Tag Archives: Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship

Answering Everyday Questions: A Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Experience in Jordan, By Emily Hagemeister, 2009-2010, Jordan

Since I completed my Fulbright Program, I have often been asked a variety of questions about my time living as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Amman, Jordan.  I find that people are curious about everyday life in other societies and, given recent events, particularly in the Middle East.  From September 2009 until June 2010, I experienced Jordanian culture and had multiple opportunities to share my story.  Everyone asks, “What was that like?” or “How was that?” with wide eyes.

Here are a few of my answers and tips for applicants…

Being a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grantee helped me to become a more adaptable person both personally and professionally.  At one point, I thought that my Fulbright story was unusual because I originally applied for a Fulbright ETA grant in Egypt and ended up in Jordan.  The Egyptian Fulbright ETA Program was a better fit for my experience and skills but was canceled very late in the selection process.  A few of the Egypt ETAs, including myself, therefore, were diverted to Jordan.  Despite the long wait and transition, being placed in Jordan was great because it allowed me to reconnect with friends and professional contacts that I had made during my participation in the 2008 Critical Language Scholarship Summer Language Institute in Amman.

Talking to other Fulbrighters, I’ve come to realize that there is no typical path toward becoming a grantee.  Some applicants end up applying multiple times before being selected, some receive grants after being named alternates, and still others, like me, end up going to locations not mentioned in their applications.  Flexibility, persistence, and a sense of adventure are important when applying.

The Fulbright ETA Program offers an exciting opportunity to become a part of a community in a new country and share experiences.  At the Abdul Hamid Sharaf K-12 School, where I was placed, I worked side-by-side with a mix of Jordanian and expatriate teachers and assistant-taught students from a variety of countries.  I loved being able to share stories about my life in the United States and learning about the lives of my friends and students.  We talked about food, clothing, religion, politics, celebrities, cultural quirks, and so many other things.  I can honestly say that our similarities and differences helped to foster rich and lasting relationships.  Sharing your story and listening to others’ are big parts of being a successful Fulbright participant.

My time working on what I like to call my ‘unofficial program’ was equally as important as the time spent on my ‘official program.’  My ‘official program’ included teaching at my assigned school and studying conversational Arabic.  This is what the Statement of Grant Purpose in a Fulbright application covers.  Conversely, my ‘unofficial,’ but equally important, program included volunteering to teach English to Iraqi refugees, building meaningful friendships with people from other cultures, and using my skills in other ways to help my local host community.  You may not know what effect your ‘unofficial program’ will ultimately have, but this investment can make a tremendous difference in the lives of others long after you’ve left your host country.  A Fulbright U.S. Student Program experience can and, in my opinion, should be enriched by making giving back to your host community a priority.

From these answers, I offer the following pieces of advice to prospective applicants:

  • Flexibility, persistence, and a sense of adventure are all important applicant qualities.
  • Preparing to share your story should begin as early as the application process (remember, your story makes you unique as an applicant).
  • Spend time thinking about your ‘unofficial program’ and how you can give back to your host country.
  • Take time to enjoy the process…good luck!

Emily Hagemeister (center), 2009-2010, Jordan, posing with her first graders at the Abdul Hamid Sharaf School in Amman, Jordan.

Questions for Emily about her Fulbright experiences?  Feel free to email her at EHagemeister.AlumniAmbassador@fulbrightmail.org.

On Using Your Time Outside of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Classroom, By Mark Beasley-Murray, 2008-2009, Fulbright ETA to Brazil

• What use you will make of your time outside the classroom? (Most ETAs work no more than 20 to 30 hours per week.)

Although this question is the last bullet point listed in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website’s section on developing the Statement of Grant Purpose for Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grants, it is certainly not least in significance.

Because I’m a Fulbright ETA alumnus and because there is much room for interpretation on how ETAs might spend those 20-30 hours per week outside of the classroom, I thought I would delve a little deeper and offer some suggestions.

So, how does one plan a worthy ETA side project in one of over 50 countries when the location and placement circumstances are initially unknown? Good question. Although there is no easy answer (sorry), there are several considerations to keep in mind while crafting a description of your proposed side project. The suggestions below have proven helpful to other Fulbright ETA applicants I’ve advised – and who were awarded the grant. My hope is that my two cents may prove helpful to you, too.

