Fulbright for me was something that all happened rather quickly. In the summer before my senior year, I returned from 5 months studying abroad in Florianópolis, Brazil, without a clear idea of what I wanted to do a year later after graduating. I was an international studies major, I knew I had at least a vague interest in working abroad, but I also had ideas of going to graduate school. It was actually in the first couple weeks of classes last fall, when I overheard one of my friends talking about his plans to apply for a Fulbright grant to teach English, that I started thinking about Fulbright seriously for the first time. Once I did more research and discovered that the application deadline was just a couple weeks away, I quickly got in touch with the wonderful Dr. Beverly Hawk, attended one of her useful information sessions in BB Comer, met with her 1-on-1 in her office, and quickly got working on the application.
Teaching English in some fashion had always been a dream of mine, so I knew I wanted to apply for an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant instead of a study or research grant. So for me, deciding the country was really the main choice to be made. I loved my semester in Brazil, I had even done a little bit of volunteer English teaching in Brazil before coming back home, and I had devoted significant time and effort to learn Portuguese. So did I want to continue following my interest in Brazil by teaching English there through Fulbright, or did I want to see another part of the world and go to a different country for a different experience? In the end I decided to apply for Brazil, knowing that my background would make me far more competitive for a grant there than anywhere else, and feeling confident that I already loved the country and its culture.
Dr. Hawk guided me excellently through my application process, and then the final piece was the interview here on campus, in order to be recommended by UA to the national committee. Although I was nervous going in, it turned out to be quite enjoyable – the UA interview committee just wanted to get a better feel for me as a person and as an applicant, so that they could help me show myself as best as possible. I was also able to ask my own questions to get a better picture of how Fulbright works and what its mission is all about. It wasn’t long before I knew that Fulbright was far and away my main dream for post-graduation, so during the next several months, I just waited anxiously and excitedly to find out the result. In January I found out I had made the final cut, and in March I found out I was offered a grant. The feeling of relief, triumph, and anxious excitement was incredible.
Having graduated in May, I am now working at UA in both the Education Abroad office and as a Portuguese language trainer in the Critical Languages Center, through the end of the fall semester. I leave for Brazil with Fulbright in mid-February, where I will remain through the middle or end of November (a 9-month grant). Now the next major piece of news will be my specific placement and location! While the variation between possible destinations is almost endless, considering that Brazil is the 6th largest country in the world, I really cannot wait to get started wherever I end up!