tips on what to do for interview day. Remember the handshake post? Yeah, we got them to give us firmer handshakes. And they’ll probably shave the day of or day before the interview, which will be good. The shadowed, or grizzled, look is kind of fun, but not for interviews, generally.
We also took them on a shopping trip! We headed to the bazaar in search of sweaters. Elnur and Vusal’s first ideas were that they could wear black suits to the interview: black shoes, black trousers, black jacket, black tie, white shirt. What a get-up, right? Hiba and I decided that we could do better. Instead we took a couple hours walking through the bazaar, having them try on sweaters and shirts to see if we could find something that might make them stand out a little more. And we’re expanding their sense of style. Azerbaijanis love black. I think they love it because it’s generally the least surprising color. No one ever says, “Oh wow, that person is wearing black!” unless its something particularly striking. Flat black suit pants generally don’t create that effect. Instead, we found Elnur a fantastic grey, buttoned sweater vest. He put that over a white shirt with a black tie and we thought he looked pretty sharp. And for Vusal, we found him a great navy blue-black cardigan. Again, with a sort of off-white shirt and black tie, Hiba and I thought he pulled it off pretty well. So, not only are we bringing our Peace Corps ways to development in this country, but we’re also scoring one for better fashion choices!
Elnur and Vusal have their interviews Thursday, and by the time you’re reading this, they’ve already left for Baku, where they’re going to be on their own. After they pass the interviews with flying colors, Inshallah, they’ll be on to the TOEFL round, sometime in March.