I first heard of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program while I was a teacher in New York City. I had one of those “This is what I’ve always wanted to do!” moments and was soon applying through my graduate school, St. John’s University. My first application was declined, but I was told by my Fulbright Program Adviser to reapply next year. I’m very glad I took his advice!
My experience in Laos through the Fulbright ETA Program was beyond anything I could have prepared myself for. Even with the intensive, pre-service Fulbright training, there were plenty of lifestyle adjustments to be made. The learning curve included driving a motorbike while eluding aggressive stray dogs (good thing I had had my Rabies boosters), understanding and ordering a completely new menu of foods, and attempting to communicate through a very tonal language.
Fortunately, I was not alone in my assignment and was accompanied by two other Fulbright ETAs, Jessica and Mysee. They would be the closest and most reliable forms of support I had during my program. Collaborating with my Lao co-teachers, staff, and faculty was professionally and personally stimulating and beneficial. We became friends and I was invited to their family dinners, events, weddings, and holiday parties. I learned the most about Lao culture this way! There is a fun game that we would play called Kato or Rattan Ball. It’s like volleyball and hacky sack combined!