Tag Archives: Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship

My Beautifully-Bumpy Argentine Adventure

By Fareed Mostoufi, 2009-2010, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Argentina

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Fareed Mostoufi, 2009-2010, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Argentina (in yellow t-shirt), teaching at the Instituto de Enseñanza Superior Lola Mora in Tucumán

I had just returned home from six weeks of studying in Madrid, Spain, when my sister called to tell me about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Traveling to Madrid had been my dream since I applied to college, and I had come back startled by the vastness of the world and the richness of other cultures. She told me that the Fulbright U.S. Student Program was an opportunity to spend approximately a year abroad potentially conducting independent research, or assistant English teaching while developing personally and professionally. While still on the phone with my sister, I looked up the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website and decided instantly to apply…three weeks later.

Yes, I started the application process late. Hungry for resources on how to put an application together, I found out about and attended local information sessions, met with my university’s Fulbright Program Adviser, and searched the all-knowing Internet. I learned that I had to apply selectively to one country. I also learned that for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program (ETA), I had to explicitly outline my teaching style and plans for extracurricular community work in my application. I also learned that professors had to be reminded gently, but regularly, to turn letters of reference in on time!

Navigating Conversations: One Fulbrighter’s Take on What it Means to Be a Cultural Ambassador

By Shadea Mitchell, 2010-2011, Jordan

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Shadea Mitchell, 2010-2011, Jordan (left), with English teacher Mrs. Ghada at the Al-Ittihad School for Girls in Amman

My time as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Jordan was spent primarily in the middle school classrooms of the Al-Ittihad School for Girls, encouraging students to utilize their English conversation skills while also serving as a resource to other English language instructors.

Midway through my Fulbright year, I convinced my supervisor, the school’s seventh grade English instructor, to allow me to lead weekly conversation sessions. Since many students were already well-spoken and comfortable making small talk in English, I wanted to contribute to the English classes in a meaningful way and thought this would be especially beneficial to the older girls. I wanted to encourage them to discuss more interesting topics than those covered in their textbooks but I didn’t intend to discuss anything controversial. Nevertheless, there were a few times when their curiosity led to some intense but rewarding discussions.

Thinking about post-graduation plans? Listen to Lauren Petersen talk about her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship experience in Poland.

The Unexpected Journey, By Mildred Gonzalez, 2011-2012, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Spain

It was only spring of my senior year at Lafayette College, but I could already feel the sun beating down my neck, my best friend and I quickly regretted the trip to check our mailboxes, but chatted as we walked. I was happy to have accepted a job offer, but told my friend that a part of me still felt unsettled about life after graduation. After all, we were about to say goodbye to our home for the past four years. This was as obvious and as painful as the sun stinging our eyes, but neither of us spoke about it. When we arrived at our mailboxes, I reached into mine and unexpectedly discovered a thin manila envelope. It contained a letter congratulating me on being offered a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Madrid, Spain.

If someone came up to me a few years ago and told me that I would one day become a Fulbrighter, I would have laughed. The Fulbright Program was something that I had heard about in presentations, but not something I imagined myself doing. The first time I heard about the program, I was attending a Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) college retreat. Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors talked about their overseas experiences and the application process. Liking what I heard, I decided to apply, never thinking that I would be awarded a grant.

I am grateful to have had an opportunity to participate in the Fulbright Program. It is not every day that someone has the chance to work with students in another country. Through my assistant teaching experiences, my students’ perspectives on the United States changed as well as my own. My presence in the classroom allowed my students to experience another culture, as I made sure to give presentations on American holidays and traditions. While my students learned about Thanksgiving, I learned about Spanish traditions. I started a pen pal program between my students in Spain and a group in Texas. This project not only helped with students’ language acquisition, it also created a format for cultural exchange. Through my Fulbright experiences, I learned that I do not want to be just a teacher; I also want to be a student. Living in Spain created a desire within me to learn about other cultures and gain different perspectives.

Looking back, if I hadn’t received a Fulbright grant, I still wouldn’t have regretted applying. The application was hard work, but putting it together has prepared me for applying to other competitive programs I might pursue in the future.

If I could give future applicants any advice, it would be the following: Don’t just know why you want to receive a Fulbright grant, know what you can do in your selected country. It is important to research the country in which you would like to carry out your grant. Remember that the Fulbright Program is about cultural exchange. It is not just about how you will change as a result of your Fulbright experiences, it also involves asking how you’ll have an impact on those you’ll meet. You are applying to become a cultural ambassador. It is a big responsibility, but one that I enjoyed every minute of.

Photo: Mildred Gonzalez, 2011-2012, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Spain (far right), with her first year high school students at IES Al-Satt in Madrid, Spain

A Letter to Fulbright Applicants, By Julia Anderlé de Sylor, 2009-2010, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Germany

 

Congratulations!

You have made it past the first stage of applying for a Fulbright grant. Those hours spent writing and revising Personal Statements and Statements of Grant Purpose, filling out seemingly never-ending forms, hunting down and begging professors for recommendations and language assessments, making copies, printing and finally, submitting your electronic application— it’s all over, finito, basta, fertig. You are officially halfway through the Fulbright application process.

You are now, to quote my father, a potential “Halfbright.”

Still ahead: what I found to be the most difficult aspect of applying, months of torturous uncertainty. 

Why am I congratulating you, then, when it’s not even over and you may not have been awarded a grant? Because just getting past stage one is a very remarkable accomplishment. I have spoken to many Fulbright alumni and it is universally agreed that the Fulbright application is one of the most time-consuming and energy-draining scholarship applications. It’s practically the equivalent of applying to ten graduate schools at once!

But is it worth it?

Absolutely.

My Fulbright experience in Germany, in 2009 as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant literally changed the course of my life. Before coming to Germany (when I was still in the first stage of applying), I had planned on being in Germany for a year, and then applying to grad schools in the United States. I hoped to improve my German, take a few German literature classes at the Universität Bonn, and naturally, teach English in a German high school − all activities which would, with luck, increase my chances of getting into a prestigious Ph.D. program.

That was the plan. But, as Robert C. Gallagher once said, “Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.”

Now it’s 2012 and I am back in Europe. I had enjoyed assistant teaching English and studying in Germany so much that I decided to enroll in a dual master’s degree program in French-German studies at the Universität Bonn and l’Université Paris-Sorbonne. My first year, post-Fulbright, was spent studying at the Sorbonne and working as a Teaching Assistant in two Parisian high schools. This just goes to show that Fulbright really can change your life.

I am also incredibly grateful for the friends I met through Fulbright. Germany has a very strong Fulbright alumni network (which you can become a part of, even if you are not yet an alum), and they have both national and regional networks. The national network organizes four to five big events per year (including the unforgettable Winterball, which this year will take place in the beautiful Schwerin Castle in northern Germany), while the regional group helps to organize outings and smaller get-togethers such as Fulbright Thanksgivings. These networks emphasize an incredibly important aspect of the Fulbright Program: the meaningful, life-long connections you are bound to make. I cannot express how thankful I am for the long-lasting friendships that I have made through Fulbright.

I wish all of you perseverance and steady nerves for the next few months; despite all of the paperwork and countless hours, it really is worth it. I’ve been in your shoes and I know how the uncertainty feels.

Best wishes and good luck to all you stalwart “Halfbrights!” I stand with you in Ful-support!

Photo: Julia Anderlé de Sylor, 2009-2010, Fulbright ETA to Germany, with Ulrich Götz, German Fulbright alumnus and Fulbright Alumni Coordinator for Bonn and Cologne, attending a Fulbright information fair and speaking to high school students about the program