First, do not underestimate the importance of your time outside the classroom. Since much of your time will be spent outside of the classroom, Fulbright application reviewers are curious to know what you might be up to the other quarter or half of your work week. This is an opportunity to show what you hope to gain from your experience and how you might contribute to your Fulbright host country.

Second, keep in mind that the reviewers evaluating your Fulbright ETA application understand how difficult it is to describe a potential side project without knowing the particulars of your placement. Even though they recognize the difficulty of this task, they still expect you to be able to undertake it, however. Your ability to successfully describe an adaptable, worthwhile project will distinguish your application from other candidates with similar credentials who have not thoroughly thought through what they hope to accomplish. That said, it would be wise to heed the advice offered in the ENGLISH TEACHING ASSISTANTSHIPS: Developing the Statement of Grant Purpose section of the website: do not be overly specific or grand in your side project proposal. You may have a five-star, phenomenal, blockbuster idea for a research, vocational, or community service project. However, if the project is too location-specific or too involved, this may doom your otherwise strong application if it is seen as detracting from the primary focus of your grant – being an English teaching assistant.

Third, know the range of possibilities in the country to which you are applying. These may vary considerably (as was the case in Brazil where I was an ETA). Your placement may turn out to be far from what you anticipated. It may be urban or rural, in an institution of higher education, in a primary or secondary school with access to educational materials and resources (or without), in one school or several, and so on. Often, the range and nature of ETA placements are described in each host country’s profile. Research those country-specific placements as best as you can. However, keep in mind that, if awarded the grant, you may end up piloting a new ETA placement, let alone one that hasn’t been listed yet on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website. If you have a preference for a particular type of ETA grant, describe how your side project would fit well with that specific placement but would still be adaptable to other placements as well.

Fourth, despite the uncertainty regarding your eventual placement, reviewers will want to be certain that you will be able to accomplish your proposed side project – regardless of the circumstances. While you should not to be too specific in your project proposal, this does not mean that you cannot outline the particulars of your project. Reviewers want to be able to envision your project as clearly as possible. This requires at least a few details. For those who are considering a community group or school-related project, there are some universal points you may want to consider when writing your project description, such as:

  • Is your project appropriate for the country to which you are applying? If so, why?
  • How does the project align with your expertise?
  • Who are the stakeholders in your project? If your project involves community members, how many participants do you aim to have? What is the age group? How will you attract participants? How does it benefit them?
  • What are the resources necessary to undertake your project? (Physical location? Art supplies? Computers or Internet connection?) And how would you go about ensuring that these resource needs would be met or overcome? (Additional non-Fulbright funding? Personal out-of-pocket funds? Jettisoning an online component?)
  • Where would the project take place? (In a school classroom? In a community center? In a park? In your host country apartment?)
  • When and for how long would the project take place? (How many weeks? How many days per week? How many hours per day? Will the project coincide with your placement school’s academic calendar?)
  • What will be the tangible outcome of your project? (Student projects? Theatrical productions? Artwork?)
  • Who is the audience for your project? How large is that audience?
  • How does your project promote the Fulbright Program’s mission of promoting cultural exchange and mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries?

The list above is not exhaustive. Each project will have its own particulars. Also, remember that it is not necessary to address every one of these questions in your Statement of Grant Purpose (in fact, given the online application space limitations, this would be a Herculean feat). Still, you should clearly and thoughtfully describe the details of how you will spend your time outside the classroom.

I hope that these suggestions on how to plan a Fulbright ETA side project prove helpful. If you have any questions regarding the ETA application process, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Good luck!

Photo: Mark Beasley-Murray, 2008-2009, Fulbright ETA to Brazil, reading to his students in a Pirai classroom.

The Fulbright/mtvU Award Competition Has Been Reopened

Those who applied in October 2009 for a traditional Fulbright study, research or English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award may not reapply for Fulbright/mtvU.

Please review the information on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website in the Program Overview and Types of Grants sections describing the Fulbright/mtvU award and also be familiar with the requirements of the country to which you wish to apply in the Country Summaries section on the website. Applicants should be mindful of the goals of the Fulbright/mtvU award when developing their study or research projects.

Applicants will apply using the Embark Online Application. Applications are submitted both electronically and in hard copy.

