I was desperately trying to hold on to a dream when I decided to apply to the Fulbright Program. In high school, I became madly in love with my Mexican and Latin American heritage; I longed to live in Latin America, to travel through the different regions, to experience different cultures, and to hear people’s stories and struggles in order to better understand myself and better understand and help my own diverse migrant community in San Diego. In 2013, after being the first person in my family to graduate from a university, I was given an opportunity to fulfill this dream.
I was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student grant to serve as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Ecuador. For ten months, I lived in Guayaquil, the country’s largest city, and worked with university students at Universidad Laica Vicente Rocafuerte who were studying to become English teachers. I facilitated English classes, workshops, and seminars on topics such as U.S. history, culture, and academic writing, and my experiences as a person of color allowed me to combat stereotypes that students had about “Americans” and life in the United States. Fulbright was also an opportunity to gain practice as an educator. As an ETA, I gained valuable skills by working with university students and developing culturally appropriate activities. My experiences reinforced my belief in education as a powerful tool for promoting mutual understanding and social change.
Outside of my teaching duties, I expanded my undergraduate honors thesis research by documenting the educational experiences of people as a way of understanding current education reforms. This endeavor led me to travel across the country to listen to people’s narratives. My travels took me all over Ecuador; I experienced religious celebrations in small towns nestled atop of the Andes Mountains, the uncharted territories of the Amazon Jungle, beautiful sunsets on the Pacific horizon of coastal Ecuador, and the elusive flora and fauna of the Galápagos Islands. In each location, along with the geographic and ecological diversity, I would also encounter a myriad of welcoming people with whom I exchanged stories. My Fulbright experience allowed me to not only share and reflect on my own reality as an individual living in the U.S., but also learn important lessons that I can share with my own community.
I returned from Ecuador more eager than ever to use education and my experiences abroad to better help my family and community. I am currently working towards my M.A. degree and teaching credentials and hope to become an educator capable of helping students realize that there is a whole world out there from which we can draw inspiration. I encourage prospective applicants to think about their passion when applying to Fulbright: whether it is a passion for teaching or research, a passion for learning from people’s stories, or a passion for bettering your own community, communicating this passion makes an application more effective. Also, thinking of how to best transmit this passion is important; I recommend using powerful words and anecdotes to demonstrate what you love and care about.
Have questions for Davíd about his Fulbright experiences in Ecuador and as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador? You can reach him at [email protected].