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FLTA Foreign Fulbright

Infectious Enthusiasm: How My Fulbright Year Renewed My Love For Teaching

October 22, 2019
By Ángela Otero del Castillo, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Spain

I’m on a plane. Destination: Bangkok. I’m moving to Thailand to teach Spanish at Chulalongkorn University, the most prestigious university in the country, as part of an international teaching program funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education. As I float above the clouds, I can’t help but think back to my time with the Fulbright Program and feel a sense of profound gratitude. The Fulbright Program, after all, is the reason why I’m on this plane. That’s because the year I spent as a Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) at the University of Arkansas managed to do what I thought impossible: re-kindle my passion for teaching.


Let’s back up a little. In 2015, I moved to Scotland, where I taught Spanish at the University of Glasgow for two years. I loved teaching, but I wasn’t in the right mindset, and each day seemed harder to finish. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. So I made a decision: I returned to Spain to find something else to do. Moving back home after two years of independence proved to be hard, but I applied for a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship. I had no expectations of getting it, but—thank the universe—I did!


In August 2018, I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to begin my time as an FLTA. At first, I found the educational system a bit challenging to adapt to for several reasons. To start with, teaching assistants in my home country of Spain typically take on more of an observing and learning role, teaching with the support of the lead teacher for practice. I was surprised to find that here, teaching assistants direct language instruction. Soon, though, I allowed myself to take control of my classes and had lots of fun with my students. I taught two Intermediate Spanish II groups per semester, with around 10-15 students per group.


My first shock was finding out I would teach at 7:30 in the morning! Classes in Spain and in other countries, such as Scotland, where I had worked before, start at 9:00 A.M. at the earliest! I soon discovered, however, that most of the students really wanted to be there – even at that early hour. My students were receptive, active, funny—everything a teacher could ask for. I’m not one to stick to dry lessons that could lead to a group full of sleeping students, so I started creating my own materials while still following the official syllabus. I loved spending hours designing posters and making up games. I loved practicing with my students, and the best part was that they seemed to love it, too.

Colorful, eye-catching graphics encourage foreign language students to engage with the material

My enthusiasm rubbed off on my supervisors, who were supportive of me: they bought me materials — printed in full color, and introduced me to new teaching resources. I wanted to do more, so I took online courses in design and Spanish teaching methodologies as a way of exploring my newfound creativity. Yes, it was a lot of work, but if you put your effort and passion into something, your students will notice and be inspired to work harder, too. In an evaluation, one of my students wrote, “The devil works hard, but Ángela works harder.” I need that saying printed on a t-shirt!


My Fulbright experience wasn’t perfect. Moving to the other side of the world, to a different culture with a different educational system and values, not knowing what to expect, and all on my own, wasn’t easy. My advice to future applicants is to make an effort to integrate yourself within the community. There will always be hard times when you feel insecure and homesick, but if you give this opportunity a chance, it will be worth it. And, you never know: you may also discover your passion and future vocation while on Fulbright.

Ángela visits Washington, DC with her trusty Fulbright España tote bag!

If you want to know what Fulbright can do for you, picture me in 2017: no job, no passion, and no idea of what to do with my life. Now, picture me in 2019: I love teaching and have found a new passion and a sense of self-confidence. Now, having landed in Thailand, I’m ready to continue on this newfound path where I love what I’m doing – all thanks to my time as an FLTA.

U.S. Fulbright

Don Quixote’s Fast Lane!

July 14, 2015
Radhameris - 1

Radhameris A. Gómez Gabriel, 2013-2014, Spain, attending the Fulbright España Mid-Year Meeting in Valencia (Photo credit: Fulbright España)

During the 2013-2014 academic year, I had the opportunity to travel with a Fulbright U.S. Student Fellowship to the medieval city of Toledo, Spain to experience nine months of excitement and discovery. As a transportation engineer, my passion is road safety—that is, the safe movement of people on our roadways. In Toledo, I was hosted at the Universidad de Castilla La Mancha (UCLM), where I researched the various methods of facilitating the safe movement of vulnerable road users at highway-rail crossings.

Alongside my Spanish advisors and colleagues, I researched the various engineering, educational and policy practices that have been implemented in parts of the FEVE Rail system in the Northern Region of Cantabria in Spain and how this information can benefit U.S. rail safety. I spent time with engineers and railroad staff in the cities of Torrelavega and Santander, performing field visits as well as exchanging knowledge on common issues of the rail sector on both sides of the pond.

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U.S. Fulbright Unknown

The Fulbright’s Quintessential Role in Furthering One’s Passion

October 23, 2014
Annie Chor - 2

Annie Chor, 2012-2013, Spain, shaking His Majesty the King’s hand post-address

On October 24, 2014, King Felipe VI of Spain will honor the Fulbright Program with the 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in recognition of the Program’s educational and cultural exchange that has strengthened links and mutual understanding between the world’s citizens. The King, who is the former Prince of Asturias, will present the award at a grand ceremony in Oviedo, Principality of Asturias, in north-west Spain. 