Complete information on filing the electronic and hard copy application can be found in the Apply Now section on the website. Additional instructions can be found in the Embark Online Application.

In addition to the Fulbright application, Fulbright/mtvU applicants must also submit the “Documentation and Outreach Plan.” The Documentation and Outreach Plan can be found in the Fulbright/mtvU award program information in Types of Grants and is only submitted in hard copy.

*Electronic submission: By 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday, March 1, 2010

*Hard Copy Submission: By 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Polishing Your Application, By IIE Staff

1. Make sure that your application follows the directions and is neat and easy to read. A 12 point non-script font is required with one-inch margins. Make sure that the paper copy mailed to IIE is on 8½ x 11″ white bond paper only.

2. Be sure your name, field and country are on each page of the application.

3. Do not send resumes. They will not be passed on to the screening committees.

4. Make sure that you are not proposing a multi-country project that is not allowed, (i.e., across world regions, or between or among countries that do not allow multi-country projects).

5. Make sure that you are not listing alternate countries as a 2nd or 3rd choice; this is not allowed.

6. If you are applying for one of the English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) programs, be sure to select “Teaching Assistantship,” code 5120, as your field of study. Only applicants applying for an ETA program should use this code.

7. Please do not staple anything to the application.

8. Please collate the application in numerical page order and fasten all pieces together with a paper clip or binder clip. Do not staple the application.

9. Make sure to answer both questions asked in item #27 pertaining to felony convictions.

10. Don’t forget to SIGN the application at the bottom of Page 1.

Finding Common Ground Through Music, By Rebecca Miller, 2008-2009, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) to Indonesia

As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in West Papua, Indonesia, my success in the classroom depends on an authentic exchange more than my students’ intellect and dedication to conjugating perfectly in all tenses. Teaching language sets the classroom course into the domain of real time communication – the creation of new words and thoughts – one that requires a space to meet and make meaningful exchanges. The ability to form words and comprehend their meaning is not enough. We all need to talk about something meaningful as well as ears to listen. For my students and me, music is that common ground.

Songs have been the foundation of my classroom curriculum. I never had to teach my students to sing. It is something we already shared. In my experience, Indonesian people love to sing and music is a very open, noncompetitive part of community life. As a teacher and a cultural ambassador, I listen to and learn the songs and stories of my neighbors and colleagues. I incorporate songs I know and love into English class, teaching students lyrics, asking them to write or verbalize their opinions of popular American music or to think critically and respond to the lyrics of songs they play off their cell phones.

I worked very closely with two Indonesian co-teachers who are talented, articulate English speakers and who are required to teach for a national exam that does not encourage functional literacy. My methods seemed strange: clapping games, singing pop songs, writing reflections on the lyrics, playing board games, acting out mini dramas. Why is our bule gila (crazy foreign) teacher making us play a clapping game in English class? To teach my crazy Indonesian students how to follow directions in English! These activities were my way of sharing ideas on how to teach English with my co-teachers. We developed our lesson plans together: they had knowledge of the Indonesian curriculum and fluency in the host culture, and I brought a different perspective on second language acquisition in the forms of games, songs and activities that promote functional literacy.

After school on Wednesdays, I worked with the student band program. I had an instant connection with many of those students because whatever their level of English, and despite my limited proficiency in Indonesian, we could pick up instruments and understand each other. Everyone knew how to play “Sweet Child O’Mine” by Guns N’ Roses and “All the Small Things” by Blink-182. Actually, everyone but me! Before going to Indonesia, I had never played either of those songs. My students had an “Aha” moment when they found out I didn’t know most of their favorite American rock songs. What a strange moment and true cultural exchange when Indonesian students half my age taught me “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” an American song from before my time.

What I learned through all of this is that in order to make language happen, there must be something to talk about. Without a relationship built on common ground, there is no real reason to keep listening and nothing much to say. This is the power of language – it is a gateway to knowing other people. Authentic cultural exchange happens in little ways. Music helps my students make the leap from learning the rules of a language to finding meaning in it. The lessons from my Fulbright experience, the power of language and the value of common ground in my work as a teacher and in making friendships, have inextricably changed the way I look at life. The world feels smaller and at the same time, no less amazing and intricate.

Photo: Rebecca Miller (center), 2008-2009, Indonesia ETA with some of her students.