First and foremost, I just want to say thank you to Bush Foundation and fellow cohort. Even in my wildest imagination, I wouldn’t dare to dream of becoming part of this great tradition. It has been a wonderful journey and a great honor to be part of the fellowship. Specifically, thank you for walking along my leadership journey, taking me to places where I wouldn’t perhaps able to afford on my own; and for creating a learning space to grow personally and professionally. The fellowship has been instrumental in my leadership journey in these two unforgettable years. I have accomplished what I have set to do from the beginning, which is to finish all the courses and classes in the academic program that I enrolled in. As the chapter has come to an end, I am turning a new page and will carry with me all the friendship, humility and confident I have gained from being part of the cohort.
Academic Program. At first, it was like a dream. Then it became real. Especially in regard to the aspect of recognition. Financial support was unbelievable. I truly appreciate the intentionality, authenticity and the mission of the Bush Foundation. It is absolutely empowering to know that Bush Foundation truly invest in individual and people. It is like a bold challenge to aspire individuals everywhere, from every walk of professions, that if you dare to dream and able to chart your course into actionable plan to better this region, there are ways to make that dream a reality. Through Bush Fellowship, my journey toward educational leadership has been reassured. More importantly, my confident has grown as I did not need to worry about paying for tuition for the entire academic program. The past two years has been a blessing. In addition to gaining knowledge, experiences and skills on how to become effective education leader, I came away with a deeper understanding of the concept of servant leadership. In essence, leadership is an opportunity to serve a mission larger and greater than self.
The World as a Big Learning Classroom. Many people said travelling is a good investment and so I completely agree. Travelling enables me to explore new places and being exposed to different perspectives. I am blessed to be here today, but I wouldn’t be here without my past. I was born and raised in a dispute region in Burma/Myanmar and had lived in a confined refugee camp during my early childhood years. Before coming to America, I was stateless and without recognizable status. Without legal document or citizenship, travelling is impossible.
However, during my early years, I developed a passion for reading, especially reading the old National Geographic magazines that left by foreign missionaries or NGO workers. As a result, I always want to try visiting places I see from those magazines. Traveling has been a passion of mine, whether letting my own imagination to take me to places or being there physically when I am able. My dream has always been to visit Burma and to experience some of the wonderful things I heard my parents told me growing up. The past two years have filled with wonderment as I have travelled regularly. I flew across continents and oceans to travel internationally to Burma, Thailand, Mexico, and domestically to the south, southeastern and western states in the mainland U.S. In addition, travelling to professional conferences have been a great treat. I will be forever grateful for all these opportunities.
Peer and Coaching Support. What has been very helpful to me was having a very supportive colleagues and fellowship coach. I truly appreciate the opportunity of having a coach and a quarterly check-in call. Through the calling sessions, I was able to digest, evaluate and share my thoughts, ideas and concerns. The guidance and support I receive were immensely valuable. It is great to have someone who walks along with us for a short time. I came to realize that a journey toward leadership is not a lonely one. Leadership is not a destination, rather the learning process is a dynamic journey always evolving.
Surprises. Time is essential and knowing how to balance time is both an art and science. These past two years have been extremely busy and chaotic at times, but I can now confidently say that I made it. Juggling between work, school and family has been challenging at times. But it also serves as opportunity to test one’s grit and determination. Finding the right balance has been a learning skill for me. In the midst of chaotic life, finding ways to be with oneself is fundamentally essential. One of the most surprising things about this journey is familiarized myself with the concept of “self-care.” Two years prior to Bush Fellowship, I did not think much about self-care in a concrete way. Previously I might have experienced burnout, but I didn’t know how to put it in a formal context. Self-care can be as simple as comforting oneself by doing meditation, walk around lakes or hitting the gym. Likewise, it can be as big as taking a family on a road trip or vacation. Considering self-care as part of sustaining leadership effectiveness has been truly phenomenal. I have been taking frequent road trips with my family and it really helps us sustain a positive relationship.
The BIGGEST SURPRISE of all would be the fellowship itself. Only in this region, individuals are recognized, valued, and supported regardless of race, gender, or family origins. It is not just for one year and for a single individual. Rather it is year after year after year to 24 individuals from one cohort after another.
Last Comment. Lastly, when I began the fellowship there were few things I didn’t know. But as time passed, they gradually became clear. It has been a great two years of unforgettable journey. Thanks Bush Foundation and Bush Fellowship for opportunity of a life time. THANK YOU! As much as I gain, the only commitment I will carry on, as soon to be past fellow, is “to pay it forward!”