In the following article, Fulbright alumna Annie Chor shares her story of meeting and addressing His Majesty the King of Spain about her Fulbright experiences on September 22, 2014.

UPDATE: Tune in today, Friday, October 24 at 12:30 p.m. EDT to watch King Felipe VI of Spain honor the Fulbright Program with the 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in recognition of how the Program has strengthened links and mutual understanding between the world’s citizens. More info and links to the livestream here:

Standing at the podium, preparing to address King Felipe of Spain, U.S. Department of State officials, IIE representatives, and fellow Fulbright students, I take a moment to pause and reflect on my journey thus far.

Post undergraduate studies, I worked in the financial sector in capital markets for several years. As I furthered my professional development, I continually felt an urgency to seek efficient solutions to meaningful change. I began to realize my passion was in finding innovative solutions that merged business and improved societies around the world. At this time, a Fulbright award helped me take that important leap to change and gave me the confidence and support to work towards my passion.

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U.S. Fulbright

The Importance of a Smile: Creating a Culture of English in a Spanish High School

October 2, 2014
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Rio Bauce, 2012-2013, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Spain (right, standing), observing a student delegate speak about clean water in a UN conference committee in CRIF Las Acacias in Madrid

I would like to dedicate this post to my mother, Meryl Zelda Kolevzon, who has provided me with the inspiration for this article. In August 1998, she passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. She would have been 69 on October 9th, 2014. Her ability to smile through all of her struggles has showed me the power a smile on those around you, even when they are under difficult circumstances.

The sense of wonder a student feels after a teacher pauses in the middle of a thrilling story, a high-pitched laugh at a joke told on the schoolyard, a parent admiring their child’s drawing of a goat. Curiosity, humor, and joy are emotions that make lasting imprints on a child’s education. In April 2012, I was selected to become a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Madrid, Spain. That September, I left California to be an ETA at IES José Luis Sampedro in Tres Cantos, Spain. On the first day of school, teachers and students at my suburban school thirty kilometers outside of Madrid were nervous to begin school and hoped that everything would function smoothly. From my experience, the last three years teaching in a classroom setting, one of the most powerful tools that teachers have in their arsenal to make students feel safe is an uncompromising smile.

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U.S. Fulbright

Sweet Home Spain

July 30, 2014
Ari Jones - 1

Ari Jones, 2012-2013, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Spain (right), with Global Classrooms participants

I was nervous about going back to Spain. The country held a dear place in my heart, as studying abroad in Granada, Spain was my first international experience. I questioned whether I made the right decision in applying for a grant in Spain. Would my Fulbright experience tarnish my love for the country? Thankfully, it did not. There will never be anything like Granada 2010, but there will also never be another Madrid 2012-2013.

As an English Teaching Assistant (ETA), I taught a variety of subjects at a secondary bilingual institution, IES Parque de Lisboa, in the Comunidad de Madrid region of Spain. I had the opportunity to conduct two lecture series on slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. As a history major, I loved discussing these topics, but I believe (and hope) that they induced my students to think more critically about the role of racial and ethnic diversity in Spain, especially at a time when the country is being urged to take an active stand against racism and xenophobia.

In addition to my traditional classroom teaching, I co-taught Global Classrooms, which encourages students to explore world issues through a Model United Nations simulation. The four months during which my co-worker and I taught fourteen brilliant students about topics ranging from clean water issues to good debating strategies were some of the most rewarding interactions I had in Spain. Watching our students display their hard work at the Global Classrooms conference was beautifully humbling.

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U.S. Fulbright

All Problems Have Solutions: Insights from My Fulbright in Andalucía, Southern Spain

February 12, 2014
Julie Charbonnier

Julie Charbonnier, 2012-2013, Spain, collecting toad eggs in one of Doñana National Park’s ponds

Carmen Diaz Paniagua “Poli” knows this place like the back of her hand. “You’ll make a right at the tree with a stork nest, and then turn left when you see the road split into three,” she explains nonchalantly as I follow her through the terrain. All I see are miles of sands and a few scattered bushes, with no discernible landmarks. My Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant in Ecology on the consequences of global change on amphibian dynamics brought me to Doñana National Park, one of the world’s most renowned systems of wetlands tucked away in Southern Spain (Andalucía), two hours southwest of Sevilla.

A few days later, clearly lost as we attempt to follow Poli’s instructions, my labmates Rosa and Maria, and I bop around the dunes in a car. Rosa stopping and twisting the timeworn map sideways says “No! No me lo puedo creer (I can’t believe this),” as she makes a sharp U-turn, the car nearly tipping over. Maria smiles, saying, “todos los problemas tienen soluciones (all problems have solutions).” She’s still chipper despite our long detour in the desert. We finally find the pond, and it’s buzzing with insects and tadpoles. The species found in Doñana have evolved to withstand the heat and scarce rainfall. Doñana is incredibly unique: it’s a rest stop for half a million migratory birds, the last natural habitat of the elusive and endangered Iberian lynx, and home to eleven species of amphibians, the highest in all of Europe. It’s just one of the reasons I chose this spectacular location to conduct my Fulbright in collaboration with Dr. Ivan Gomez Mestre.

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