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Posted by on Jun 12, 2018 in Europe, Teaching | 0 comments

ETA Life in Budapest

Living in Bulgaria as a Fulbright scholar has been an immense gift. Whether it is teaching my 12th grade business English students about economics and teamwork or working with 8th grade students on poetry, each day is a new challenge and experience. The country has welcomed me with open arms, a bitter winter, and phenomenal food. Some of my highlights have been coaching a Speech and Debate team, weekly folk dancing lessons, and being a part of the Fulbright community in Bulgaria. It is an honor to be a part of a community with so many incredibly intelligent and world-changing individuals.

 

Posted by Erica B.

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Posted by on Jun 20, 2016 in South America, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Near the Halfway Mark

Near the Halfway Mark

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On the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls.

I am now almost halfway through my time in Brazil as a Fulbright grantee, and I have had a great experience so far!  A lot has happened since my last blog post, but I’ll try to fill you in.

In the end, I ended up being assigned to the city of Belo Horizonte in the middle/southeast of Brazil, which was one of the two cities I requested as preferences.  So that worked out perfectly!  Belo Horizonte may not be as famous as Rio or Sao Paulo outside of Brazil, but with about 2.5 million people it is the 6th largest city in Brazil and the capital of Minas Gerais, one of the largest and richest states in Brazil in terms of history and culture.  I am finding that Belo Horizonte has everything you expect from a huge city in terms of things to do, while also maintaining the smaller feel and particular culture of the state of Minas Gerais, which is known for its warm and receptive people, comfort food, and colonial history.  I really could not have been happier with my city placement, given the wide variety of options in a country as large as Brazil.

Of course, there is so much more to this year as a Fulbrighter than how much I enjoy the city I was placed.  As an ETA (English Teaching Assistant), the vast majority of my time during the week revolves around attending and preparing classes in the Ingles sem Fronteiras (English without Borders) program here at the Federal University of Minas Gerais – UFMG.  My role in the classroom varies depending on the class.  All of the English classes here have a professor who is responsible for organizing and teaching the class, so it is up to them how to use me as a teaching assistant in the classroom.  Sometimes I attend classes just to help lead activities and participate in whatever the students are learning that day, and other times I am asked to prepare a specific presentation or “workshop” to lead myself.  I work with 4 professors, each of which has 3 classes, and so I only go to certain classes each week because otherwise it would be impossible for me to attend every class.  So actually my schedule changes from week to week, based on which classes my professors ask me to attend or when I have a language or cultural workshop scheduled in advance.

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In Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.

One very positive experience I have enjoyed so far has been my development of a “pronunciation workshop” that I have created for the English classes here at UFMG.  It is basically a 2-hour interactive presentation about English phonetics and pronunciation, mixed in with lots of participation from the students, explaining and practicing tons of sounds and words that can be difficult for Brazilians speaking English.  I have done this 2-hour workshop about 15 times this semester in many different English classes, constantly modifying it as I think of better materials or examples, so this has been a major project for me and I have gotten great feedback from both students and professors.  As a result, I have also started weekly informal meetings for students to show up and practice their conversation and pronunciation with me, and yesterday I had a workshop proposal approved to share my pronunciation materials with all the other American Fulbrighters here in Brazil when we get together in Sao Paulo for our mid-year conference/seminar in July.  Out of more than 70 ETAs in Brazil, only 12 workshop proposals were approved for our midyear conference, so this was a huge feeling of accomplishment after all the work I have done this semester on teaching pronunciation!  Obviously pronunciation is not the only thing I work with here — I and the other two ETAs in Belo Horizonte have also done presentations and activities about American sports, American music, American food, university life in the U.S., competitive debating, among other cool topics.

At this point there is less than a month left before the first semester ends and we head to Sao Paulo for the mid-year conference in July.  Afterward I will have 2 weeks of vacation to see some new parts of Brazil, and then I get back to Belo Horizonte for my final 3.5 months at the start of August! I will keep you updated on the next chapter of my time here!

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Posted by on Dec 16, 2015 in South America, Teaching | 0 comments

My Fulbright App: Going Back to Brazil

My Fulbright App: Going Back to Brazil

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!

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Posted by on Sep 4, 2015 in Europe, Teaching | 0 comments

The Fulbright: Why and When

The Fulbright: Why and When

Choosing to apply for a Fulbright grant was the easiest part of the application. The steps that come after that initial choice certainly lend themselves to considerably more effort and significant reward.

I decided that I wanted to apply for a Fulbright grant in my sophomore year of college. I set the application as one of my goals (I still managed to procrastinate on starting it) and kept the Fulbright in mind throughout my college experience. I chose to apply for the English Teaching Assistantship in Spain and I made this choice early on. I am fluent in Spanish and had studied abroad in Spain and visited once before. If you have been to Spain, you can probably understand how it was an easy choice. It’s hard not to fall in love with the culture, the art, and the people. However, my love for all of those things is only superseded by my love for Spanish language. The opportunity to live in a place that is the origin of the language that I love was irresistible.

The only other passion that I have that parallels my love for the Spanish language is my passion for teaching and helping others. The ETA Fulbright position offered me the opportunity to incorporate all of the things I truly care about, and the decision to apply for this type of grant was hardly even a choice. The application process comes a lot more easily if you choose what you love.

I began my application about a month before it was due, which I would not recommend. There is no such thing as having too much time to work on something. Although I regret waiting to start the application, I’m a notorious procrastinator and there is a 100% chance that I would do it the same all over again. With the help of Dr. Beverly Hawk, I completed my two essays, my application, and secured my three recommenders within the month of application period that I had allowed myself.

After months of waiting to hear back about my Fulbright grantee status, while I was in California over spring break, I decided to check my email. I normally have a policy that while I’m on vacation, I don’t check email, but I had a feeling, and following that feeling led to my discovery that I had received a Fulbright grant to be an English Teaching Assistant in Spain. My last semester of my undergraduate career flew by from that moment, with me completely euphoric (aside from the visa process, which you will definitely hear about later on).

I cannot wait to be living my dream of teaching and living in Madrid, Spain and that journey starts in 8 days. An anomaly for me, I am packed and ready to go. I am still in utter disbelief that I will be living this experience in a little over a week, but thankful for the opportunity and those who encouraged and supported me on the way. I’m looking forward to updating in my next blog post, straight out of Madrid. ¡Hasta luego!

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Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 in Europe, Teaching | 0 comments

A Note on the Application

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In typical Brianna fashion, by chance I emailed Dr. Hawk at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships the day on-campus Fulbright applications were due. The night before former Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Emma Fick and I caught up over coffee, and she strongly encouraged me to apply. The program had been rather off of my radar, but I decided to take the leap of faith and send an email to Dr. Hawk.

Needless to say, I was incredibly behind in the application process and threw myself into the process of selecting a country to apply for. I remember staying up into the wee hours of the mourning pouring over the requirements, expectations, and acceptance rates for countless countries. I believe deciding on a country was in all honesty the hardest part of the application process!

By 3:00 AM in the morning, after a long night made slightly better by numerous cups of tea and First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold album (highly recommend!), I finally selected a country.

Here are some tips:

  1. Narrow down the number of countries by selecting a particular region or two from the Fulbright website (i.e. East Asia-Pacific, Europe & Eurasia, etc.)
  2. Make an Excel document to keep track of the following information for each country:
    • Type of placement – university, high school, middle school, elementary school, etc.
    • Language requirements– Many countries require that you have a certain level of proficiency in the native language. This requirements helped me narrow down my options as I only speak one language at a conversational level.
    • Expectations – Some countries require that you also submit an additional project proposal. Others expect you to be teach ACT/SAT prep classes, coach a sports team, etc.
    • Your Role as a Teacher – Does the country specify whether you will be responsible for teaching an entire class on your own for the year? This means you’ll likely be responsible for developing curriculum, etc. Or will you be assisting your mentor teacher with speaking exercises and serving as a conversation partner? This is very important to consider, especially if you might be worried about your level of teaching experience. Also see if they specify the number of hours you’ll be working each week.
    • Preferred Candidates – You’ll see that some countries will note that preference is given to Bachelor’s and Master’s students enrolled in particular disciplines, such as STEM disciplines and the humanities (such as Poland). Each country is looking for a slightly different applicant.
    • Acceptance Rates – It isn’t a bad idea to take a look at your odds and see how much competition you’re likely to have for the position.
  3. Consider the country’s culture, climate, and way of life. Steps 1 and 2 should help you narrow down your choices quite a bit. Now it’s time to really delve into what makes each country unique. Aspects such as the climate are relatively easy to Google, however you would be surprised how hard it is to get a handle on a country’s culture from online searches alone. Try to read some blog posts from former ETAs or from Americans living abroad in that country to get an idea of what life is like there.
  4. How far out of your comfort zone are you willing to go? Will I be able to adjust to a certain culture?

And there we have it! A rough guide to thinking through the country selection process. All that’s left is to fill out the application. No big deal, right?

Who knew one cup of a coffee with a friend and former Fulbright ETA could alter my life plans so drastically. I am so glad I decided to venture outside of my comfort zone and plunge headlong into this new adventure! In a little over a week from now I’ll be leaving Dallas and flying to the Czech Republic to begin my year as an ETA.

“Czech” out my next blog post to learn more about where I’ll be living and how I’m preparing for the upcoming year! (I would like to say that I’ll stop making the painfully cheesy “Czech” jokes, but we all know I won’t.)

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